As actors, we are given the important job of telling a believable story through the experiences of a fictional character. Making a character and story believable, interesting and emotionally evocative is necessary for an actor. However, actors are sometimes bestowed with scripts that may not be entirely fleshed out (or at least appear to be). Actors who are just starting out may also find it difficult to discover the wonderful treasures of a script too. The situation faced is similar to the idea of making a mountain of a mole hill. We can always blame a script for lacking the details and nuances in creating a character and world of the story. But what would be the point of actors then?
Let’s find out the ways an actor can salvage a script and generate engaging scenes and truthful performances.
1. Read between the lines!
People are complex. Actors should be able to follow directions in a script but going with obvious acting in a script sets you up for a really boring scene. For the actor, the job is to convey an inner truth, and the truth is, people are complex!
Not everyone who is sad cries immediately. Sometimes, we fight back tears or we laugh it off with a joke. So, when analysing a script, don’t always go with the obvious reaction.
For example, if your character is angry in a scene, you don’t have to shout your lines. Saying your lines softly while appearing calm can convey so much more complexity to the character. A more tense or even treacherous quality can be revealed in the character when doing this. When the audience witnesses the tension of such a character, they don’t know what to expect and will be left questioning whether the character is going to break or stay calm. This makes for a much more powerful scene than a constant, unwavering emotion.
2. Create the world around you.
It’s one thing to know the setting of a scene but another to create a sensorial experience for yourself. Doing so allows the actor to engage with the world of the story.
Imagine this: A scene where you are arguing with another character. Let’s make it interesting. What if we imagine the air-conditioner is broken? Imagining how stuffy and hot it would be coupled with the fury you have at someone, this allows the actor to engage their senses and make the experience more real for the actor. What’s important is how you, the actor, can muster up the feeling of rage, helplessness, exhaustion so that the scene can feel more real to you! And when it’s real for you, it’s real for those who are watching!
So, when tackling a script, ask yourself questions like, Where are you? What does it smell like? Is it hot, cold, dry, humid? By making such choices and putting it into action, it will make the world of the story much more real for you and for your audience as well.
3. Don’t rest on your laurels.
So, you’ve memorised the script and rehearsed it a dozen times. You can do the whole scene while sleepwalking. But the problem is, you have become like a broken record. The lines of the scene no longer have any weight and the scene is no longer interesting.
But here’s the thing: Every scene HAS to be important for the actor. Each scene, each line, each action is there to drive the story. So, when you’re stuck, revisit the script and begin questioning with a new mindset.
Ask yourself, Why am I saying this line? Why am I saying it this way? Why am I doing this thing in the scene instead of this other thing? How do I feel when this character says this line to me?
By going deeper into the scene, you will develop a deeper understanding on tackling the scene that you may have never even thought possible! You could find a multitude of ways to say one line or convey subtext in your acting, for example. Once you’ve exhausted all the ways you think can perform a scene, you’ll never be caught as a mindless drone. You’ll have so many opportunities to go with in a scene. Plus, when a scene is completely understood inside-out, the actor can fully immerse themselves into the scene when they perform!
Script analysis is an extremely important part of the actor’s preparation. We may feel like a script gives us nothing or we just fail to find anything interesting. But the truth is, the script is the actor’s playground! Knowing every facet of the story, scene and its characters provides a world of opportunity for the actors to play with. So, explore, discover and you will make mountains out of mole hills.