Constructing The Throughline

When I introduce this concept of a throughline to my classes and ask my students to examine a work and tell me what throughline they might construct for it, the resulting reactions to the material are sometimes startling in their variety. For example, I often assign A Streetcar Named Desire for this exercise. (If you haven't read the play or seen the film, I urge you to do so immediately, not only for the purposes of understanding these examples, but because I firmly believe that directors must...

The Quick Collaboration Exercise

Ask for volunteers from the group for each exercise. First, you will need one writer and one director. The writer must write think up a situation, location, and two or three characters. It should be kept simple e.g., two people meet in a dentist's waiting room and discover that they are long lost relatives and able to be cast from the group. The writer is given 5 minutes for this task. The writer then tells only the director the story and together they select a cast from the group. The director...

Emotional Memory Exercise

The ability to organically reproduce an emotional state or prepare for the creation of the behavior of the character can be developed with the same type of exercise. Remember one must always start with relaxation and concentration. This is particularly crucial in this exercise because the psyche often buries feelings especially painful ones and the brain has to be as receptive as possible to get past the inhibitions and blocks that might lurk as obstacles. Try to remember a time when you...

The Method Or A Method

Bear in mind that there are many, many ways to develop the craft of the actor. Those that I've described are among the handful that I personally have found to be useful both as an actor and as a teacher of actors and directors. But there are other equally effective methods and approaches and it is up to the individual actor to find his or her own modus operandi. I generally suggest to young actors seeking advice about training that they try several different teachers and approaches and then...

Life Needs And Scene Needs

Each and every human being is motivated by a few handfuls of basic needs that seem to dictate behavior in both the immediate and the overall span of his her existence. By behavior I mean how the person functions on a moment-to-moment basis, how the person thinks, moves, talks, acts, what choices the person makes, how the person reacts to circumstances and events, relates to other individuals, etc. That which I call needs is sometimes referred to by acting teachers and in books as wants, goals,...

Actions

This brings us to the next step in our choice-making process of recreating the character. What are the moment-to-moment doings that will get us what we want in the scene that will bring us closer to achieving what we want in life These doings which I call actions, are for me the gold of the vocabulary. They enable us to specifically communicate to an actor exactly what his instincts are telling him to do in the pursuit of the needs or what we as directors would like to see him do at any given...

The Character Description

In any case, it is imperative to have a clear idea of what you want to find before you begin the casting process. All the work described in preceding chapters should help you arrive at this. Do not, under any circumstance, believe that it is best to wait until the character as you've visualized him her walks in the door of your office with the right height, the right color hair, the right look. I'm reminded of an experience I had as the casting director of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles...

Contents

Foreword xi Preface xv Acknowledgments xvii Exercises 8 Relaxation Exercise 8 Concentration 10 Recall 11 Sense Memory Exercise 11 Recall Exercises 13 Physical State of Being Recall 14 Emotional Memory Exercise 15 The Method or a method 17 Life Needs and Scene Needs 23 The Who Am I Exercise 25 Scene Needs 27 Choosing the Outline 29 Actions 30 Hello How Are You Exercise 34 Action Verb List 39 Shorthand Communication 41 Additional Layers 44 Preparation and Personalization 45 Collaborating with the...

The Moment To Moment

Once the moment-to-moment give and take between actors has begun my advice is to let the actors find their way, making notes in your script when you see them intuitively arriving at action choices you want to see again. Remember that the actors are working in the moment and might not even remember what they did. If they come up with something you really like and you want to keep it in, you must identify it for them by saying I really liked it when you charmed her on that line about the ironing,...

The First Reading

In the audition process as in the interview, I believe it is important to watch the actor like a hawk from the moment of entry into your presence. The more you can learn about the actor's instrument, the easier the choice will be. Careful observation is the best way to educate yourself. Before or during the reading the actor may have questions about the role or about the script as a whole and I have no problem with answering them, within limits. You may find that some actors like to delay the...

Nudity And

In recent years nudity and graphic sex have become more and more prevalent in both film and theatre. In the theatre, it seemed to flourish after what was considered the innovative introduction of naked bodies on stage in shows such as Hair 1967 and Oh, Calcutta 1969 . At present, full frontal nudity extending even to the male body, as in The Full Monty, hardly creates a stir. The motion picture code that governs filmmaking once insisted that two people in bed together must each have one foot on...

Rehearsal Schedule

Some directors want to spend the whole first week, or at the very least several days, discussing the play as a whole and the specifics of the individual characters. Some like to submit to the actors a page or two of written back story for their characters so they can add the material to their homework. For myself, I prefer to use the first day or two for general discussion about script and character and address the specifics of character as we work on each scene. As in film, I like to get the...

What Do the Actors

As I have been saying repeatedly in many different ways, Listen to your actors at all times Assuming that you have done a good job on the casting process and that you've hired good actors, you will find that your actors' instincts, as well as your own, are among the best friends you've got on the project. Most actors, particularly good actors, are intelligent, sensitive, and articulate. They usually have an unerring instinct about what is right for their characters and for themselves as actors....

The Actors Vocabulary

As children we learn to speak and read, and as we grow we develop a language with which to communicate with one another and share our ideas and thoughts verbally and in various forms of writing. By the time we reach adulthood we are secure in the knowledge that we are masters of a functional language. However, I am about to undermine that security. You see, the language we've learned is based on a prose structure derived from books and filled with sentences, paragraphs, adjectives, adverbs, and...

Shorthand Communication

Often when I was a young actor, a director would ask me to do more or make it bigger. How much is more I would ask myself or how would I make it bigger without making it too big Many directors are still using these general directions in the hope of getting what they want. There follows a trial-and-error process, much time spent, until finally the director exclaims, There That's it. Often a director will say Can you do less But how much simpler and more direct it would be if one were to say...

Hello How Are You Exercise

Often an exercise, which I call Hello How Are You will help clarify this concept of actions and needs creating subtext for the dialogue. Two people are assigned the dialogue in the following fragment Hello, how are you I'm fine. How are you Not so hot. We give Actor 1 the action to welcome and Actor 2 the action to reject. At the same time we caution them to pursue the actions and let the words simply come along. We also remind them to start pursuing the action not necessarily the words...

Adjustments

By the same token, when an actor who has come from an exclusively filmic background attempts to do a play, there are several new challenges There is the necessity to adjust to the fact that there is no microphone hovering an inch away to catch every nuance, that there is no ability to call cut and stop when something goes awry, that the entire script has to be memorized, and that the actor has to project the life of the character in every moment on stage, speaking or not, and for everyone in...

The Rehearsal Process

Now we come to what I consider to be the most fun part of the work, the period of rehearsal during which we can experiment, explore, discover, and collaborate. In the theatre it is usually a period of at least 4 weeks during which actors and director can, scene by scene and layer by layer, put together the components that will lift the text off the page and make it a living, breathing event. The film director too often either cannot or will not avail himself of this most important step in the...

Action Verb List

Here are some of the action verbs I have found most useful. In other books on acting and directing you will perhaps see similar lists of action verbs. But those lists invariably include words that, although identified correctly as verbs, are not what I consider to be useful for the actor's process of creating a subtext. Many of them are results of pursuing several actions. The question as to whether an action verb is doable has to be measured by the ability of the actor to pursue the action...

The Table Reading

Although a reading of a play is a very different process from a reading of a screenplay, I like to begin the rehearsal process in much the same way for either form, with the entire team gathered around a table for the first reading. It is true that a screenplay is, for the most part, a prose rendering of what is designed primarily as a visual telling of the story. Particularly in heavily action-oriented films, the script relies in large part on description of physical action or stage...