Acting Success and the Text: Part I

Breaking down a script, a scene, or a story is where it all starts.  This first thing that happens when you get an audition or a part is that you read the script.  It is crucial that, when you first read the script or play, that you read it for the STORY–not for the part.  In order to play a part well, you not only have to be true to your self and your own artistic sensibilities, but first you must be true to the story.  You must honor the writer, his or her STORY and his or her artistic sensibility.  What is the story?  What happens?  What is the writer writing about?  Is he or she writing about what happens to a family when there are hidden secrets?  Is it about the ecstasy of “first love”?  You can’t play Romeo or Juliet as a cynical, “been around the block” type of teenager who doesn’t believe in “first love”.  That’s not the STORY.  Read the script, figure out what the story is, and then figure out what your role in the story is.  Start from there.

Second, What is your “CHARACTER’S ARC”?  Where does the character begin in the story, where does he or she travel to, and where does he or she end up?  What is the character’s growth?  What is the “lesson learned”?

Once you have an understanding of the character’s place in the overall story, the “character’s journey”, then get more specific.  Sometimes when auditioning for TV you don’t get a script of the particular episode, but you should be able to do some research: go online and read synopses, watch trailers (or even full episodes), and understand the overall tone, plot, and storytelling of the show.  You should be able to find out what is happening in the story over the course of the whole current season.

Regardless of having further information–within your sides, you can always make choices as to what the “arc” or the journey and “discovery” IN EACH SCENE is.  Making these choices in one scene will lead you to your choices in the next scene, and so on–whether it be in an audition, or in a role you have already booked. Breaking a scene down to the journey and discoveries therein, and breaking those into even smaller units within each scene is, to put it technically, breaking the scene down into what we call “BEATS”.

A “BEAT” is defined by the subtle changes within a scene as “discoveries” are made, information is passed, and when the moods and “intentions” of the characters change.  For Example:

Character 1  –  Hi, honey, I’m home.

Character 2  –  Hi.

Character 1  –  How was your day?

Character 2  –  Fine.

Character 1  –  Good.  I had a great day.

Character 2  –  Where were you this afternoon, when I called the office?

That line:  “Where were you this afternoon, when I called the office?” indicates the start of the “SECOND BEAT” (and the end of the first).  This is an obvious, overly simplistic example of a “BEAT”, and of the line that then defines the “TRANSITION”.  The scene is changed from that point on.  “BEATS” can be longer or shorter.  It depends on the writer, the style and sometimes, in a more subtle example, it can be defined by the CHOICES that the actors and the director make in the playing of the scene.  However, usually, with careful attention, the “BEATS” are quite clear.   It is often at the end or the beginning of a “BEAT” that a “Discovery” is made by one of the characters, and it is at that point, that an “Intention” for that character might change or shift.

The more you break the scenes down into their “BEATS”, the faster you will learn to recognize them better and more quickly.

THEN–MOST IMPORTANT–assigning different “Internal Actions” to take, to get what you want (your “Intention” or “Objective”) from the other character, will give you variety and depth in your acting in every scene.

For more information and tips, don’t miss Part II of this post–coming soon.

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Adam Lazarre-White Adam Lazarre-White grew up in NYC, graduated from Harvard University with Honors, started at QB for the “Crimson” and played in the Harvard Jazz Band. He is known for roles on Scandal, Heroes, Ocean’s 13, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, The Temptations, Living Single, The Parkers, and starring on The Young & The Restless. Adam’s writing and directing have become equal pursuit in recent years; and he has owned his acting school in Hollywood, ALW Acting Studios since 2000. For info on Adam's classes, acting, writing & directing visit his website at www.adamlazarre-white.com