Character vs. Self

Lesson Introduction

When developing a character, the actor will employ an approach that moves forward on two fronts: The first is to make an external study of the character, observing people in the world around to make choices that are within our capacity to mimic: I might choose to emulate the way my father-in-law dons and doffs his specs when playing professorial suitor, or I might choose to rush through sentences with the heart-palpitating energy of an old friend. Mode of dress, the pitch of the voice, the carriage of the body pain in the joints, age: these are all external choices. The second is to find common ground with the character, all the ways he or she can identify with hopes dreams, fears, compulsions, both positive and negative emotions. Connection. For an actor to best succeed in this mode, she must gain some understanding of herself. This exercise explores both modes of work with an eye to unifying them in the creation of a character.

Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Identify a range of internal and external strategies for developing character.
  • Use body and voice as performing instruments.
  • Interprete text for performance.
  • Listen and memorize.


Materials and Resources

To teach this lesson, you will need:

  • computer with internet access and an open connection to YouTube and similar video-playing sites (examples given)
  • headphones
  • costume pieces, props
  • pen and paper, printer

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