2008 stagematrix.com

scene/character breakdown


"Dramatic Interpretation is a Result, not a Cause." -KF- Part One -- Character!

Beat: The smallest division of action in a play. The length of time necessary for a character to play an "Objective" (also called "Intention") from beginning to end.

Method or Biomechanics?


Dramatic Acting: see Monologue Pages!

THR321 Advanced Acting

This page is a part of your homework; not only you have to undestand the text (and subtext), you have to have some ideas HOW you plan to express it, to communicate it. And this is what you bring to class or rehearsals to try on us!

"... Also, in the Method every sentence has an objective and every objective is a beat, that is why ABWAG has done away with all the beats and only change the objective with new information or new event. In other words, the actor has to be as free as possible when they act."

One more time! Actor, you better learn how to work with yourself on your own. You are your best teacher and the best personal trainer. You are your best manager and best friend!

Study the text, study your performance (secondary text), study YOURSELF (Part 3.Actor) and the profession!

Professional director spends an hour of rehearsals for every page of the script (Stanislavky could rehearsed for six years and drop the show, I can't do it in America). One page = 2 min. on stage. Your monologue runs between 1/2 and one page. You have to put your hour in before you come to work with me. You do what I do -- your breakdown of your text. And then we meet.

Count the seconds.

Think of yourself as an athlet -- blink of the eye is the record. The rest is preporation.

When we meet, we put it together as NEW!

Are you ready? Sorry, folks. My sidetalking is the best I can do. We are not in the same space, but we are together in the same time. Right?

I can't hyper-link everything. I can't fix the pages. I can't write, what I say and I can't say what I think.


Not enough time, my friends. Nothing else. NEW :


"It is better to be quotable than to be honest." ~ Tom Stoppard


Text breakdown again? Yes, becuase we have "Meethod Acting for Directors" tasks! Read the "text breakdown" in BioMethod, Biomechanics and Stagematrix directories. But, anatoly, how different is our aim now?


This is not a tough job. You read a script. If you like the part and the money is O.K., you do it. Then you remember your lines. You show up on time. You do what the director tells you to do. When you finish, you rest and then go on to the next part. That's it. ~ Robert Mitchum Drama is action, sir, action and not confounded philosophy. ~ Luigi Pirandello

"Exposition a narrative device, often used at the beginning of a work, that provides necessary background information about the characters and their circumstances. Exposition explains what has gone on before, the relationships between characters, the development of a theme, and the introduction of a conflict." (Meyer).

Script Analysis Actor:

Theatre Books Master Page *

In order to work out the score of the play we had to break it up into small units. . . . The technique of division is comparatively simple: What is the core [kernel] . . . the thing without which it cannot exist?

Remember the division is temporary. . . . It is only in preparation . . . that we use small units. During its [a play's] actual creation they fuse into large units. The larger and fewer the divisions. . . . the easier for you to handle the whole role.

As you put on your make-up you will think of the first unit. . . . You play the first one and are carried along to the next and the next.

Have you any conception of what a really good name for a unit is? It stands for its essential quality. To obtain it you must subject the unit to a process of crystallization. . . . The right name which crystallizes the essence of a unit, discovers its fundamental objective. --An Actor Prepares



"In life, feelings are in search of words; on stage, words are in search of feelings." Stanislavsky
What attracts me to drama is that it is, in the most obvious way, what all the arts are upon a last analysis. A farce and a tragedy are alike in this, that they are a moment of intense life. An action is taken out of all other actions; it is reduced to its simplest form, or at any rate to as simple a form as it can be brought to without our losing the sense of its place in the world. The charcters that are involved in it are freed from everything that is not a part of that action... William Butler Yeats
Oh, please, please, study the texts! Your scenes, your monologues -- go back and read again. I placed links-pix to great plays, if I do not have enough samples on my pages already!

What is the biggest problem with actors? They do not UNDERSTAND the text!

The young ones, of course.

And the bad too.


First Text -- drama, the words.
Monologue breakdown -- looking for action.
It's misleadingly simple.
The Beginning, the Middle and the End. (Aristotle)
Exposition, Climax, Resolution.
We know it for 25 centuries (read _The Poetics_ -- see 200X Basics).

I hope that any actor knows that there are such things as "acting theories." Craft of acting needs some systematic, organizational structure.

Acting is VERY practical business ("stage business" -- what is it?).
The secret is in application of acting theory. YOUR actual understanding of text, yourself and theory -- the performance. "Understanding" isn't enough in acting. You have to understand, to know, to feel, to move, to communicate all the above...

The major problem in acting classes is the gap between "understanding" and "doing." That's why actor needs TRAINING. The ability to perform, regardless your (personal) mood, today' situation on stage ("show must go on") and in the house ("dead public"). The show is a self-contained entity with an open structure: audience gives the new energy (fear) to actor, but an actor is acting for himself.

There are many floors in acting: we see only a tip of the iceberg -- performance.
Stanislavsky called it "Actor Prepares."
It takes a life to be a good actor. The learning never ends.

Three major states of "role" production:
I. Understanding -- "What" stage of working on your role.
II. Search, forms, discovery -- "How" stage.
III. Execution, development, perfection -- performance. And -- "why" -- why do you do it? Yes, you, personally (the most important, because if I do not understand YOU, I don't care).

What do we call "text breakdown"?
The deconstruction.
In order for you to create your "text" (performance), the original (dramatic) text has to be disassembled, understood in its own organization, evaluated (creative "reading"), re-assembled and put together by the actor as a performance (new "text").

The problem is right here -- how to do it? How to "open" the play, to figure out what is in there, and what is in there for me?


1. WHO? (inner conflict)
2. WHAT? (character's action, event)
3. WHEN? (time)
4. WHERE? (space)
5. WHY? (motivation)

Between "what" and "how" is "why" -- the secret.

5 Ws could be useful only if our answers are not abstract.
Age. How old is your character?
-She is twenty five?
Why not twenty six?
The exact age could be played if it's dramatic fact; her birthday (today, tomorrow), or being "25" prevents her from getting something what she could get at 26, or did she lost something becoming 25?
Understanding begins from not knowing.
-I don't understand my character.
Good. What don't you understand?
Instant "understanding" is an illusion, misunderstanding. Do you understand yourself? how about "knowing" instead of "understanding"? Do you know (recognize) your character? Could you place this character within the frame of your own experience? Does she remain you somebody? Is anything in you resemble her?

Who -- everything essential about your character.

Text breakdown is far from being a formal process. Meaning, logic, guesses are guiding you through this process of deconstruction.

When -- time of the day, season, historical era, and the day itself. Is it the Forth of July? Valentine day? Christmas? Friday? Monday? You have to help yourself to visualize the time of your character -- given circumstances.

PS: After you got some idea about the dramatic structure of your monologue, think about Physicalization and Body Breakdown.

Term introduced:

"Five Ws"
"Composition 1-2-3"
(see Glossary 1-2-3!)

Character Analysis (5 Ws)
Tests, questions: Select the monologue (see 3 Sisters), work on it and bring it to class.

NB * Stanislavsky: «We have as many planes of speech as does a painting planes of perspective which create perspective in a phrase. The most important word stands out most vividly defined in the very foreground of the sound plane. Less important words create a series of deeper planes».

WWWilde directory has the first act online: use the scenes for analysis.


Your have to have drafts of your role. The fine draft is nobody business, but yours. Director can design but not execute the design. You have to do it TOGETHER with the Public! This is where the masters are! That's why we have many shows: this is your most inportant rehearsals. If you understand it and if you know how to do it -- you are to become master.

Everything else we do is preporation for this final stage of the process -- and it's live and you are are on your own. Do you use the text, your body, your costume, your partners, the public....

Master knows how to do it -- to make all those element PLAY. Lights, pauses, movement -- there are so many! They are different every night! ReAct! InterAct! PreAct!

Are you ready?

Do it!

Then you come home -- and take it apart again, your performance -- what worked and what didn't. Why? Again, the analysis. Try it different. Any new ideas? Work on it. And give to the public tomorrow.

I hope you understand how important is to know HOW to take apart any element of the spectacle.

Next: script.vtheatre.net
"Don't ask Me what my Stories are meant to Express, ask Yourself what they Mean to You." Eugene O'Neill Strasberg-Method
... “When I first started studying with Lee, I thought it was a lot of bunk," she said. "I was watching what they were doing and I said, ‘What is this?' Men crying on the stage and women shrieking, and people doing all the crazy things that he’s asking people to do. And my turn was coming and the week before I’d said, ‘I’m not going back.’ ... Jane Fonda Pollak-Rex Shaw-Pygmalion Stanislavsky On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco (1886, 1902) (On the Harm of Tobacco)
NYUKHIN: (He enters the stage with great dignity, wearing long side whiskers and worn-out flock coat. He bows majestically to his audience, adjusts his waistcoat, and speaks.)
Ladies and ... so to speak... gentlemen. It was suggested to my wife that I give a public ledture here for charity. Well, if I must, I must. It's all the same to me. I am not a professor and I've never finish the university. And yet, nevertheless, over the past thirty years I have been ruining my health by constant, unceasing examination of matters of strictly scientific nature. I am a man of intellectual curiosity, and, image, at times I write essays on scientific matters -- well, not exactly scientific, but, if you will pardon me, approximately scientific. Just another day I finished a long article entitled: "On the Harmfulness of Certain Insects." My daughters liked it immensely, especially the part about bedbugs. But I just read it over and tore it up. What difference does it make whether such things are written? You still have to have naphtha. We have bedbugs, even in our grand piano... For the subject of my lecture today I have taken, so to speak, the harm done mankind by the use of tobacco. I myself smoke, but my wife told me to lecture on the harmfulness of tobacco, and so what's to be done? Tobacco it is. It's all the same to me; but, ladies and... so to speak gentleman... I urge you to take my lecture with all due seriousness, or something awful may happen. If any of you are afraid of a dry, scientific lecture, cannot stomach that sort of thing, you needdn't listen. You may leave.
(He again adjusts his waistcoat.)
Are there any doctors present? If so, I insist that you listen very carefully, for my lecture will contain much useful information, since tobacco, besides being harmful, contains certain medical properties. For example, if you take a fly and put him in a snuff box, he will die, probably from nervous exhaustion. Tobacco, strictly speaking, is a plant... Yes, I know, when I lecture I blink my right eye. Take no notice. It's simple nervousness. I am a very nervous man, generally speaking. I started blinking years ago, in 1889, to be precise, on September the thirteenth, the very day my wife gave birth to our, so to speak, fourth daughter, Varvara. All my daughters were born on the thirteeth. But... (He looks at his watch.) time at our disposal is strictly limited. I see I have digressed from the subject.
I must tell you, by the way, that my wife runs a boarding school. Well, not exactly a boarding school, but something in the nature of one. Just between us, my wife likes to complain about hard times, but she has put away a little nest egg... some forty or fifty thousand rubles. As for me, I haven't a kopek to my name, not a penny... and, well, what's the use of dwelling on that? At the school, it is my lot to look after the housekeepng. I buy supplies, keep an eye on the servants, keep the books, stitch together the exercise books, exterminate bedbugs, take my wife's little dog for walks, catch mice. Last night, it fell to me to give the cook flour and butter for today's breakfast. Well, to make a long story short, today, when the pancakes were ready, my wife came to the kitchen and said that three students would not be eating pancakes, as they had swollen glands. So it seems we had a few too many pancakes. What to do with them? First my wife ordered them stored away, but then she thought awhile, and she said, "You eat those pancakes, you scarecrow." When she's out of humor, that's what she calls me: "scarecrow," or "viper," or "devil." What sort of devil am I? She's always out of humor. I didn't eat those pancakes; I wolfed them down. I am always hungry. Why yesterday, she gave me no dinner. She says, "What's the use feeding you, you scarecrow..." However... (He looks at his warch.) I have strayed from my subject. Let us continue. But some of you, I'm sure, would rather hear a romance, or a symphony, some aria...
(He sings.)
"We shall not shrink In the heart of battle:
Forward, be strong."
I forgot that comes from... Oh, by the way, I should tell you that at my wife's school, apart from looking after the housekeeping, my duties include teaching mathematics, physics, chemistry, georgraphy, history, solfeggio, literature, and so forth. For dancing, singing, and drawing, my wife charges extra, although the singing and dancing master is yours truly. Our school is located at Dog Alley, number 13. I suppose that's why my life has been so unlucky, living in house number thirteen. All my daughters were born on the thirteenth, I think I told you, and our house has thirteen windows, and, in short, what's the use? Appointments with my wife may be made for any hour, and the school's propectus may be had for thirty kopeks from the porter.
(He takes a few copies out of his pocket.)
Ah, here you see, I've brought a few with me. Thirty kopecs a copy. Would anyone care for one?
(A pause.)
No one? Well, make it twenty kopecs. (Another pause.) What a shame! Yes, house number thirteen. I am a failure. I've grown old and stupid. Here I am, lecturing, and to all appearances enjoying myself, but I tell you I have such an urge to scream at the top of my lungs, to run away to the ends of the earth... There is no one to talk to. I want to weep. What about your daughters, you say, eh? Well, what about them? I try to talk to them, and they only laugh. My wife has seven daughters. Seven. No. Sorry, it's only six. Now, wait, it is seven. Anna, the eldest, is twenty-seven, the youngest is seventeen. Ladies and gentleman:
(He looks around surreptitiously.)
I am miserable: I have become a fool, a nonentity. But then, all in all, you see before you the happiest of fathers. Why shouldn't I be, and who am I to say that I am not? Oh, if you only knew: I have lived with my wife for thirty-three years, and, I can say they are the best years of my life... well, not the best, but aspproximately the best. They have passed, as it were, in a thrice, and, well, to hell with them.
(Again, he looks around surreptitiously.)
I don't think my wife has arrived yet. She is not here. So, I can say what I like. I am afraid... I am terribly afraid when she looks at me. Well, I was talking about our duaghters. They don't get married, probably because they're so shy, and also because men can never get near them. My wife doesn't give parties. She never invites anyone to dinner. She's a stingy, shrewish, ill-tempered old biddy, and that's why no one comes to see us, but... I can tell you confidentially...
(He comes down to the edge of his platform.)
on holidays, my daughters can be seen at the home of their aunt, Natalia, the one who has rheumatism and always wears a yellow dress covered with black spots that look like cockroaches. There you can eat. And if my wife happens not to be looking, then you'll see me...
(He makes a drinking gesture.)
Oh, you'll see I can get tipsy on just one glass. Then I feel so happy and at the same time so sad, it's unimaginable. I think of my yough, and then somehow I long to run away, to clear out. Oh, if you only knew how I long to do it! To run away, to be free of everything, to run without ever looking back... Where? Anywhere, so long as it is away from that vile, mean, cheap life that has made me into a fool, a miserable idiot; to run away from that stupid, petty, hot headed, spiteful, nasty old miser, my wife, who has given me thirty-three years of torment; to run away from the music, the kitchen, my wife's bookkeeping ledgers, all those mundane, trivial affairs... To run away and then stop somewhere far, far away on a hill, and stand there like a tree, a pole, a scarecrow, under the great sky and the still, bright moon, and to forget, simply forget... Oh, how I long to forget! How I long to tear off this flock coat, this coat that I wore thirty-three years ago at my wedding, and that I still wear for lectures for charity!
(He tears off his coat.)
Take that: And that:
(Stamping on the coat.)
I am a poor, shabby, tattered wretch, like the back of this waistcoat. (He turns his back showing his waistcoat.) I ask for nothing. I am better than that. I was young once; I went to the university, I had dreams, I thought of myself as a man, but now... now, I want nothing. Nothing but peace... peace.
(He looks off stage. Quickly he pick up his flock coat and puts it on.)
She is here. My wife is there in the wings waiting for me. (He looks at his watch.) I see our time is up. If she asks you, please, I beg you, tell her that her scarecrow husband, I mean, the lecturer, me, behaved with dignity. Oh, she is looking at me.
(He resumes his dignity and raises his voice.)
Given that tobacco contains a trrible poison, which I have had the pleasure of describing to you, smoking should at all costs be avoided, and permit me to add my hopes that these observations on the harmfulness of tabacco will have been of some profit to you. And so I conclude. Dixi et animan levavi!*
(He bows majestically, and exits with grand dignity.)
The End
[ analysis in class, from THR121 ]
* "I have spoken and relieved my soul." (Latin)
Chekhov, Farces -- Theatre UAF 2006