By Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previtio, Scott Zigler, David Mamet
6 operating actors describe their tools and philosophies of the theater. All have labored with playwright David Mamet on the Goodman Theater in Chicago.
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Extra resources for A Practical Handbook for the Actor
Moment is what is actually happening in the scene as you are playing it at any given instant. Ideally, every moment of a play is based on what has happened in the moment preceding it. Acting then is dealing truthfully with the other actors onstage in order to pursue a specific goal. The actor should prepare so that he can improvise onstage while sticking to certain given circumstances. Given circumstances are anything set forth by the writer or director that must be adhered to by the actor. The location of the action of the play and everything that this suggests—for example, dialects, costumes, or scenery—is a given circumstance.
Oedipus asks to be sent out of Thebes. Oedipus asks Creon not to take his daughters away. Analysis: 1. Oedipus is getting people to help him fulfill his final responsibilities in Thebes. 2. Making sure loved ones will be taken care of. Tools: To issue orders, beg, apologize, get a commitment, let friends down easy, teach a lesson. Through-line 1. Oedipus is saving Thebes from the plague. 2. Taking the best possible care of those entrusted to me. As this example illustrates, everything you do onstage serves the through-action; anything that does not serve the through-action must be eliminated.
Ask yourself these three questions: 1. What is the character literally doing? 2. What is the essential action of what the character is doing in this scene? 3. What is that action like to me? It’s as if … 1. What is the character literally doing? The key to answering this question is to be as literal as possible; do not interpret or embellish what is happening on the printed page. A character may say and do many things in a scene, some of them seemingly contradictory. Your task is to find out the one specific thing he is doing that encompasses every line.