29th July 2021

Acting Basics: Getting Into Character

acting basics

Acting is much more than just memorizing your lines. You really need to live, breathe, and understand your character. For getting into character, there are many resources out there to get you started analyzing your role and breaking it down. Here are just a few acting basics:

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Script Analysis

You’ll want to read through your script many times, making lots of notes about what’s going on in the scene, what words you’re saying, what your character says about him/herself and others, and what other characters say about your character!

What Does My Character Want?

Your character should always want something… otherwise, why are they there?!
(Note – the following links are from writing websites, but can definitely be adapted for actors!)

VerbingExploring the script/lines through action words (e.g. I bully, I praise, I push, I entice)

Go through each scene and line. What does your character want in the entire scene? What are they trying to achieve? Then write out a specific, strong verb (action word) that describes what you’re trying to do. For example, your character might say “Why are you doing that?” Are they questioning, blaming, inquiring, accusing? Always keep your overall goal in mind!

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BonusExtra things to think about!

  • What does my character want? What’s their goal?
  • Where am I coming from before the scene started? Where am I going after the scene?
  • Why do I break into song at this particular moment? What’s the theme/mood/tone of the song?
  • How does my character move? What’s their posture/physicality?
  • Create a character’s sketch – write down adjectives to describe your character and their personality.

These resources and suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to really understanding your character. It’s important to make your character a unique and interesting person on the stage — otherwise, why are they there in the first place?

Take the time to study and analyze what your character wants, how they think, and how they react to other characters and the situations they find themselves in.

This will, in turn, give your fellow cast mates lots of interesting material to work with, and it will help to create a lasting and memorable experience for the audience to enjoy.

Also by Kerry Hishon:

Want To Have A Theatre Career? 6 Tips To Get You Started

A Costume Is A Costume

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Kerry Hishon is an actor, director, stage combatant, and writer living in London, Ontario, Canada. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Stage & Screen Studies from Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) in 2006, and has been working in youth theatre since 2008. She has directed shows for the Original Kids Theatre Company since 2010, including Peter and the Starcatcher, Tarzan, The Wedding Singer, Disney's The Little Mermaid Jr., Fiddler on the Roof Jr. and many more. She has taught OKTC's T.A.G. (The Actor Grows) program for five years, teaching the basics of theatre to over 60 new company members each year. She has directed, taught, acted and written for various theatre companies throughout Ontario, and recently enjoyed her first experience as choreographer for Time Warp: 50 Years of the Rock Musical with Musical Theatre Productions. Kerry is a member of Art of Combat and has trained in stage combat in London Ontario (Shrew'd Business) and New York City (AoC) since 2010. Kerry is a Drama Teacher Academy Instructor with her course Theatre Etiquette 101, as well as a featured blogger for Theatrefolk.com, specializing in posts on rehearsal procedures. She also writes at her own blog, kerryhishon.com. In her free time, Kerry enjoys travelling, reading, knitting, and dancing.

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