Here Is Why Actors Need More Than Just Passion And Talent

byCharlie Sandlan

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Louisa Proske - Script Analysis New York NYScript Analysis deals with the deceptively simple question: How do you read a play as an actor? The answer may seem obvious: you read it from cover to cover, and then you do your actor’s work on the character. But what is this “actor’s work,” exactly? How do you let it come out of the playwright’s words, organically and specifically? What do you do to “prepare,” in the weeks before rehearsals start? And then how do you feed the work you’ve done on your own into the rehearsal process, into a director’s vision of the piece?

Many young actors do not know how to read plays. They miss crucial information about their character, they don’t have a process of working on a script, they don’t realize where a playwright gives them an exciting opportunity to make a choice, and they don’t have a vocabulary for storytelling. They may have a great deal of passion for certain plays, and they may have a lot of raw talent as an actor. But passion and talent alone are not enough to craft a great performance – what is needed is training and a careful, intelligent reading of the text.

This may sound dry and academic. It is not. Script Analysis should always lead towards concrete choices, should empower the actor to craft vivid, specific behavior, and to do their homework. In the absence of a solid technique, actors may panic when asked to prepare a script for rehearsal. The task may seem so insurmountable that they don’t know where to begin. Or they will jump towards drawing quick conclusions about their character without having carefully gathered all information about them, leading them to choices that are not grounded in the text. Or they may take at face value things that are said about their character, without realizing they may not come from a reliable source – in plays, as in life, people have a million reasons to twist the facts or tell plain lies about each other. Sometimes an actor’s weakness may lie in being at a loss about how to research the period that the play or film is set in – values, meanings, and thus behavior change radically over time or across cultures, and this can be a great gift to the sensitive actor.

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Actors read differently from other people: for them, the play is a score, very much akin to a musical score, full of detailed and vital information that creates the framework for their work on character. This score doesn’t restrain them in the least bit – in fact, it frees the actor to become the creative artist they are in providing the jumping off point for their own unique choices. Taking a script analysis class means being committed to the long path of becoming a master at reading the score of the play, or of the film script. It means becoming a great detective, gathering every available clue about your character. It means becoming extremely well-versed in the building blocks of storytelling, so that you can recognize your character’s place in the weave of story that is the play, and make your choices in support of this story. It means breaking up the text into actable “bits,” a beautiful chain of cause and effect that can give your performance a rich complexity while remaining specific and grounded at every moment. If you have all these techniques at your disposal, the actor’s homework will become a delicious task, driven by the actor’s “obsessive interest in human affairs,” as Tennessee Williams once called it. But take note: your work should never be free of struggle, nor should it be free of terror. Any art worth its name is forged in the furnace of the artist’s inner struggle to create truth, or beauty. If it’s not hard, what good is it?

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