BEING PERSONAL IN YOUR WORK #3 – Techniques and Exercises

This is Part 3 of a 4 of Adam Lazarre-White’s Personalization Series: Parts 1 and 2 are available for you.

Private Moment Exercise

There is a quote from Meryl Streep, perhaps the greatest living actor, “Often the scenes that are the most exciting, and most illuminating in film, are the ones with no dialogue. The ‘description’ scenes where a character is doing something alone, where the deepest most private self is revealed or explored. Exposed.”

The Actor creates a place that he or she has studied. This “place” should be a real and totally specific in the Actor’s life. Once the place is created, the Actor does a simple Activity (or 2, or 3), that involves enough focus and attention, for a deep level of Relaxation into the place, either on stage or on camera. The relaxation and simple, mundane Activity encourage an Actor’s belief in the imaginary circumstances of the place and the environment. Finally, the Actor does something that they only do in private in that place – something he or she would stop doing if somebody else came in the room. The Actor must be relaxed and focused enough to do the private task completely and in an uninhibited fashion. It is a PRIVATE MOMENT.

The Subtext Exercise

Write out each line of a scene and then write out line by line what you are “really” saying or feeling to the other person – what you are “really” feeling.

Example: “I love you so much” = “I’m telling you what I think you need to hear in this moment.”

This exercise obviously helps clarify your Intention, and what your Inner Life is, regardless of what you are saying or what your Outer Life seems to express. Often, instead of writing the subtext out, actors will be asked to speak the subtext during the rehearsal, on their feet, in the scene to the other actor. Teachers will call out: “Speak your truth!” Any form of this exercise is a great way to get personal in your work about what is happening to your character, the circumstances you are in, the relationships you are in and what is happening within your self, in that very moment. You are bringing the two things together. You are creating an exciting recipe of humanity built by both the writer and by you. You are “cooking” with all the personal flair that great cooks cook with.

THEN… Write out line by line, what you want your PARTNER to feel. Not you – your PARTNER…

Example: “Would you mind closing the door on your way out?” = “I want you to feel that you disgust me, and the sight of you makes me want to vomit.” The aggression here might be very different than the other version from the first part of the exercise, which might be, “Why don’t you understand that I want be left alone?” That might be because what you want the other person to feel is related to understanding that your character is going to leave him three scenes later and your character isn’t aware of her own rage yet. But you, the actress (not the character), are aware of that psychology.

This exercise will help clarify your character’s Inner Life, motivations and Intentions, despite the words that are being said. The process of going through this exercise will connect what you are saying not only to what the writer’s point of view might be, or seem to be – but to what your own personal point of view IS – on the dialogue, the story, the circumstances, the events and the relationships. This exercise will blend both together, weave both together and hopefully make something beautiful and deeply personal.

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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