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LECTURE NOTES:

HISTORY &
FUNDAMENTALS
OF METHOD ACTING
James Senft - 2007 (Revised)

HISTORY & FUNDAMENTALS OF


METHOD ACTING
The 9 points of Method that we will study in depth are:
Relaxation
Observation
Concentration
The Importance of Specifics
Inner Truth
Ensemble Playing
Emotional Recall
Thru Line
Textual Analysis of Script

HISTORY OF METHOD ACTING

Before we start on the guts of Method, we need to explore a


bit of the historical elements of it. Method Acting or The
Method was founded by noted acting teacher and director
Constantine Stanislavski who in the later part of the 19th
century was the Artistic Director of the famed Russian

Moscow Arts Theatre.

Constantine Stanislavski

Stanislavski felt that the theatre of his time was over


exaggerated, too external from the true grit emotion of the
character and not real but a faade. He felt that acting
would only be believable if the actor entered more of
psychological examination of the character. Basically, the
exaggerated, over-extended surrealism of the playing a
character could only be tamed into a realistic performance if
the actor truly was the character; and this could only be
accomplished if the actor, through a series of well-structured
exercises, entered the world of imagination and play. Here
he could tame the emotion, realism and inner truth of the
character and subsequently, the character could live if only
for the moments on the stage.
The impact of the Stanislavskian moment was far reaching.
He began his work at The Moscow Arts Theatre where we
worked the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Chekhovs
most famous works included The Sea Gull, The Cherry
Orchard and The Three Sisters; these plays developed
characters with deep subtext, emotion and truth which
required a great deal of realism to play effectively.

STANISLAVSKI & THE METHOD

Proscenium Stage of The Moscow Arts Theatre

Stanislavski survived the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, with Lenin apparently
intervening to protect him. In 1918, Stanislavski established the First Studio as a school for young actors and wrote
several works: those available in English translation include: An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, Creating a Role,
and the autobiography My Life in Art.
Stanislavski always thought of his system as if it were a table of contents for a large book which dealt with all aspects of
acting. His final work, now known as The Method of Physical Actions, or The Stanislavskian System, is in no way a
rejection of his early interest in sense and affective memory. At no time did he ever reject the notion of emotion
memory; he simply found other means of accessing emotion, among them the absolute belief in given circumstances;
the exercise of the imagination; and the use of physical action.

THE STANISLAVSKI SYSTEM

Stanislavski's system is a systematic approach to training actors. This system is at some point different from but not
a rejection of what he states earlier in affective memory. At the beginning, Stanislavski proposed that actors study
and experience subjective emotions and feelings and manifest them to audiences by physical and vocal means Theatre language. While his System focused on creating truthful emotions and then embodying these, he later
worked on The Method of Physical Actions. This was developed at the Opera Dramatic Studio from the early 30s,
and worked like Emotion Memory in reverse. The focus was on the physical actions inspiring truthful emotion, and
involved improvisation and discussion. The focus remained on reaching the subconscious through the conscious.
Stanislavski's 'system focused on the development of artistic truth onstage by teaching actors to "live the part"
during performance. Despite being primarily known in The United States for Realism, Stanislavski developed the
system to be applied to all forms of theatre, directing and producing melodrama, vaudeville, opera, etc. In order to
create an ensemble of actors all working together as an artistic unit, he began organizing a series of studios in
which young actors were trained in his system. At the First Studio of MAT, actors were instructed to use their own
memories in order to naturally express emotions. Stanislavski soon observed that some of the actors using or
abusing Emotional Memory were given to hysteria. Although he never disavowed Emotional Memory as an essential
tool in the actor's kit, he began searching for less draining ways of accessing emotion, eventually emphasizing the
actor's use of imagination and belief in the given circumstances of the text rather than her/his private and often
painful memories.
Stanislavski had different pupils during each of the phases of discovering and experimenting with a Universal System
of acting. One such student, Ryszard Bolesawski, founded the American Laboratory Theatre in 1925. It had a
tremendous impact on American acting, when one of Boleslawski's students, Lee Strasberg, went on to co-found
The Group Theater (1931-1940) with Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford, the first American acting company to put
Stanislavski's first discoveries into theatrical practice. Boleslawski had been in Stanislavski's class when
experimenting with Affective Memory. Stanislavski's theory later evolved to rely on Physical Action inducing feelings
and emotions.

THE GROUP THEATRE

Lee Strasberg

In the summer of 1931, three young idealists, Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and
Lee Strasberg, were inspired by a passionate dream of transforming the American
theater. They recruited 28 actors to form a permanent ensemble dedicated to
dramatizing the life of their times. They conceived The Group Theatre as a response
to what they saw as the old-fashioned light entertainment that dominated the
theater of the late 1920s. Their vision was of a new theater that would mount
original American plays to mirror -- even change -- the life of their troubled times.
Over its ten years and twenty productions, they not only met these goals, but altered
the course of American theater forever.
The Group Theatre was a company based on an ensemble approach to acting. First
seen in the work of the Moscow Art Theater, the ensemble approach proposed a
highly personal and cooperative method. That individual actors played individual
parts was no longer important. The focus was on a cast that was familiar and
believable as a whole. If the actors had relationships off-stage, then the relationships
on stage would not only seem, but be more "real." As the members of the ensemble
grew to know each other, this familiarity was successfully reflected in their work.
Based on the innovative techniques of the Russian master Constantin Stanislavsky,
Lee Strasberg came up with "the method." The method, or "method acting", as it
has come to be known, proposed a series of physical and psychological exercises. It
held, for example, that if a part called for fear, the actor must remember fear and
bring this honest emotion to the stage. These exercises were meant to break down
the actors barrier between life on and off the stage. By the time the curtain came
down on their first production, "The House of Connelly", the Group Theater knew
they had succeeded. What was important was not simply the enthusiastic response,
but that the audience and reviewers had recognized that this one performance
signaled a shift in American theater

THE GROUP THEATRE

The Group Theatre believed what they were doing to be of great political significance. While disregarding the calls for
individual fame in an embrace of cooperation. It was not, however, until Clifford Odets, then an actor in the group,
wrote "Awake and Sing!" that they found their full voice. His highly charged plays, which were often expressed in the
language and circumstances of working-class characters, mirrored the essence of what the group wanted to be and
do, fulfilling the dream of a theater speaking to and for its audience. Both audience and critics responded
enthusiastically, and such works as "Awake and Sing!," "Waiting for Lefty, " and "Paradise Lost" were among the
most memorable productions of the decade.
By the late 1930s however, the cohesiveness of the group began to crumble. The chronic financial problems and
long-simmering disputes about "the method" began to chip away at their solidarity. An attempt to solve their financial
problems that sent many of the actors to Hollywood (where some stayed) ended in the resignation of both Lee
Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford. As a last resort, Harold Clurman decided to take on Hollywood stars in an attempt to
enhance box office appeal. To many long-time members this seemed a compromise of the fundamental ideals of the
group. Even the financial success of Clifford Odets "Golden Boy" in 1937 was not enough to halt the decline, and in
1941 the group dissolved.
Despite its relatively short life span, The Group Theatre has been called the bravest and single most significant
experiment in the history of American theater, and its impact continues to be felt. Many of the groups members went
on to become leading acting teachers and directors, passing on to subsequent generations the spirit and principles
that motivated them. Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner, and Robert Lewis have counted among their
students actors, directors, and playwrights such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep, Gregory
Peck, and David Mamet. To this day institutions such as the Actors Studio, founded by Cheryl Crawford, Elia Kazan,
and Robert Lewis continue the tradition of The Group Theatre.

THE ACTORS STUDIO

The Actors Studio in New York City

The American Home to Method Acting came in the conversion of an old chruch in the
Hells Kitchen neighbourhood of New York City called The Actors Studio. Founded in
1947 by Group Theater members Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis, the Actors
Studio trains actors in the realistic style developed by the Group in the thirties. That style,
which had grown out of techniques pioneered by Constantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow
Art Theatre, was further refined into the "Method" at the Actor's Studio. In 1952 Lee
Strasberg, who had done a great deal of work with Stanislavsky's theories while he was
with the Group, took over as director. Strasberg's "Method" concentrated on preparing an
actor to feel and express the emotional subtexts of scripts. A charismatic and controlling
man, Strasberg brought a high level of intensity and seriousness to the American theater.
Throughout his fifty year, career Strasberg continued to refine his "Method," concentrating
on relaxation, improvisation, sense memory, and transformation. These physical and
psychological exercises are still at the center of work done at the Actors Studio.
Once accepted to the Studio, members attend as frequently as they wish. The Studio is a
place where actors can experiment with roles they might not otherwise have the chance to
perform. For actors, the Studio is a place to concentrate on process rather than
performance. It has also provided a setting for playwrights such as Edward Albee,
Tennessee Williams and James Baldwin to develop a number of their classic works. The
Studio is a meeting ground for a dedicated group of peers from all areas of the theater and
entertainment industries. While concentrating primarily on work for the stage, many of the
actors from the studio have gone on to use the Method in film. It is one of the few places
out of the public eye where these famous actors can truly challenge themselves. The
Studio continues to teach actors how to plumb the depths of the soul with the hope of
going just a little bit deeper.

THE STANISLAVSKI SYSTEM

Now Famous Headshot of Marlon Brando for


A Streetcar Named Desire Audition (1947)

Graduates of the Actors Studio who have employed Stanislavski's


System in some form are Jack Garfein, Jack Nicholson, Marilyn
Monroe, James Dean, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Harvey
Keitel, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Warren Beatty, Robert Duvall,
Johnny Depp, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, Jessica Lange, William
Hurt, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro Al Pacino, Gene Hackman,
Kevin Spacey, Jane Fonda, Henry Fonda, Benicio del Toro, Mark
Ruffalo, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kate Winslet, Adrien Brody, Denzel
Washington, Elizabeth Taylor, Hilary Swank, Anthony Hopkins, and
Sean Penn.
Sir John Gielgud said, "This director found time to explain a
thousand things that have always troubled actors and fascinated
students." Gielgud is also quoted as saying, "Stanislavski's now
famous book is a contribution to the Theatre and its students all
over the world."
Stanislavski's goal was to find a universally applicable approach that
could be of service to all actors. Yet he said of his System, "Create
your own method. Don't depend slavishly on mine. Make up
something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg
you."
Stanislavski's aim was to have all of his characters performed as real
as possible. He was well known for the realism of his plays.

1. RELAXATION

Marilyn Monroe and James Dean

Stanislavskis thoughts on relaxation were based on the premise that


in order to achieve control of all motor and intellectual faculties, the
actor needed to relax his muscles: In The Actor Prepares he states
that, Muscular tautness interferes with inner emotional experience
A core to understanding the method is to be relaxed in the character.
Overly tense actors look tense even when they are playing an
excitable character let alone a passive one. The system or method
required the actor to develop a sense of oneness with his audience.
Oneness is not referring to bring the audience into the world of the
character as a physical presence but rather sitting on the outside
looking in through the glass wall of the actor into the piercing depth
of his character. Relaxation is the foundation upon which rests the
"house of method". Without this foundation, the house sinks into the
quicksand of chaotic convention.
Stanislavski referred to tension as the "occupational disease" of the
actor. Strasberg believed that tension is the actor's greatest enemy.
"Tension" for the actor, is the use of those muscles, thoughts and
energies not necessary to accomplish the actor's specific task on the
stage, this task being the actor's object of attention, or "object" ,
upon which the actor has chosen to concentrate.

2. OBSERVATION

Glenn Close, in the epic


Madame Butterfly scene from
the movie, Fatal Attraction.

One of the greatest tools of the actor, and a key principle of the Stanislavskian system,
is the critical tool of observation. If your craft is playing the inner truth of people on a
stage, you must study your source. Your craft is everywhere around you, visualize real
people in real everyday situations and you will have developed an ability to sense, to
activate sense memory or rather to see with all of your senses. Some classic techniques
of observation in real and surreal situations are riding a bus and watching the people.
Who are they, where are they going, what clues about their respective lives are they
giving you?? Butt in front of a line up at Wal-Mart or Costco. What is the reaction of the
people around you, can you sense the irritation, does someone say something, how has
your action lead to a reaction.
When Glenn Close was offered the part of Alex Forrest, the psychopathic, jaded lover in
the 1987 blockbuster Fatal Attraction she was at a loss. How do you play such a
character?? Her initial thoughts were big, boisterous fits of hysteria, acts of sheer
madness but it didnt feel right, she just couldnt grasp the character. It was at that
point that she decided to have herself checked into a mental hospital for the insane.
While there, she watched her fellow inmates. There was no hysteria, few fits of rage,
just a solemn staring into an unknown and unimaginable horror for literally hours at a
time. There is a scene in the movie where Close is sitting on the floor, clicking a lamp
switch on and off, listening to the opera Madame Butterfly, the silent pain of isolated
madness clearly evident in her face, the entire story told without a word spoken.

3. CONCENTRATION

It is important for actors to be able to concentrate on their performance. But because there are many people around actors
(film crews or live audiences), this can be very tricky. Stanislavski notes the importance of not blocking out the audience
completely. They are an integral part to character acting.
In order to best maintain concentration, Stanislavski stresses the importance of achieving what he terms public solitude.
Actors must maximize the available attention placed on physical action and imagination. Rather than merely pretend to see,
think, or hear while performing, using physical actions and imagination will enable an actor's concentration to be brought to
the next level.
In order to use all of the tools to the best of an actor's ability, Stanislavski developed a system of circles of attention. As
these circles increase in size, it becomes more and more difficult to concentration and be attentive to the objects located
therein.

Small circle of attention -- This is the area immediately surrounding an actor and includes the actor himself along with any
closely nearby object.

Medium circle of attention -- An expanded area that could include a group of actors and nearby objects.

Large circle of attention -- The largest area of concentration, this includes everything seen on stage or set.

Because it is difficult to maintain focus on something such as an entire stage, actors must work inwardly between the circles
to gather focus and outwardly between the circles once their attention is centered. Basically, the actor closes his eyes and
listens to every sound around that are of a distance around him. The traffic outside, a group of students greeting each
other out in the hallway, everyday sounds that are of a distance. Then going deeper into himself, the actor starts to filter
out these sounds and more into listening to closer sounds; the air conditioning system in the theatre that he is standing, the
breathing of the actor next to him, the slight shuffle of feet of the instructor across the room. Now going even deeper, the
actor filters out even these sounds, concentrating on his own breathing, the delicate dance of air in and out, the beating of
his own heartbeat and so forth. By doing all of this, the actor has moved his attention from the outside inward and this
same process is how the actor relaxes, bring the audience into the picture.

4. THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIFICS

Generality is the Enemy of all Art


This famous quote by Stanislavski rings true for everything from an actors
performance, to a painters canvass to a composers sheet music. Good art
is specific, it is clearly defined and is never cluttered with generalities.
When an actor was playing the part of Marius in Les Mis on Broadway, he
was having a great deal of problem making the Eponine death scene
realistic. In the scene, he was to hold her as rain poured on both of them,
until on the last note of the song, her shivering stops and with an open
dead stare she just lies in his arms. How does one do justice to such and
extreme scene. In consultation with his director, they created an AS-IF or
a fictional story, based in the actors real life that could trigger a relationship
with the current circumstance.
The actor looked into his own life, and came up with the following story. It

was an ugly winter morning in New York City where the snow isnt sure if
its falling as rain or ice pellets. At any rate, my wife headed off to work
ahead of me in her grey Volkswagon Jetta. Specifically now, asked the

director, how did she leave, angry, rushed?? Well he said, it was just a
normal morning where we kissed good-bye, mutually said, I love you and
off she wentcontinue said the director.

Broadways LES MISERABLES

4. THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIFICS

So,I headed off about 5 minutes later on the same roadwayFDR waya major artery around NYC. The roads were horrific, but I drove
slowly and with due caution. Up along the road a ways, I noticed several emergency vehicles as an ambulance roared past me. I
slowed down to look and see as I passed the accident. To my horror, I saw a grey Volkwagon Jetta.
What did you feel then asked the director. Horror, sheer horror, said the actor. No, horror is impossible to act on its own, more
specifically, what did you feel. I felt an immediate false sense of comfort in the fact that there are thousands of this very popular colour
and model of car on the road so I not-so-successfully convinced myself that it could be ANYONEs car. Exactly, said the director, thats
actable, go onI then, what looked from a distant , saw the large hanging ornament that dandled from her rear-view mirror lying
pronounced against the white snow. I immediately pulled over and ran out of the car. And what did you feel now asked the director,
Panic, I was running in panic, said the actor. No, SPECIFCALLY, what did you feel?? The actor was perplexed. Now, we come to
the root of the problem, youre glazing over the obvious, and as such your missing the entry point to the scenespecifically, what did you
feel?? Then it occurred to him, the light turned on, THE SNOW, I FELT THE SNOW, the snow piercing against my body with my
forgotten coat back in the car, THE SNOW, up to my calf, cold and trying to hold the tiger in me back, THE SNOW, the physicality of it,
its cold unrelenting hatred that for just a moment is stopping me from feeling the pain of knowing whats coming next. Exactly, said
the director, go on.

I ran around the car, I could see her, her wounds were letting heat into the air melting the snow as it swarmed into rain around her. The
dark contrast of blood pooled on the snow-white background. I tried to get to her, she saw me and tried to gesture towards me. But, I
couldnt get to her, the firemen were holding me back. In what seemed like an eternity, I watched her, then seizing a moment of
weakness from my capturers, I ran to her, I held her, I felt her shiver, for a few seconds she was conscious and recognized me, then
nothing, she looked at the sky and the snow just landed on her open eyes.
The importance of specifics cannot be over-emphasised for the method actor. When our Marius used an AS-IF, he was able to specifically
jump to the guts of the scene, each night on stage he did NOT concentrate on Eponine but rather on the drizzling rain, the cold, the
shivering, the nothingness of it all, then looking at the actor he was able to place the truth of the moment an enter the scene.

5. INNER TRUTH

Scene from Broadways The Drowsy Chaprone

The concept of inner truth is basically playing the character from


the inside out, in all of its glory, psychological motives,
imperfections and desires.
Stanislavski stated that truth on stage was different from truth in
real life. This was an important factor in acting, especially so in
realism where the aim of the actor was to create the appearance
of reality or truth on stage. In Stanislavskian technique, as in
most other theatre training techniques, an actor does not actually
believe in the truth of the events on stage, only in the imaginative
creation of them. Indeed, an actor who honestly believed himself
to be Hamlet would be deeply deluded and in need of psychiatric
help. This then posed the problem of creatingthe appearance of
reality for the spectator.
Stanislavskis answer to this problem was in the creation of the
Magic If.' The actor tried to answer the question, If I were in
Macbeths position, what would I do? Thus, the characters
objectives drove the actors physical action choices. Through the
stimulus of the powerful if,' an actor could make strong theatrical
choices that would appear to the audience as real, true and
believable. In Stanislavskis opinion, the actor who had the ability
to make the audience believe in what he/she wanted them to
believe, achieved inner truth.' Stanislavski defined inner truth as
that which originated on the plane of imaginative and artistic
fiction.

6. ENSEMBLE PLAYING

Dustin Hoffman & John Malkovich in Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman

Dont Act, REACT, to quote Lee Strasberg is the principle of ensemble playing or play off of your fellow
actor(s). Except in rare soliloguy or monologue situations, the craft of acting is playing off of your fellow
actor. Without ensemble playing, acting is disjointed with the scene coming across as chopping and runnig
the risk of losing the audience. The principle of ensemble playing embraces playing not to the audience but
to your fellow actor(s) and as an ensemble you play to the house.

7. EMOTIONAL RECALL

Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando in the attack scene


From A Streetcar Named Desire, a scene often played
using affective memory or emotional recall.

Affective memory, also known as 'emotional recall', is an element of


Stanislavski's system and of Method Acting, two related approaches to
acting. Affective memory requires the actor to call on the memories he or
she felt when they were in a situation similar (or more recently a situation
with similar emotional import) to that of their character. Stanislavski
believed an actor needed to take emotion and personality to the stage and
call upon it when playing their character. He also explored the use of
objectives, the physical body's effect on emotions and empathizing with the
character.
"Emotional recall" is a the basis for Lee Strasberg's Method Acting. "Sense
memory" is used to refer to the recall of physical sensations (instead of
emotions). Many modern actors and actresses, however, believe that
emotional recall is not authentic "acting". The argument is that the actor is
meant to be imitating the character's emotions and not actually
experiencing them. Further criticisms of Emotional Recall deal with the fact
that once the actor brings on emotion via the sense memory that turning
off the tap, so to speak, is very difficult and can negatively affect the next
scene. The general consensus, however, is that proper acting is a
combination of many techniques, and that no actor should be restricted to
one way of performing.

8. THRU LINE OF ROLE

Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd

The Thru Line of Rolespelt THRU not THROUGHis a single phase that an
actor uses to sum up his entire character. It is a base point to get to the true
guts of the character. The thru line, sometimes also called the spine, was
first suggested by Stanislavski as a simplified way for actors to think about
characterisation. He believed actors should not only understand what their
character was doing, or trying to do, (their objective or motive) in any given
unit, but should also strive to understand the through line which linked these
objectives together and thus pushed the character forward through the
narrative.
Sweeney Todd is the story is of a barber, falsely imprisoned so that Judge
Turpin can take Sweeneys beautiful wife and young daughter. Now, fifteen
years hence, he returns to exact revenge on that Judge and a society that
enables such judicial malfeasants. When Johnny Depp enacted the part, his
thru line, I will have vengeance, I will have salvation! was a tool the actor
used as a leaping point to develop the entire character.
When objectives were strung together in a logical and coherent form, a
through line of action was mapped out for the character. This was important
in order to create a sense of the whole. Stanislavski developed the concept of
the Super Objective or Super Motive that would carry this through line of
action. The Super Motive could then be looked at as the spine with the
objectives as vertebrae.

9. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF SCRIPT

The following is an example of script analysis. Script analysis is actually quite a simple process. The trick is to find out
when your motive changes. Many people make the mistake in thinking that every time they have a new line they
have a new motive and subsequently they start to analyze everything all over again. You end up with way to many
motives to realistically play.
The proper way to do script analysis is to analyze each beat not each line. A beat is a single unit of acting with a
motive that the actor is trying to achieve. The beat can be as short as one word or as long as pages of script. The
length is irrelevant. Every time your motive changes its called an acting beat change and you must analyze the beat.
So the first trick is for you to determine when you have a new motive and subsequently a new beat. You are in the
drivers seat hereonly you can determine when your motive changes. Rule of thumb, if you are reading a line and it
doesnt seem to fit with what your declared motive was, chances are the motive changed and you have to analyze this
new motive or new acting beat.
Now once you have found your motive and new beat you now can analyze it. This is done by answering four points:
Literal Action: What physically is your character doing in this beat? Picking up a newspaper, sitting in a chair, crossing
the room etc. Dont confuse this as a why, we dont need to why you are doing it just what are you doing.
Motive: This is the why. Why are you doing something? What is your purpose? What are you trying to fulfill? Express
my love, show her that she offended me, brush him off, these are all excellent motives.
Conflict: Because motives are so important in method acting, you as an actor need something in order to help you act
out the motive. The conflict or the thing thats getting in the way of you achieving your motive is the next thing you
have to identify. If your motive is express my love a possible conflict would be she would think Im crazy or Im way
to shy. If your motive is brush him off your conflict could be hell hate me or I dont want to hurt him. Do you see
how easy it is to act a beat when you have the conflict that is standing in the way of your motive. The conflict brings
the motive to life.

9. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF SCRIPT

(Left to Right) Kristy Cates, Stacie Morgain Lewis and Gene Weygandt star in the Chicago cast of "Wicked"

As If: If the conflict brings the motive to life, the AsIf makes the motive real and personal to you the actor. The AsIf is a
personal statement that allows you the actor to feel something from the motive. So, if the motive is express my love and
the conflict was she would think Im crazy, the AsIf could be, Its as if I stood up in English class, screaming at the
teacher to put her clothes back on when she was fully dressed. You will notice here that the AsIf used is directly related
to the conflict and not the motive. This is because if you relate the AsIf to the conflict as opposed to the motive it is
easier to make the motive more actable.

9. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF SCRIPT

Paul Newman & Elizabeth Taylor in


Tennessee Williams Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

In summary, the AsIf makes the conflict real and in turn the conflict brings
the motive to life. Now comes the next problem, how can you possibly
remember all of this when you are up on stage concerned with tempos,
intensities and so forth? Well the answer is in a Transitional Verb or more
commonly referred to as verbing. The Transitional verb is the title of the
beat. It sums up the entire beat and is one word that ends in either ly
or ing. It is one word that as a verb is instantly actable. You chose your
verbing after you are done everything else in the beat analysis. So, if the
motive is express my love and the conflict was she would think Im crazy,
the AsIf could be, Its as if I stood up in English class, screaming at the
teacher to put her clothes back on when she was fully dressed. A possible
transitional verb for all of this would be Awkwardly or Embarrassing.
So thats how you do script analysis. Below is a copy from last year.
Because he had the typed script he just inserted the analysis in blue and
put the transitional verb in italics just before the analysis. If you are
working directly from the script just do your analysis off to the right side of
the line. Put a #1 beside the line and a #1 next to the first line of your
analysis so that it doesnt get to confusing. Use the left side of the page
for the transitional verbs so that you have them available for easy access.
You will also notice that he has put several transitional verbs in without
doing analysis. This simply means the motive is staying the same but hes
using new verbs to enhance and refine the same motive. This is also fine
only dont overdo this and subsequently miss where the motive
legitimately changes.

9. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF SCRIPT

Act 1, Scene 1
NICELY: Poor Miss Sarah! I wonder why a refined doll like her is mixed up in a mission dodge.
BENNY: She is a beautiful doll, all right, with one hundred percent eyes. -Ogling
Literal action: drooling
Motive: to express my feelings for Sarah
Conflict: shes a mission doll, and Im a gambler
As If: I was a bear that wanted to mate with a giraffe
NICELY: It is too bad that such a doll wastes all her time being good. How can she make any money from
that?
BENNY: Maybe she owns a piece of the Mission. -Suggesting
NICELY: Yeah.

(HARRY THE HORSE enters from L.1, crosses to Benny.)

HARRY: Hey! Benny Southstreet!


BENNY: Harry the Horse! How are you! You know Nicely-Nicely Johnson. -Greeting
Literal action: greeting Harry the Horse
Motive: To get Harry involved with the crap game
Conflict: There isnt a place for the game
As If: I was a teacher without a classroom to teach in
HARRY: Yeah. How goes it?
NICELY: Nicely, nicely, thank you.

(Brannigan glares and exits L.1)

9. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF SCRIPT

Miss Adelaide and Hot Box Dancers in Take Back Your Mink
From Guys N Dolls

HARRY: Tell me, what about Nathan Detroit? Is he got a


place for his crap game?
BENNY: We dont know yet. Answering
NICELY (Jazzy):The heat is on.
BENNY: Hes still looking for a place. -Adding
HARRY: Well, tell him Im loaded and looking for action. I
just acquired five thousand potatoes.
BENNY (loudly): Five thousand bucks!!! Whooping
NICELY: Where did your acquire it?
HARRY: I collected the reward on my father.
BENNY: Everybody is looking for action. I wish Nathan
finds a- -Explicating
(He stops as BRANNIGAN enters-gets paper at
newsstand-crossed to Benny)
NICELY: Why, Lieutenant Brannigan! Mr.Southstreet, it is
Lieutenant Brannigan of the New York Police Department.
BENNY: A pleasure. Covering
Literal action: lying to Brannigan
Motive: to make Brannigan think there isnt really a crap
game
Conflict: if he finds out, we could get arrested
As If: Were babies that were just caught opening a giant
bag of flour that we poured all over ourselves