Chapter Creating A Character The Spoon River Exercise

Spoon River, Part One Introduction to the Character Sidebar Mrs. Sibley Said Nothing, and Everything Spoon River, Part Two Animal Work and Psychological Center Sidebar Rose Ritz, Fancy Peacock Chapter 9 Making A Scene The A.C.T. (Action Condition Telephone Call) 103 Activity Physical Condition Sidebar Sisterly Love Preparation and Rehearsal Telephone Call A.C.T. in Class Sidebar Cleaning Up, the Hangover, and the Confession What We've Learned

The Givens

There is always information that the playwright gives about his characters, even in the most obtuse piece of work. This is where careful examination of the entire text and not just the scene will delineate character behavior from the playwright's point of view. The text will tell the actor what she needs to know about the character and what the character is doing about these facts, or Givens. Knowing the Givens of a text is essential, which is why it's so important to thoroughly read the full...

Freeing The Instrument The Fallout And The Song Exercise

Frequently there are moments called for in a play or film script that will be very personal. The actors come to rehearsal knowing where they will have to go to find the inner truth. Some actors can jump right into the scene without fear. As I've said throughout this book, acting that seems spontaneous what an observer may call real versus staged requires relaxation and concentration. Once these two steps are achieved, it's time to put the entire instrument of the brain, body, and emotions to...

Methodology

The first question I anticipate when potential students come to an orientation for my class is, Which acting method does Terry Schreiber teach Every teacher has his own particular methodology, the basic philosophy of acting instruction that is manifested in instruction, exercises, and scene study. The final goal of any method is acting that combines intellect with instincts, and the goal of any acting course is to produce actors who float with ease, simplicity, and spontaneity between the two....

Note For Leaders

While many of you reading this book are actors, some may use it to teach or direct. If so, you must read this section. As a teacher or a director who wishes to start the class with some basics tools, you have taken on a tremendous responsibility. The following exercises are extremely personal and powerful, and if you chose to utilize them, you must follow these basic guidelines. Using your intuition, sensitivity, and good sense, you must know how far into an exercise or scene you can take an...

Warmup Program

As I said at the beginning of this section, proper relaxation is vital to an actor for rehearsals, for auditions, and for production. After years of experience and trial and error, I have developed a standard warm-up that I use in my classes. While it's typically easier to show someone how to do this preparation than to write about it in a book, I'm going to do my best to describe the process that I use. I take my students through a series of steps to achieve a centered and balanced stance.*...

D

(Nichols), 169 Deafness exercise, 77-78 don't go alone, 77 Death ofa Salesman (Miller), 27 defense system, emotional, 3. See also Fallout, Private Moment exercise defense system, muscular, 5. See also Relaxation, Bioenergetics Detchire, 16-17 dialects, 179-80 drop-over, 143,148 drug addiction, 139. See also alcoholism, Drunkenness exercise, Drugs exercise Drugs exercise, 72-74 caution 73 have a NICE trip, 73 no drugs needed, 73. See also drug addiction, alcoholism, Drunkenness exercise...

Making A Scene The

The A.C.T. is the first exercise that my students do that emphasizes action and the creation of a scene, with the secondary benefit of using sensory details and a physical condition to enhance the emotional reality for the actor. As noted in the title, the initials of this exercise stand for Action, physical Condition, and Telephone call. All three elements must be planned and rehearsed in advance by the actor. The activity and physical condition must be explored and rehearsed ahead of time....

Height

This particular exercise starts with the students on the floor after the relaxation warm-up. I ask the actors to lie on their backs and imagine that they've just climbed a very high mountain, one that is at least five thousand feet. They are sweaty and tired, and they have to catch their breath at this altitude. They should be working with their eyes closed. This is a must because I want them to heighten the senses other than sight first. Be aware of what you are laying on, I tell them. Is it a...

Imagination

In advanced acting training, it's the imagination the actors are primarily concerned with tapping into. Imagination is the subconscious, or the inner life, and is what makes good acting seem real. The senses help with concentration and work to stimulate the imagination and create a sense of reality. Obviously, the most direct way of working with the senses is through direct stimulation. If the actor is supposed to be sick from the smell of garbage, it would be convenient to carry a bag of...

The Sensesfive Powerful Tools

Earlier I discussed the three acting ingredients of mind, heart, and will to produce the ideal result of realistic and full acting. The four components of this goal are relaxation, concentration, imagination, and preparation. A clear and perceptive mind is of major importance to interpreting a role, but our sensitivity and instincts must also be involved. Otherwise we merely create a walking and talking head devoid of real emotions. The acting seems fake to an observer. The actor must be able...

Appendix B

This is not a definitive list, but a suggested one for serious students to review a body of work, especially for script analysis purposes. Many more names belong here, but it's a good place to start. Edward Albee Alan Ayckbourn Samuel Beckett Caryl Churchill Noel Coward Anton Chekhov Christopher Durang Horton Foote Brian Friel Athol Fugard John Guare A. R. Gurney Lillian Hellman Israel Horovitz Tina Howe Henrik Ibsen William Inge David Mamet Terrence McNally Arthur Miller Eugene O'Neill...

L

Lady Macbeth Macbeth , 28, 80 language, heightened, 95-96, 214 leading acting exercises, responsibility of, 35-37 Lenny The Homecoming , 188 Lewis, Bobby, xiii, xiv, xv, 6 Lie of the Mind Shepard , 168 life behind the eyes. See Inner Life life, 218 in Emotional Recall exercise, 141, 149, 153-55. See also Inner Life Lila A Loss ofRoses , 31 Linda Death ofa Salesman , 27 lines, calling for, 205 Lipscomb, Dennis, 213 Loss ofRoses, A Inge , 31 love scenes. See sexuality love, as prime emotion, 89,...

The Actors Notebook

A sensory exercise spurs wild laughter. A physical-condition exercise adds a rich inner life to an otherwise unimpressive monologue. A piece of music brings an actor's imagination into the ideal setting and mindset for a character. Wonderful But what good is this if, in the real acting situations later on, the actor doesn't remember them I tell my students that it's a good idea to always have an Actor's Notebook so they can record their findings from class and elsewhere for future reference. As...

Drunkenness

Performing drunkenness well on stage is not an easy task. It requires extreme relaxation from the hips on down, especially the pelvic area into the legs. But it also requires a sense of realness, which is best achieved by exploring drunkenness through a physical-condition exercise done just as thoroughly as cold and heat. Students who are recovering alcoholics should be extremely careful with this exercise, or possibly not participate. Recreating the taste and smell for a recovering alcoholic...

Private Momentpreparation

The first step is for the actor and me to sit down and discuss the exercise. I want to hear about his choices. When the actor discusses these three choices with me, I want to make sure that He picks three choices that bring out different private sides of him The choices are challenging and not too safe One of the choices has a sexual1 undertone or component None of the choices would violate the actor Sometimes the choices are rudimentary things, like extensive teeth-brushing and bedtime...

Song Exercise

While I usually do the Fallout for most of my students, there are always a few who don't take to the exercise. For these students, the Song Exercise achieves some of the same results the full expression of mind-to-heart-to-will but through a slightly different method that incorporates singing. I will often suggest the Song Exercise for an actor based on my observation of his body, tensions, lack of physical freedom, or will to get out there with himself. This has far more movement than the...

Beats

The next step is to break the scene into Beats and score the scene like a piece of music. A new beat occurs when the previous subject matter or a physical activity changes the previous action. A new Beat can be created from an entrance, exit, kiss, slap, or shout, or simply from a change of direction in conversation. Each one of these Beats should be given an action intention verb, and the verbs should be what the actor is playing doing in an attempt to fulfill her overall Objective. While I...

Note On Personal Pronouns

Every writer of instructional manuals today encounters problems with personal pronouns. How should I refer to the actor or the student, since the singular pronouns include both he and she In the past, authors had simply used the masculine pronoun, referring to every generic usage as he. But these are more liberated times, and I have a problem with using only he, since approximately half of my students are female. Some authors will solve this problem by using he or she or he she, both of which I...

Telephone Call

For this part, the actor should go back through his memory track and select an actual phone call that was very difficult to make, but one that he'd be willing to recreate in front of the class. I always suggest going back at least two years for the selection, since something recent is going to sound scripted. The actor may also say things he wanted to say but that were suppressed when the actual phone call was made. And, as I said before, in rehearsal at home, the actor does not rehearse the...

Spoon River Part Oneintroduction To The Character

The exercise starts with the purchase of a copy of the Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poetry first published in 1915 by Masters, a novelist and poet. The book was eventually turned into a play of the same name, with the characters based on the poems. I insist that the actors in my class buy the book, not the play, as the book gives an actor a wider selection of characters. Each poem in the book is the epitaph for the deceased fictional members of the town of Spoon River, Illinois. The...

Emotional Recall Part

For step one of the Emotional Recall, I ask the actor to chose an event from her past that had a strong impact. I encourage my students to choose an event from childhood. The event should, at a minimum, be something that occurred at least seven years ago. A recent event is too fresh, and the actor will try and think the event rather than find it through sense memory. Another qualification of the event for this exercise is that it has to be something that ended in a large moment a traumatic...

Dont Go Alone

I don't recommend that an actor attempt to do these sensory exercises in a public setting without a partner. Accidents can happen. Someone who is practicing blindness may not open his eyes to see an oncoming car until it's too late, and someone practicing deafness might not hear a siren or warning shout when needed. Individuals who have impairments like deafness or blindness require many years to adjust and build up their other senses so they can go out into public places safely. A practicing...

Actions Also Called Intention

The Actions are the verbs the actor is playing to fulfill the Objective. Some directors or teachers speak of intention, and I mean exactly the same thing by using the word Action. For example, Romeo's overall Objective is to obtain Juliet. He may first try the Action of to cajole. If that doesn't work, he may try to plead. If that further fails him, he may try to seduce anything he can do to obtain his Objective as Juliet presents obstacles. There could be dozens of actions in a scene,...

Relaxation

I was casting a Broadway play a few years ago, and the producer and I saw quite a few people because the play had a large cast. At the end of the day, and without communicating about each individual audition, we had the exact same scorecard for callbacks. After three days of these preliminaries, I was curious as to what system he was using. He told me that he ended up eliminating three-quarters of the actors not based on their audition, but based on how they walked to center stage. There is...

Fallout

I have put this exercise together from my many years of teaching by combining sections from exercises that I did in the past, ending up with this all-encompassing workout called the Fallout. It includes principles of Bioenergetic work and has served as a magic release for a number of actors. It is a very long exercise, taking a good hour, but during the work, the entire class remains riveted and working with the actor. I call this exercise the Fallout because the actor gets out or falls out by...

Acknowledgments

My enormous gratitude and thanks to Mary Beth Barber, whose unflagging energy, skill, patience, perseverance, support, and optimism made the assembly of this book possible. I do not think you ever really know anyone until the working together gets tough and demanding. Over the last two years, we met, wrote, rewrote, cut, and assembled. While under tremendous pressure from other job demands, Mary Beth was always there with tremendous determination, energy, and tenacity. Or, in acting terms,...

Act In Class

The actor sets the stage himself and tries to recreate the chosen setting as much as possible using available furniture and props. I always encourage the use of personal items to help give the space the sensory details that the actor can use. For example, if the scene takes place in the actor's apartment, he might want to bring in the knickknacks that sit on his coffee table. The more things that can trigger a sensory response, the better. Before doing the A.C.T. in class or any scene or...

Performing The Private Moment Parts One And

The actor after setting up his apartment and doing a proper warm-up can begin the exercise by making an entrance or already being on the set. I don't guide the actor into the exercise as I do with others, like the Fallout or the first part of the Emotional Recall he's all on his own. That's why the relaxation is so important. It's impossible to be private when an actor is tense. Very few people are tense when they're at home, in their own space. Private Moment, Part One, shouldn't start the...

Heat

Heat is worked on in the same manner as cold to establish a sense memory in the body. I tell my students the givens it's at least one hundred degrees, as well as 90 percent humidity. It's the worst day of the summer. Heat is radiating off the sidewalk. There's a bad air quality warning in effect. It's sweltering. I have them work with the same external and internal awareness as with cold, starting with the right toes and working through the body section by section. I remind them of the sweat...

Private Moment Part Three

The actor comes back a few weeks after doing Parts One and Two to add on the granddaddy of them all Private Moment, Part Three. Parts One and Two are repeated but shortened slightly for Part Three. Each separate Private Moment must flow easily into the next. What the actor ends up with is a fairly tight scenario, or storyboard, that should take a maximum of thirty minutes to complete. One of the reasons I feel so strongly about no auditing in an acting class is because of this process. The...

R

Reacting, in film work, 4 rehearsal space, 35, 183 rehearsal in Emotional Recall exercise, 150-53 for Private Moment exercise, 165-66 with scene work, 180-83 Reichian therapy, 6 Reilly, Diane, 164 relaxation, 1-2, 3-5, 22,163, 209 in Private Moment exercise, 175 related to breath, 9 Reynolds, Carol, 6 risk-taking, xvii. See also failure, importance of Road Map, 181,185-195,197,199, 203, 209, 219 actions 190-91 beats, 188-191 essential scene preparation, 194 givens, 191-94 objective, 187-88...

Monologues For The Cave

The actors, in their imaginations, start out all alone standing in front of an entrance to a cave. As in all these exercises, I have the actors be aware of what they are standing on and what surrounds the hole in front of them. I have them touch the rock, moss, or whatever objects are in front of this cave. Then I have them take a good look at the entrance. How far does any light extend into the cave Is there any breeze or smell emanating from within I tell them that they have a helmet on with...

Deafness

Deafness as a physically condition can be worked on in a similar way to blindness. Deaf students can plug up their ears with something safe, like high-quality earplugs, and depend on a partner for the other four senses to communicate. The deaf actor should go out on the street and investigate what it's like not to hear street noise. How well can you read lips I sometimes have actors try running dialogue from a scene or carrying on a conversation this way.

An Actors Toolbox

As Strasberg and the Group Theatre members interpreted Stanislavski's ideas, so have I reinterpreted the work of the great American acting instructors of the twentieth century and added on to their volume of work. The originals Stanislavski, Strasberg, Meisner, Adler, and Lewis didn't work in a complete vacuum to develop their styles. They worked with each other, and created the techniques after many years of study. It is my feeling that we must all learn from a master teacher and then go our...

Insanity

The first rule for playing insane people is this The characters do not see themselves as strange, mad, or insane. They think they are completely sane, and that the world around them is out of focus. For them, it's everyone else who's crazy. This rule must be kept in mind when doing a play like Marat Sade ,5 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,6 or The Boys Next Door .7 In the Insanity group exercise, I typically start with the actors sitting on the floor. I ask them to search their minds for a...

Handling Dangerous Emotional Acting Situations

Does this mean that an actor who hasn't quite resolved something from her past can't work on a scene that triggers the problem I'd be against giving her a scene in my class in this situation it would probably be unhealthy and create fear of the work. But often this situation will arise in the professional acting world, and the actor simply can't avoid the issue. For this kind of situation, I'd suggest that the actor look for another tool to achieve the appropriate result. I've used an Emotional...

Physical Condition

The next step is to choose a physical condition that the actor has experienced at some point in his life. The most common choice is a pain he's experienced in a specific part of his body. The physical condition and the activity are not necessarily related in any way, but often an actor can have the activity come out of the physical condition, or the physical condition may be a result of the activity. For example The actor has been out jogging and really turned his ankle. That night he has a big...

Emotional Recall Part Four

Part Three of the E.R. typically takes the same amount of time as Part Two fifteen minutes, give or take. Then, when the actor is done, I'll take her immediately to the fourth part speaking the monologue without all the stage business. I'll help the actor to set up the monologue at this point. She can either sit or stand, and I'll select one prop from her tasks. I then have her put an imagined person on the back wall of the theater, the same way she did with the Spoon River exercise. As she did...

Memorization

It is absolutely vital to know the words cold, whether we're talking about a monologue in the group exercises in Part II, the individual exercises in Part III, scene work explored in Part IV, or any other acting situation. An actor cannot work if she does not know what she's going to say next. Concentration is broken, imagination is lost, and no work gets done. Equally as important to recognize are the verbal differences between characters. People speak differently from each other they use...

Emotional Recall Part Three

Now that we've incorporated Life and Behavior into a mini-scene on stage, the next step is to add Words. We do that in the E.R., Part Three. Now that the actor is familiar with the Emotional Recall, it's time to use all that homework and apply it to a playwright's words. I have my students memorize a monologue from a play that has an emotional moment coinciding with the emotional moment of the actor's recall. Like the monologue that is memorized for the Fallout exercise, no acting choices are...

Blindness

The Blind group exercise is a little different than the previous group exercises that I teach, since the actors must pair off rather than working individually, and then eventually work together in a big group improvisation. But the results are twofold It helps develop trust in an acting partner as well as ground a physical condition in the imagination. I have the actors pair off after the initial relaxation, and each one chooses a role seeing or blind. The blind partners must close their eyes...

Relaxing Into The Floor

If the floor is used, I have the actors finish the relaxation work by laying on the floor and relaxing into it, meaning that the actors align their bodies while laying on their backs. I tell them to make sure that the base of the skull, the base of the spine, the back of the knees, and the back of the hands, fingers, and wrists palms up are touching the floor. The students' breathing should be dropped down to the diaphragm by this time and should be like the deep breathing that occurs right...

Shower

While normally the shower exercise should fit in with the general sensory exercises, I categorize it with the personal sensory exercises because of the personal nature of nudity. It is an extremely important exercise for any actor, and one of a delicate nature. Film and stage actors are often asked to work with their bodies in various stages of undress and to do many daring and risk-taking things. A big paycheck doesn't suddenly make it easier to be nude or partly nude in front of an audience...

Character Private Moments

Over the years, I've realized how to use this particular individual exercise to deepen the actor's understanding of a character for scene work. I especially like to use this for the characters in complex plays like those by Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neil, and others. I ask the actors to do a Character Private Moment based on one of the roles they are playing in their assigned scenes. Rather than being themselves alone on a Saturday night, the actors are the characters instead,...

Animal Exercises

Animal simulation is of tremendous importance, especially in its uses for character work. I include all creatures in the aviary bird world as well as the reptilian and mammal worlds when I speak of animal work. I have seen many actors add rich character life by identifying their characters their body language, postures and even personalities with animals. Animal work is especially helpful for actors when they are really stuck in their heads and cannot connect to their bodies. It is wonderful...

Pain Monologues

Frequently a writer gives a character a broken limb, headache, physical beating, or impairment. These can be either temporary or permanent. Think of the work necessary to play the crippled World War I vet Moe Axelrod in Awake and Sing 1 or Brick, the football star who's laid out with a broken ankle in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Laura from The Glass Menagerie3 doesn't suffer from simply a deformity there's a certain amount of pain involved with her limp. These roles directly present a key physical...

Eastern Standard Monologue

E.R., see Emotional Recall exercise Eastern Standard Greenberg , 109 Edgar Lee Masters, 85 Educating Rita Russell , 171 effective memory, 141. See also Emotional Recall exercise Elephant Man, the Pomerance , 78 Elliot, George, 88 Emily Our Town , 91 Emotional Recall exercise, 59, 84, 141-58, 160-61,166,178, 204,207,210, 212-14 note for leaders, 156-57 Part One, 142-49 advice to the actor, 144 atmosphere and senses, 145-46 clothing, 145 finishing, 147 in class, 143-44 location, 144-45 move...

Monologues From Awake And Sing

Anthology , 86 Maggie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , 164,192 Marat Sade Weiss , 79 Margaret Fuller Slack Spoon River Anthology , 88 Mark Antony Julius Caesar , 212 Mason, Maria, 170 Meal exercise, 50-51 Medea Medea , 80 Meg The Birthday Party , 193 Meisner method, xiv-xv Meisner, Sanford, xiii-xv memorization, 29, 91, 96, 200,203 for Emotional Recall monologue, 154 importance of, 30-32 problems during rehearsal, 31-32 Merrick, James Carey, 204 Method, the, xiii-xiv methodology, acting, xiii developing...