Sunday, April 05, 2009

ON ACTING: A Scene's Structural Components

Language, movement, and props are implicit structural components in a scene: ‘givens’ by the writer and director.

By their very human nature, words and movement are the outer shaping of inner character impulses. Words, movement, and facial reactions and prop-handling are the character's emotional life organized into outer action. Actors are therefore automatically aided in their search for structure by writers and directors.

The writer gives them a verbal structure. A director gives them movement structure.

The smart and good actor seeking structure in performance should initially focus on becoming courageous enough, secure enough, and smart enough not to hamper the writer’s and director’s inherently structured offerings. Assume the writer is good writer and the director a good director, and like a smart jockey with a great horse, they should just get on and ride.

Initially, learn your lines as written, follow the director’s blocking, use the suggested props in the script, and allow the early performance rehearsals to flow along the rails of these inherited shapes toward the finish line; let experimentation follow that initial submission to the written and verbal demands.

Good writer’s often hide some of their written structural components in their scripts rather than directly reveal them, however. In such cases, the good actor must dig deep in the dialogue and action to find the structural skeleton beneath the surface obfuscation. These elements may not be obvious. The good actor must decipher the scene's underlying inner structure—the pattern of branches, limbs and twigs inherent in the often disarrayed and obtuse leaves of dialogue and movement…and be prepared to live that inner structure accordingly.


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