The Anger Run and Green Whales

My favorite exercise of emotional release is the Anger Run. This is usually the first exercise in the series, because it tires the actor quickly. It’s very hard to stay energetically angry for a whole scene.

Two actors involved in a particular scene speak their lines to each other with the help of their under-readers, but instead of speaking them as the characters, they speak them with the highest level of anger than they can muster up. This is difficult. Most actors, on their first attempt, “act” angry, instead of “being” angry. I have tried this myself, and I know that the difference can be confusing. As a trained actor, you are used to search for a motivation. Why are you angry? Where does your anger come from?

It doesn’t matter. The Anger Run is simply about using up as much energy as you can, and that energy comes from anger. Brian Astbury gives only three rules to obey during an anger run, for safety’s sake:

Sara Luna during an anger run. Photo Jenn Poret
Michael Wayne Rice during an anger run. Photo Jenn Poret


– no handling of any piece of furniture of prop

– no touching of another actor

– no kicking or punching floors or walls



In rehearsals for Green Whales we did anger runs in the first week, and then we did them again about four weeks later, when we needed a boost, a fresh look at a stale scene. I find Anger Runs quite funny, because the characters in the scene are usually not written to be angry.

Below is a short excerpt from the script by Lia Romeo. Read it first, then watch the video in which actors Gloria McDonald (playing Karen) and Keith Marshall (playing Ian) do the same scene as an Anger Run.


IAN: I really enjoy spending time with you – I mean, you’re smart, and you’re funny, and you’re fun to be around -

KAREN: Okay, but you’re not . . .

IAN: What?

KAREN: You’re not attracted to me.

IAN: I –

KAREN: It’s all right. Guys . . . usually aren’t.

IAN: Actually, I can hardly let myself look at you.

KAREN: Oh. (Beat.) Wait, do you mean that in a good way or a bad way?

IAN: In a good way. Or . . . a bad way. Or a good way for you, but a bad way for me – what I mean is you’re gorgeous.


As you can tell, Gloria and Keith are already tired, since this Anger Run came toward the end of a long rehearsal. Both of them were panting by the last line. And the immediate next thing to do is to do the scene again, this time as Karen and Ian – the characters – and see if any new or truthful connections take place. Of course, there were many.

I invite you to experience the results of Under-Reading and Emotional Release live on stage, especially now that you know so much of the theory behind it.

Green Whales performs at the Historic Hoover Theatre, 1635 Park Avenue in San Jose, through February 25th. For tickets, call (408) 493-0783 or visit Renegade Theatre Experiment online.

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