Gemma Kendall our current Acting Tutor has sat down to write a list of her best top tips for creating a character for performance. Enjoy reading and take in her invaluable guidance for your future acting endeavours!
‘Building a character’ is one of the most fundamental skills an actor needs to possess. It’s simply not enough to read a script, learn it and then act out the lines. That is not acting, that’s reciting a piece of text with movement. A background story to your character is extremely helpful but it’s still not enough to help you play your character convincingly.
The audience needs to recognise real human behaviour in your character. In other words, you need to be real.
‘Uta Hagen’ is an acting practitioner and her book ‘Respect for acting’ looks at tips to help develop your character. Here are 6 questions you can ask yourself when preparing your character and exploring their behaviours in different environments.
Who are you?
If you are choosing a character from a script, make sure you have read the play first. Simple? Yes, but many people fail to read the full script and struggle to know basic facts such as age, name, likes, physical traits etc. There are clues in the text so please read the play!
If you’re doing a devised piece without a script make decisions on who your character is and keep them as fact.
Where is your character?
Is this a familiar surrounding to your character? Is it a new setting? Are they in public or alone? What time is it?Is it day or night? What season is it? Is it 5pm after a long day of school? Or 6am in the morning? You will find that the physicality for each one is very different. These questions will determine how the character enters the space.
What are the circumstances?
What’s currently happening? What’s just happened or is going to happen. What events can you identify?
What do they want?
What do they want right now? All movement on stage/film must be for a reason. If the stage direction is that the actor walks to the door, we need to know why they are walking to a door. Is it because they are leaving to go to the toilet? Or are they leaving to catch a bus? We can extend that question to how much they need it or want it. Is it urgent or is it part of a routine?
What’s in my way?
Are there any obstacles stopping them from getting what they want? How does this change how the character responds physically and verbally?
How are they going to get what they want?
Decide how your character will get what they want. What steps do they need to take to do it?
These techniques are used within the acting community a great deal. In the book ‘Respect for acting’ there are nine questions ‘Uta Hagen’ suggests. You can find information on her techniques online or you may want to read the book!
Why not try adding some of these tools to your next monologue or dialogue. Enjoy exploring your character and developing a performance that the audience can journey with.