Monday, February 05, 2007


A few years ago I remember hearing a teacher telling her students to "play the secret spine" of the scene. I remember thinking: 'How can you play the 'secret spine of a scene?! I mean...if it's a secret (spine, or otherwise), how could the actor 'play' it? It's a SECRET!'

But I return to that teacher with an apology. Of sorts.

All scenes, at their deepest levels, harbor a secret. It may not be the goal, or objective quest, in a scene, however....but behind the spine, that objective quest, THERE IS AN INTERESTING SECRET: character fears of being known, of being forced to reveal fundamental insecurities, doubts, desires, denials and deceits.

The secret of a scene is the character's need to hide the emotional impetus behind the objective of a scene: in a love scene it may be the character need to hide an innate fear of loneliness and betrayal; in a scene about friendship it may be both characters trying not to revealing sexual desire. The secret behind the drive for power may be the 'secret' of impotence (Donald Trump, beware!) The secret behind the need for money may be the panic of poverty, the incessant need of feeling poor, in spite of being rich.

The very thing that makes someone (an actor) interesting--as they quest for a goal in a scene vis-a-vis another person--is the secret they harbor in their souls: the wellsprings of their fears, desires and hidden needs. The fascination as characters is what they are trying to deny to others, and probably even to themselves! It is the mystery of their character...those inner truths that the story threatens to reveal as the plot/character/conflict unfolds...and which leads us, the audience, watching and waiting, until these emotional character essences--secrets--are revealed in the climax.


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