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Tle Act's Checklist Crecks, ee Cosimplete Chavick- r “Rosary O'Neill a 1 ACTION What am | doing? This chapter deals with what you do physic Each beat is composed of a unit of similar ai ‘As | grow older, | pay less attention to what men say. | just watch what they do. a WHAT 1S AN ACTION? Why is action the chief element? ‘Phis book outlines the essential checklist for an actor to create fa riveting performance. Aristotle in fifth-century Athens said drama is the imitation of action. And that definition holds true day, More than any other principle, action holds the key to Je, Acting means doing. We understand a story by what nstage. To act is to do. Remeraber a pivotal mo- ife: a wedding, a funeral, a graduation. Don't you ing: parading down the aisle, spting the diploma? Yes, you was more important than srstands that feeling through \e aisle, threw the rose, grabbed the action. But the observer u the way you ran down, the diploma. 4, We can never disconnect our physical actions from our inner motivations. As long as we are alive, we'll think, feel, move. Our emotional, intellectual, and physical selves are interconnected. Death ends action. When we rehearse what we are doing on- stage, we are always assessing what we are thinking or feeling. But we capture thought and feeling through physical action ‘Thought and emotion are volatile, butterfiy-like, hard to grasp and re-create. Physical action can be specified and repeated. What we do stirs up and is stirred up by thoughts and feelings. The key principle of acting is to play action in each beat of the script. What is a beat? Some say the term beat comes from the Russian promt tion of dit, because disciples of Stanislavski spent. countless hours exploring each bit of a scene. A beat is a slice of a scene with the same ingredients. Itis the small of conflict. Se- quences of beats create the pyramid of dramatic action. Each character confronts conflict in a series of beats that creates the scenes, the acts, and the play. You must break down the material in each scene into inter- results from how you shape its. The script is your blueprint. No character is play- base your choices for the beats on informatio: What things make up a beat? In a beat, you are looking for four elements: an action (some- thing to do), an objective (something to want), an obstacle (Something to overcome), and an inner image (something to motivate). These elements stimulate the tension in each beat. You probably already call upon some of them instinctually, be. 2 @ action ~~ Toname actions, use the cause they are based on your normal reactions as a human be- ing. In the next several chapters, we'll study these elements, Action = “to do” Action means “to do.” Onstage, you are always engaged in ac- tion. A beat or small piece of a scene is primarily a sequence of similar actions. Your life is also composed of sequences of ac- on. Some days the sequences are vivid. Imagine some of the ighlights from your life: receiving a graduation diploma, r ing your wedding vows, embracing a dying friend. You have ex- rienced more moving episodes or beats than you'll ever play stage. How do I name actions? Onstage, you must identify the action you're playing, Because acting is doing, you are looking for verbs that capture inner and onter movements, verbs that stimulate thought and activity. You name action in an attempt to clarify (and thus repeat) the instinetual choice Ke onstage. By choosing clear verbs, you pinpoint the distinctions in choices. “To badger” differs from “to irritate.” The range of colors in your performance de- ends on your ability to identify and re-create many shades of action. In one sequence, you might use all these actions when flirting: “to coo, to toy, to expose, to tease, to humor, to entice, to tempt, to giggle.” tive form of an active verb. For example, for the action “to wait,” use the active verb “to amuse myself.” It forces you to discover what you're doing, whereas “to wait” encourages passivity. When rehearsing actions, jot down verbs you are playing: “to punish, to ignore, to attack, to distract,” and so forth. At home, find other verbs to experiment Succinet terms like “to dump him” work descriptions like “to get this person out of my life.” ‘You follow impulses to discover actions in rehearsal. The more you understand what you're doing, the more actions may come to mind. By naming action, you clarify what you did so that you can do it again. Precision and detail are encouraged through such experimentation. A thesaurus can help you clarify what you're doing. Use verbs like “to con” or “to slug” that evoke an emotional re- . Study books on human behavior. Psychology books like Bric Berne’s Games People Play can reveal the ma- nipulating action of a scene. Your character may be engine ing a game “to get revenge,” as in “Now I've got you, you son of lv” or to “show off,” as in “Look, Ma, no hands!” or “to do!" The library and other people can help you. Remember, action that can be put into words and repeated is yours, Homework that reviews and strengthens what you do in rehearsal can help your subconscious store it. In performance, ‘you know what you're doing, you play free. You simply react to what is given to you moment to moment What is psycho-physical action? ‘Onstage, you'll be looking for physical and psychological ac- tion. Your physical action is what you do with your body. Your ‘psychological action is what you think. But all action is psycho- physical. You can't separate your thoughts from your body. Al- though some actions are more physical than other have a psychological component. For example, the physical action “to slug the robber” will have some psychological factors affect- ing it. Oftentimes action is misinterpreted as purely movement around the stage, but really action has more to do with inner movement like “to get revenge” as it is expressed in your stage choices. So when choosing action, imagine what your charac ter is thinking, experiencing. How does her body feel? What is she sensing? What Images are stirring up her thoughts? ‘Nearly all stage actions are psychological, that is, they ex- press your character’s thoughts. Your character is constantly 4 a action performing mental activities such as judging, envying, resent- ing, evaluating, repenting, worrying. Human beings are think: ing machines. You spend much of your time assessing things. You can stop walking, but you can'tstop thinking. Try rightnow, for one minute, to stop assessing things. It's impossible. How do | physicalize an action? ‘To physicatize means to find the outward, physical expression of the internal, psychological action. Often a psychological ac- tion will have a completely physical expression. If your psy- chological action is “to punish someone,” you might attempt to slap him. If your action is “to flirt,” you might adjust your friend's collar. Look for different ways to relate psychological action to the body. In the balcony scene of Shakespeare's Romeo ‘and Juliet, Romeo woos Juliet with his words. The actor might perform several physical activities while speaking, such as eaping the wall, throwing a rose to Juliet, staring at her, or ca- Romeo could rush toward Juliet when saying “For stony limits cannot hold love out,” be- ‘cause the line's action demonstrates the power of love (act 2, scene 2, line 67). “Active choices urge you to do something physical with the line. Imagine a scene in which you have to apologize to some- one so he'll forgive you. If the text says, “Tm terribly sorry,” you could just speak the words, but then you're not acting. In act- ing, you actively engage in behavior that communicates the re- morse. For instance, you could drop to your knees or sob when you say the line. ‘Remember, you can concentrate on only one action ata time. If you play two actions, you must choose which is predomi- nant. The lesser action becomes an activity. An activity is a task you do while engaged in the primary action. For example, think of the difference between an eating scene where the main action is “to gobble down your food” and one in which the ac- tion is “to seduce.” In the latter example, eating becomes an activity, action « 5