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Breathing Eyes in Acting

In my previous post “Where Do You Look”, I wrote about the “Look Away” and how it is projected direction-wise. We use several terms around this subject such as “The Look Away”, “The Universal Audience”, “The Takes”, etc. I recently started using a word “The Moon”.

“The Moon” to Create Farsighted Eyes:

Imagine, you are walking outside at night. You find the gigantic Moon (a hundred times bigger than the normal Moon) in the sky, right in front of you, slightly above your eye height.

How do you look at the Moon? You might feel afraid of the power of the Moon. You know that you have no control over it. And then, think of something else, which happened ten years ago, or yesterday, or in your night dream, while you still face the Moon.

Do you feel that the muscles behind your eyeballs are wide open and you are no longer looking, but you are visualizing a thing (could be a physical thing, person or concept which does not exist there) with strong flows of energy coming out from your eyes?

That is the eye focus to project the powerful “Look Away”. The image of the Moon somehow helps many people spontaneously create the perfect eye focus with psychologically “unguarded eyes” which work very well with “The Look Away.” No one tries to use nearsighted focus when they see the Moon. The Moon is far and symbolic enough to take us to a state of remembering using farsighted focus.

Breathing Eyes for True Acting:

Another difficulty I had in my training to learn this “Look Away” was that when I started hitting perfect “Look Away” moments, my eyes could not keep breathing due to the fear of losing the perfection of the angle and state of eyes.

I did not know how to release the tension of my eyes. With the frozen state of eyeballs, my acting looked too serious, thus, not funny or enjoyable to watch.

If you are having the same problem, you can learn how to change colors of thoughts physically with the muscles behind your eyeballs. Did your teacher tell you that you are not acting even though you were trying so hard to act with your eyes?

If your eyes are not changing the colors (of thoughts) inside your eyes, your thoughts look superficial and small, even if you open your eyes wide open, hold there and scream your thought internally…

Candle Exercise – changing the colors of thoughts:

Here is a great exercise for changing colors of your thoughts. It teaches you to relax your eyes in order to breathe like a volcano.

Light a candle (with a real flame) and put it in front of you. Look into the flame and see the shape of the flame which keeps changing. It gets kind of tall and thin, and gets short and wide in sequential order, doesn’t it? Notice the irregular rhythm of flame as well.

Imitate the shapes and rhythm of the flame with your eyes using the muscles behind your eyeballs. Then, add actual thoughts in your eyes on top of this physical exercise.

*The muscles behind your eyeballs are used to visualize things that do not exist there. Therefore those are effectively used to show thoughts, i.e., “Wish”, “Doubt”, or “Believe” in your “Attitude Phrases”. Contrary, muscles on the front side of your eyes, i.e., the muscles you use to raise your eyebrows or read, help your eyes to “Look” at things with nearsighted focus, thus it helps you show “See” in your “Attitude Phrase”. *

Eye Focus Exercise:

Next section is from my mime acting class. I wrote this especially for you to print and take to the studio to work on. It is a great exercise to melt your frozen eyes and create breathing effect in your thoughts.

Sit on the floor and play music. We actually recommend a specific song to do this exercise: “Gymnopedie” by Nurturing Baby Tunes.

1) Have someone tell you the numbers at random.

Numbers are between 0 and 120. Those numbers are the percentage of the size of your eyes.

0 is closed eyes.

20 is slightly open.

50 is half way open.

80 is comfortably open.

100 is totally open wide.

120 is stunned.

Try to sing the notes (music) only with eyes by changing its colors and sizes, like you did to the candle flame. Then later, add your chin, then after that, add your chest (subtle enough so you feel that the motor is in your eyes!). Then, subtle movement, like very small wiggles, of your hip bones on the floor. Always remember that “eyes” are first for this exercise, and other parts are only reflecting your eyes’ breathing.


0..(wait 1 to 10 seconds in between these numbers using various length of break) …… 20 ……. 30 … 20 .. 30 .. 20 …. 50 ……… 100 …. 120 … 80 ……….. 90 … 80 … 90 … 80 …. 40 ………… 10 .. 20 … 30 ……… 40 …….. 120

2) Same exercise again, but this time, add a specific character or age of the character before starting it.


Now, you were just born ….(numbers)…..

80 years old ….(numbers)…..

You are evil ….(numbers)…..

You are a prisoner ….(numbers)…..

3) Same exercise again, adding specific scenes occasionally.


Now you are 5 years old… leaving your mother for the first time …(numbers) …..

Going to school, playing with friends…. (numbers) …. happy and excited …. (numbers) ….. insecure …. (numbers) ….. lonely …. (numbers) …. etc…

Any inspirations to change the character or color of thoughts are helpful for this eye focus exercise.

Even though the language and grammar of mime is quite specific and scientific, it is important to make the edges of your body movement including eye expressions not too tight. If you are too tight on stage, either physically or psychologically, audience cannot relax and watch you or laugh.

I will write about psychological aspect within your projected thoughts another time.

We are accepting any personal requests or questions to be discussed in our blog or the video series “Goldmime Online”.

Please send us your thoughts at [email protected]

For more information about The Goldston Moriyama Institute for Mime, our Summer Institute in Italy, and our Personal Mime Training Programs in New York City, visit our website at:

Or contact: [email protected] and [email protected]

Haruka Moriyama,


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Caden Manson is a director, media artist, and teacher. He is co-founder of the media ensemble and network, blog, and publisher, He has co-created, directed, video- and set designed 18 Big Art Group productions. Manson has shown video installations in Austria, Germany, NYC, and Portland; performed PAIN KILLER in Berlin, Singapore and Vietnam; Taught in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Montreal, NYC, and Bern; the ensemble has been co-produced by the Vienna Festival, Festival d’Automne a Paris, Hebbel Am Ufer, Rome’s La Vie de Festival, PS122, and Wexner Center for The Arts. Caden is a 2001 Foundation For Contemporary Art Fellow, is a 2002 Pew Fellow and a 2011 MacDowell Fellow. Writing has been published in PAJ, Theater Magazine, and Theater der Zeit. Caden is currently an associate professor and graduate directing option coordinator of The John Wells Directing Program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

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