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UTA HAGEN

RESPECT FOR ACTING


An Acting Methodology

UTA HAGEN

Page, Jason Robards, and Matthew Broderick are among the countless others
who reached prominence.

(1919 - 2004)
As Jack Lemmon wrote, "This extraordinary woman is one of the greatest
Because Uta Hagen has had a long, distinguished career on the stage, and

actresses I have seen in my lifetime, yet Uta Hagen has deliberately made her

because for decades Uta Hagen has been one of the most important acting

acting career secondary to teaching and directing others so that they might

teachers in America, and because she has written with wit and clarity about the

benefit. Lord knows what exalted position she might have attained had she

technical craft of acting, Uta Hagen has had a profound influence on the way

chosen to concentrate on her own acting career, but I guarantee that she has

acting is practiced, taught, and thought about in this country. Uta Hagen made

absolutely no regrets. Nor should she, because Uta Hagen has given so much

her professional debut in 1937 at the age of eighteen as Ophelia in an Eva Le

to so many."

Galliene Hamlet in Dennis, Massachusetts. In 1938 Uta Hagen made her


Broadway debut as Nina in the Lunts production of The Sea Gull. Uta Hagen
played in twenty-two Broadway productions, including the legendary Othello
with Paul Robeson and Jose Ferrer.
In 1948 Uta Hagen re-invented Blanche DuBois for the national tour of A
Streetcar Named Desire with Anthony Quinn, and then succeeded Jessica
Tandy's radically different Blanche for the Broadway run the next year. In
1950 Uta Hagen won her first Tony award, the Drama Critics Award, and the
Donaldson Award for her creation of Georgie Elgin in Clifford Odets The
Country Girl. She starred in such classics as Shaw's St. Joan and Turgenev's A
Month in the Country, and in 1962 Uta Hagen created Martha in Albee's
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, winning her second Tony and second Drama
Critics Award, as well as the London Critics Award. Uta Hagen has also
appeared in many TV specials and several films.
Since 1947 Uta Hagen has taught acting at the Herbert Berghof Studio.
Together with her late husband, she trained generations of actors: Geraldine

Uta Hagen's books, Respect for Acting (1973) and A Challenge for the Actor (1991)
grew out of decades of collaboration and exploration of the actor's craft.
In addition to honorary doctorates from Smith College, DePaul University and
Wooster College, in 1981 Uta Hagen was inducted into the Theatre Hall of
Fame, in 1983 into the Wisconsin Theatre Hall of Fame, and in July 1986, Uta
Hagen received the Mayor's Liberty Medal in New York City. In 1987 Uta
Hagen was given the John Houseman Award and the Campostella Award for
distinguished service.
When her husband, Herbert Berghof, died many years ago, Uta Hagen took
over the chairmanship of HB Studio and the theatre of the HB Playwrights
Foundation. Uta Hagen honored his memory by continuing to shape their
school as a source of inspired teaching and practice for theatre artists.
Uta Hagen has brought beauty, drama and dreams to the world, leaving her
extraordinary legacy every step of the way. She passed away in 2004.

SUBSTITUTION

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Substitution

he expression"to lose yourself" in the part or in the


oerformance.which has so often been used by great
artists in the theater, has always confused me. I find it
much more stimulating to say that I want "to find myself"
in the part. To oversimplify, these artists obviously meant
that one should reiect the desire to show off, that one
should not wallow in one'sown ego' that one should not
trade on personal tricks. Instead, one should become
involved with the performance without concern for its
outer form, pyrotechnicsor personalsale.
Once we are on the track of self-discoveryin terms of an
enlargement of our senseof identiry and we now try to
apply this knowledge to an identification with the character in the play, we must make this transference,this finding
of the characterwithin ourselves'through a continuing
and overlapping seriesof substitutions from our own experiencesand remembrances,through the use of imaginative
J4

extension of realities, and put them in the place of the fiction in the play.
r0febsterdefinessubstitution as "the act of putting a person or thing in place of another serving the samepurposei
to take the place of." A young actressworking on the part
of Manuela in Children in Uniform was having difficulty
with the moment when Frailein von Bernberg,the teacher
sheloves and admires,confronts her with her torn chemise
and says,"This will never do!" Manuela must react with
deep shame and humiliation. The actresscould not make
this moment meaningful. Neither the garment nor the
actressplaying the teacherseemedto matter enough to her.
AccidentallSI suppliedher with a stimulatingsubstitution
for both teacher and chemise. I said, "!7hat if Lynn
Fontannehad a pair of your soiledpantiesin her hand and
showed them to you?" The actress turned beet red,
snatchedthe chemisefrom her Fraiilein von Bernberg and
hid it frantically behind her back.
Many of you are familiar with substitution as it applies
technically to an individual moment in a play when the
given material fails to stimulate you sufficiently, and you
must searchfor something which will trigger an emotional
experience(as in the Manuela incident)and sendyou into
the immediateaction of the play. I use the word substitution
in a much broadersense.In fact, I could evenprove that substitution can be used in every moment of the actor's homework and throughout the rehearsalperiod for everystageof
the work. Consequently, it can have its effect on euery
moment of the actor'slife on stage.I usesubstitutionin order
to "make believe" in its literal sense-to make me believe
the time, the place, what surrounds me, the conditioning
forces, my new character and my relationship to the other
characters,in order to sendme into the moment-to-moment
spontaneousaction of my newly selectedself on stage.
In putting himself into the circumstancesof the play, a

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talented amateur (as well as a genius actor) often makes


substitutionsintuitively.If you ask me if it is necessaryto
make a substitution for something that is already real to
you, my answeris NO. If it is real, you havealreadymade
the substitution.You tell me you believedit was raining
when you looked from your stagewindow into the wings.
Obviously,you took a specificrain (there are numerous
types of rain: drizzle,, splashS gentle, torrential, pelting,
etc.)that you haveexperiencedin your life and put it into
the play at this moment.
An actresstold me that BlancheDuBois' young husband
was very real to her when shedescribedhis deathin Streetcar, and challengedthe necessityof making a substitutionfor
him. It was apparentthat she had instinctivelymade one,
otherwisehe would havestayeda fiction on the page for her.
At eighteen,when I played Nina in The Sea Gull with
the Lunts, many elementsof the part existed for me in life.
Nina is a young, unsophisticated,middle-classgirl from
the country who is thrown in with a famous actress of
whom she is in awe and a famous man (a writer in the
play) whom she hero-worships.That a;asmy relationship
to the Lunts, so I was able to usethem head-on.
ln Who's Afraid of Virginia Woofi Martha is the
daughter of a professor whom she adores; she lives in
a collegetown; and as the play opens, she and her husband are returning from a faculty party.l am the daughter
of a famous professor whom I adored; I was raised in a
university town; I did attend many faculty parties. Consequently,those things were real to me and directly usable
for that particular aspectof my work on the part. However, these moments where an actor's life and the playwright's createdlife mesh are rare, and so the processof
substitution must be tl-roroughlyunderstood,developed,
and practiceduntil it becomesan ingrainedwork habit.
Everystageof the searchfor the part needsendlesssub-

SUBSTITUTION

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stitutions from life experience(this includes reading, trips


to museums,art galleries,etc.). Even bad frlmscan be of
serviceif the locale has authenticityfor you to the point
where you can believeyou were there. No director can
help you with your substitutionssincehe has not been a
part of your life experience.He will help you with the
character elements he is after, dictate the place, the surroundings,the given circumstances,and defineyour relationship to the other characters in the play, but how you
make thesethings real to yourself, how you make them
exist is totally private work.
Let me illustrate some of the substitution areas and
approximatelyhow you must deal with them (eventhough
I will be dealing with similar problems throughout this
book). SupposeI am going to work on the parr of Blanche
DuBois in A StreetcarNamed Desire.I haveto hunt for an
understandingof-and an identification with-the character's main needs:a need for perfection (and always when
and hotu have I neededthesethings);a romantic need for
beauty; a desire for gentleness,tenderness,delicacy, elegance,decorum; a need to be loved and protected;a strong
sensualneedla needfor delusionwhen things go wrong, erc.
If I return to my clich6 image of myself-the earthy,
frank, gutsy child of n21u1s-l'rn in trouble and there will
be an enormousdistancebetweenBlancheand myself. If,
on the other hand, I remember myself preparing for an
eveningat the opera(bathingand oiling and perfumingmy
bod5 soothingmy skin, brushing my hair until it shines,
artfully applyingmakeup until the little creasesare hidden
and my eyeslook larger and I feel younger,spendinghours
over a silky elegantwardrobe, and a day over the meal I
will serve before the opera, setting out my freshest linen,
my best crystal and polished silver among dainty flowers);
if I recallhow I weepover a lovelypoem by Rilke or Donne
or Browning, how my flesh tingles when I hear Schubert

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THE ACTOR

how
chamber music, how tender I feel at a soft twilight'
a someonepulling out a chair for me at the table
il.to.ta
c"r doo.ior mi or offeringme their arm for.a
;.;;**g
"
find within
-"i[ i" ihe park-then I am beginning to
-ys"l{ ,"alitie. connectedwith BlancheDuBois' needs'
Belle
I was not raised on an elegant plantation like
Reve,nor have I lived in Laurel, Mississippi, butlhavevis'
mansionsin the East,I haveseenmany photoiJ .t"gu",
"of
some
graphs Faulkner country and estates'I have toured
if the So"th, and from a conglomerateof theseexperiences
a reallty
I can now makemy BelleReve and start to bulld
for my life there beforethe play'sbeginning'^
or the
Unfortunately,I haveneverbeenin New Orleans
many
French Quarter, but I have rcad a great deal' seen
I have evenrelated the French Quarter
filrrr,
"nin.*rreels.
the Left
of New Orleans, rn a way' to a little secdon of
myself'
s""fr" Paris where I once lived to make it real to
for me
The Kowalski apartment itself, which is dictated
the designerand the director' must' nevby the playwright'
'be
,iade real to me by substitutions from my
.nt a.rt,
space'
own life. It is I who must make the senseot crampd
the empty
the lack of privacn the disorder and sleaziness'
rr"i. cigarette butts, the harsh street noises
beer cans
"nd
Each
-ou. in on me chaotically and frighteningly'
De
must
"it
object or thing that I seeor come in contact wlth
and bring
."d" purti.o[t so that it will servethe new me
necessary
about th. psychological and sensoryexperiences
to
-- animatemY actlons.
io A"a, reality for the fatigue, the heat, the oppression'
my telaI will have to examine my own life and senses'In
to Stella, Stanley,Mitch, their friends and neighif""tf+
parents and
bors (as well as to my young husband,-my
I talk
*f",rt.r, and th" tt"ueling '"1t"'lu", all of whom
haveto.do
about but who do not appearin the play),I will
full reality
a backbreakingiob if I am to bring them to a

SUBSTTTUTION

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for myself through substitutions and combinations of substitutions.


I never had a sister,nor did I have a relationship with
another girl which was psychologically identical to
Blanche'swith Stella.I may put together my relationship to
a girl who "felt" like a younger sister (of whom I expected
respectand attention, whom I enioyed bossingand giving
advice to, and whom I loved) with a relationship to a
friend upon whom I felt dependentfor love and comfort. I
may evenusea dozen elementsfrom a dozendifferent relationships from my past and put them together to build this
new relationship with my stageStella,endowing her at different moments in the play with these borrowed qualities.
I must follow an identical procedure with eachof the other
charactersin the play.
Let me emphasizethat this process is in flux from the
beginning of my homework until the rehearsalshave
ended. The example of Blanche was given to show you a
variety of areas in which you must hunt for substitutions
and to give further reasonsfor the necessityof your understanding this hunt. But there are many more aspectsof the
work not yet touched upon, which when put together
should result in the action for the character,what the character will do. To do is a synonym lor to act. At this point,
we are nowhere near the acting; I am still in the processof
building a senseof reality and faith in my character.
'$fhen
an actor has difficulty in finding a substitution for
the content of a given sceneas a whole, he can usually find
the root of the problem in the fact that he's being too literal. Many actors take the outer event and the outer words
at face value. For example,the charactersays,"I hate you"
under circumstanceswhere he is actually crying out for
attention from someonehe loves. But the actor works only
for the hate.
Faced with Othello's final scene with Desdemona, an

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actor may protest' "But how can I find a substitution when


I've neverhad the desireto murder anyone?"Or the Desdemona may complain,"I know I should be terrified,but no
one has ever threatenedto kill me!" In both instancesmy
answer would be, "I hope not!" But, if at this late stagein
the eventsof the play the actors have not acquiredsufficient
nourishment to zupply a reality for their immediate state of
being and consequentneeds,they must searchfor. the psychologicalspringboardwhich will sendthem into the immediate ivents. They must hunt out the psychologicalobiective
of the scene,and for that they can find the substitution'
If I am Desdemonain this scene,I shouldseethat I want
to cope with a foreboding of an unspecifieddisaster'I want
to riJ myself of a senseof mounting terror. As illogical as it
may sound, I can use an experienceof waiting in a hospital room prior to surgery,even a dentist's office prior to a
tooth extraction. The fears that rush in on me are larger
and lessstatic than some fictional, preconceivedfear for a
Desdemona.
If you misunderstand me and again think too- literally
that during the performance' while lying in a bedroom in
Cyprus, you should be imagining yourself in a -dentist's
oifi.. yon have skipped the inevitable step of taking thrs
substituted psychological reality and transferring it to the
existing circumstancesand events in the play: transferring
the essf,nceof the experience(not the original event) to the
scene.
Othello. in turn, should look for the psychologicalneed
for retribution, for having to fulfill a great obligation
which tortures him and gives him pain' The actor rs
stopped over and over again by his senseof hunting for a
simiiarity of events in the play and in his own life, rather
than a similarity of psychologicalexperiences(for example, the need to punish a child) which then should allow
him to acceptthe eventswith faith.

suBsTrTUTtoN

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Relativelyeasierto understandand apply are thosesubstitutions usedto find a given moment or task in the events
which seem insufficiently real (the previously mentioned
scene between Manuela and Fraiilein von Bernberg).
Another kind of example occurred when I was working on
the monologue of Mistress Page in The Merry Wiues of
\Yindsor.Shehas just receiveda love letter and gradually
realizesit is from Sir John Falstaff, which outragesher. As
I was isolaringthe monologuefrom the plry for an exercise,I had no acror to endow with the necessaryrealities of
my Falstaff. The clich6 image of Falstaff with his widebrimmed hat, puffy red cheeks,mustachesturning upward,
pointed beard and bushy eyebrows, and high ruff around
his fat neck didn't help me at all. Then I thought, ..rVhatif
I read this letter and discoveredSidney Greenstreetor
Jackie Gleasonhad written it to me?" Suddenlxthe contents of the words in the letter moved in or, rne ,t.ongly
and made me laugh, outragedme, amazedme, etc. I had
worked with Sidneyand knew him personallyand adored
him. but even if I hadn't, my knowledge oi his work ir.
films might have stimulated me similarly, far more than the
conventional image of a Falstaff.
In The Country Girl, thereis a point where BernieDodd
ca.llsGeorgieElgin a "bitch." This should act on me as
deeplywounding, insulting,and producea shockedgasp.
But the word itself does not mean much to me. I substituted anotherword. Sfhat if he called me a ,.. . . . ,'? That
word does shock and wound me. I imaginedthat Bernie
hurled that word at me, and it drove me up from my chair.
ln the same play, there *",
-o.an, when my husband, Frank Elgin, betrayed me" with a lie and I had ro
swallow it. My next given action was to take him to the
sink in his dressingroom and get him a glassof water. I was
able to receivethe betrayal correctly, but somehowit didn,t
seem to make the consequentdealing with him specilic

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enough. But what if I thought of myself as a Put-upon


moth-erwith a naughty child? How would I then deal with
my own daughter?The moment I applied this substitution
to my Frank, I discovered the hou of taking his handJthe
hou of alrnostpulling him along with me,the how of giving him the glassof waterl theseactions becamespecific,in
fait, loaded. And I must give special emphasisto the fact
that Frank was, at this moment' like a child to me, and
something brand new happenedbetweenme and the actor'
I no longer needed to use my daughter. I had used het to
find this reality on stage.
In eachexample I have made I have also spelledout the
action which risulted from the substitution: Manuela
erabbedthe chemiseand hid it; SidneyGreenstreetmade me
ihro* attd kick Falstaff's letter; my substitution for Bernie
Dodd's word made me leap from my chair; my daughter
made me pull my husbandto the sink. Ihave completedmy
substitutions by making them synonymous with the actor
on stage,the object, the word' the event of my stagelife and
forrnJ" conrequent character action. I have used the past
to make the present real' I am not playing in the past, but
now.lhave looked for substitutions to believethe now, to
feel the nowr and done both, in order to 6nd a spontaneous
action for now. I will probably repeat this a hundred times
becauseit is so often misunderstood,but your substitudons are complete only when they have become synonymous with this actor, this play's events,these obiects you
are using in your stage life and produce a significant
action. You may evenforget your original souce-fine!
I'm certain you have seen an actor on stage with real
tears streaming down his face. If your only responsewas,
"Oh. look. real water!" this actor was going to his original
subsiitution,was doing his homework on stageand was
failing to connect it to his stagelife. Consequentlyhis tears
could not move an audienceor allow them to have genuine
empathy for the character they were observing' To work

SUBSTITUTION

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for an involvement for its own sake on stage bogs down


the movement of the plaS disconnectsyou from the play,
makes you blind and deaf to the play. Beware.
There is still another kind of substitution which I find
rmportant in my own work. It is even lessliteral than those
I have already describedand lessparallel to rhe character.
It is evenmore personal and private but may be suggestible
and stimulating ro the acor in addition to his direct life
experience.I refer to such intangiblesas colors, textures,
music, elements of nature. I must admit that I do not
know how to teach this, and I assiduouslyavoid teaching
this. I can only make you aware that these,.essences"
can
be valuable sources and warn you to keep them to yourself, as I do myself.
If a new characer has, ro me, elementsof light blue, a
field of clover, a Scarlatti sonata, a toy poodle, a shiny blue
pond, a pieceof cut crystal-these essences
may be of value
to my senseof self, my particularizations for my character.
But if thesehighly personal conceprs are brought our into
the open by the director or by me, they always become a
hindrance to me. (I have heard a well-known director complain to an actor, "I asked for October tones; you,re playing in November tones." What is the actor supposedto do
with that? If the director tells me, ',I want this character to
be like Scarlatti, like a poodle, like a field of clover,,' I feel
swamped by a generality. I question what his statement
means to him, and I head straight for general, quality
playing, rather than specific character action. I start illustrating a prancing poodle with sharp little Scarlatti-like
tones, and I look to the director for approval: ,.Is it tinkly
enough?Frenchenough?Can you smell the clover?" The
essencestops functioning for me altogether.
Even the playwright can do a similar thing to you,
TennesseeWilliams says of Blanche DuBois that there is
somethingabout her "that suggestsa moth.', This image of
his blocked me so that I saw myself with flurtering arms on

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tippy-toes banging into a light bulb larger than myself'
had a hard time overcomingit.
There is much in a creativeprocessthat is almost intan'
gibly real and mysterious-why compound the felony and
make it more so?
Pleaserememberthat in any exampleI have given you
for substitutions,I was only making my own examples'
of
Vor, -ort find your own substitutions if they are to be
real value to you. If an exampleI have made has stirred
you, it was an accident,or you simply took mine as a sugfound your own-possibly-a.similar one' Find
g.rtio.,
"nd
i,rcu, o*, substitutions-a warehousefull of them'
And let me warn you of the great trap of sharing your
substitutions with anyone' Don't fall victim to the temptaor
tion of revealing your little goodies to your director
here?"
using
I'm
your fellow acto"rs("Do you know what
they
etc.). The minute others are in on your source-and.
it
what
in
knowing
wili probably be extremely interested
is-t'hey become an audienceto your source a^nd.evaluate
i,, .o.,r"qo.n, action accordingly, rather than.6nding their
cat
own relaiionship to the action' You have truly let the
you'
for
gone
be
out of the bag. Your substitution will
unusablefrom then on.
Substitutionis zot an end in itself,not an end to involve
you for self-involvement'ssakewithout consequentactlon'
L", -. ,,"," strongly, in case any of you have misunderstood, that substituiion is the aspect of the work which
each
,r.*gth"n, your faith and your senseof reality,in
.,"n.if ,h. iotal work on character'lt is a way of bringing
about justified,personalcharacteractions'

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Particularizingor to makesomethingparticular,as opposed


to generalizingor to keepgeneral,is an essentialfor everyright
iftiig in acti; from idintification of the character
down to the tiniest physical obiect you come ln contact

SUBSTTTUTTON

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with. I use the term particularizatioz so often that it


deservesa little time and space.
I can make an object, a person, a circumstantialfact,
etc., particular by examining what is therc and breaking it
down into detail.As a simpleexample,let me take an ashtray. On occasion, the ashtray given me by the prop man
will be, under examination, exactly the sort of ashtray
called for in the play. Instead of simply saying, "It's an ashtray sitting on the table in this Greenwich Village garret,"
I will seethat it ,s tin sprayedto look like copper,probably
came from the dime store, has rwo grooves to hold cigarettes, is shiny with a few cigarette stains in the bottom, is
lightweight, and I can deal with it correctly under the
given circumstances.I have made what is there particular
rather than just assumingany ashtray.
Now, this same ashtray sits on an elegantmarble table
in a Park Avenuepenthouse.It is supposedto belong there,
and from the audiencemay even pass for elegant.I will
make it particular by endowing it with qualities it does not
possessby substitutingfrom my previous knowledge of
elegant ashtrays.Now, I turn it into real copper, assumeit
comes from Tiffany, and is heavier than it looks, and
would look even better if it were buffed up with polish. I
can make it even more particular, if necessary,by finding
psychologicalendowmentsor substitutions:My husband
gave it to me last week for a sentimentaloccasion.I had
wanted it for a long time, and now it sits proudly on my
coffee table. Obviously, the simple act of flipping an ash
into this ashtray will be influenced by the way in which I
havemadeit particular to me in my characterin the play.
Every detail of place, objects, relationships to others,
my main character needs,my immediate needsand obstacles must be made particular. Nothing should be allowed
to remain seneral.

EMOTIONAL

4
EmotionalMemorY

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the
Tl motional memory or emotionalrecalldealswith
release
-Dorobl"rn of finding a substitution in order to
laughof
frt
the
,rr",'Ul* U".r, of tearsJh" shriek of terror,
or, by
;;; .i.., demanded by the playwright, the director
ot an
vourselfas interpreterwhen the given circumstances
i-mediate .u"r,i in the play (somethingdone to you by
or someone)fail to stimulate you sufficiently to
,o-.,ii"g
Lri"g i, ai"", spontaneously.Somedmesthe direct substiis not
tud; (Lynn Fontanne for Fraiilein von Bernberg)
Then
.rrgg.*iUi" enough to bring about the desiredresult'
of a
memory
the
irr3i"rt -*, go"d..p", in the searchfor
big emotional moment.
interbccasionallS the term "emotional memory" is
';sensememory" Tg me, th.eyare different' I
changedwith
Yemotionalmemory" with the recall of a psycholoqiIink
me
cal or emodonal responseto an event moving in on
the
use
I
etc'
*hi.h orod,r.., sobbing, laughter, screaming,

MEMORY

term "sensememory" in dealing with physiological sensations (heat,cold, hunger,pains, etc.). Of course,it is true
that a physical sensationsuch as heat or cold can produce
emotions such as irritation, depressionor anxiety; likewise,
an emotionalresponsecan be accompaniedby or produce
physicalsensations(such as getting hot or goose-pimply,
becomingnauseated).
In life, an emotion occurs when something happens to
us which momentarily suspendsour reasoningcontrol and
we are unable to cope with this event logically. (This is not
to be confusedwith hysteria,a statein which one is flooded
by uncontrollable emotions, becomesillogical to the poinr
of losing awarenessof and contact with his surroundings
and senseof reality, a state to be avoided by the actor at all
costs.)At the moment of the releaseof the control, plus
our adjustment to an attempt at control, we are ouelcome
by tears, by laughter, or we rage, we bang our 6sts, or melt
with pleasure,to mention only a few results. As pleasurable as the idea of a big emorion may seemto an acror,
human beingsdo not want this loss of control and usually
make an attempt to cope with the emotion as it hits them,
If we realize that we did not want this emotion, this loss
of control in our real lives at the time when it occurred, we
can seehow difficult a processit must be for the actor who
must now attempt to lecall the emotion and experienceit
all over again. This time it is recalled in the serviceof the
play as a genuine revelation of a human being, not for any
kind of self-indulgenceor wallowing abort. (lf the character the actor is portraying is self-indulgent emotionally o(
caught by hysterics,the actor's selectionmust still be made
to servethe play, not his oun need.J
To bring about tears, the beginning actor's tendency is
to think sad things, to pump for that mood or rhat general
state of being, to try to remember a sad occasion,the story
of that occasion, and then pray to God that somehow he

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will be catapulted into an appropriate emotional -response


somewhere;long the way' I used to make all of these mistakes and co.,ld ,reu.r understand why once in a while'
somewherealong the line, something dld indeed happen to
me. But I must emphasizethat it happened only once in a
while, not inevitabiy, and it usually took a long timc-before
it occurred. SometimesI managed to work myself into a
near trauma offstage,which brought me on with the sensation of moving in g1ue.After a few years,I discovered.intuitively that *h"t ,"rrt me correctly was a tiny remembered
object only indirectly connected with the sad event: a
poik"-do, ii.., an ivy leaf on a stucco wall' a smell or sound
of sizzling bacon, a greasespot on the upholstery'.things
as
a, se.mittgtyillogical as those.I usedthesesmall objects
in
disstimuli suicessfully and questionedtheir logic only

I
I
I
rl
tl
h
;
rl
'l

cussion.
Later, I learned from Dr' JacquesPalaci, a close.friend
trained in psychology' psychiatry and human behavior'
that this liitle indirect object was the release object, a
releaseof the censorwhich movesalong with us and says'
"Don't lose control." This apparentlyinsignificantobject
had been unconsciouslyperceivedand associatedwith the
original emotionalexPerience.
io e*p..i"r,c" for yourself what I am speaking about'
,rnh"ppy event in your life:-tell
tell a friend the story tf
"nu time when your lover walked
hi-, fo, example,
"boot
out on you, blaming you uniustly for infidelity' Now tell
your friend what suriounded the event; describeeverything
yoo ."n remember about the weather' the pattern of the
i."o".. u branch brushing againstthe windoq the rumplei collar of your lover'sshirt, the smellof the-after-shave
'he
*as *eari.rg, a frayed corner of the carpet' the tune that
of
was playing o"nthe radio as he left, etc'' etc', etc' One
you
th"se obj".is will suddenly releasethe pain anew and
will weep again.

EMOTIONAL MEMORY

49

The consequenceof this discovered procedure is endless. You will learn to build your own storehouseof little
trigger objects.In rehearsalyou will not spendendlesstime
or-rdigging for past euents;in performance you will avoid
"leavingthe stage,"so to speak,while your mind wanders
through a seriesof past adventures hoping that you will
find a specific stimulus. You should have found and filed
away many, many specific obiects, one of which you will
now connect and make synonymous with the event, the
person, or the obiect of your stage life to trigger the
responseyou need.
As for questioning the logic of the object you use from
your own experienceto take the piace of the one you need
on stage,let me give an example (especiallyfor the literalminded student, which, I assureyou, is not intended to be
facetious). Supposeyou are working on Uncle Vanya, and
you need a big emotional responsefor the moment when
Uncle Vanya surprises Yelena in the arms of Astrov, a
moment when reiection and a senseof loss storm in on
him. Supposethen that you have isolated a red apron from
an experiencein a kitchen when your girl friend's aunt,
wearing a red apron, rejected you and turned you out.
How do you know that Vanya himself didn't link the
moment with Yelenawith his own red apron, his own sudden recall of a moment of betrayal with his own early
rejection? After all, all of our emotional reactions are
basedon a kind of pile up from our past.
I must warn you, at this point, to avoid the examination
of any past experiencewhich you have never talked about
or wanted to talk about. Here you will be on dangerous
ground becauseyou will not know what can happen to
you, and without an understandingor a degreeof objectivity to the experienceit is uselessto you artistically. There
are teacherswho actually force acrors into dealing with
something buried (their responseto the death of a parent,

5o

t
I

I
l

THE ACTOR

or the trauma of a bad accident). What results is hysteria


or worse, and is, in my opinion, anti-art. We are not pursuing psychotherapy.If you feel mentally sick or disturbed
and in need of it, by all means go to a trained doctor or
therapist, brt not to an acting teacher.
Ifhen I say that you must have distance from the
experienceyou wish to useas an actor' I am not referring
to time, but to understanding.In 1938, I had an experiencewith the death of someoneI loved deeply which I still
cannot fully cope with or discuss,and therefore I cannot
use as an actress.Yet' I have also had an experiencein the
morning which I was able to digest and put to use by
evenrng.
Actions themselves,verbal and physical,can generate
strong emotions and can sometimes be as stimulating
to an emotional releaseas any rememberedinner object'
(By inner object I mean an object not outwardly present
but an obiect existing and representedin one's mind
only.) The simple act of banging my fist on the table can
bring about a feelingof rage.A logical reasonor motivation for doing so can load the action for me. Motivated
pleading with someonefor forgiveness,and sending a.verbal or physical action of begging,stroking or clutching
may produce a waterfall of tears' The act of tickling
,o-"on. gently can make me join in a fit of giggles' I
don't mean to recommend that you make a practice of
predetermining the expression of the action to find the
imotion but there is a continuous feeding of the action
by the sensationor emotion' and the emotion is furthered
by the action.
rWhenyou claim that an emotion or a recalled object is
wearing out for you by repetition, that it has lost freshness,
you are failing technically becauseof a number of possible
reasons:

EMOTIONAL

MEMORY

1. You are stopping to demand that you feel, because


you havenot madeyour obiectsynonymouswith the
one on stage.
2. You are anticipatinghow or at what secondthe emotion should manifestitself.
3. You have dwelt on the emotion for its own sake,
rather than for furtheringyour srageaction.
4. You are weighing the degreeof intensity of previous
useof the emotionalexpenence.
5. You are fearful that the emotion will elude vou. erc
etc.

Is it not monstrous that this player here


But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit,
That from her working all his visagewanned;
Tearsin his eyes,distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
rI/ith forms to his conceit?
[Hamlet2.2.535-5411
(Conceitmeansconcepthere,not vanity,and this is still
what it's all about, don't you agree?)

SENSE MEMORY

5
SenseMemorY

,l
I

t
I
I

is otten
(r ensememorv.the recallof physicalsensations'
lf we
emotions'
his
)eari., for the actorthan the recallof
is
as actorshave any occupationalhazards,hypochondria
senin
our
perhapsone of them. Most of us are interested
examine and discussthem and on occasion
,"tions,
".td
make more of them than may be normal for a nonactor' It's
all right as long as we rememberthat thesesensationscan
t. ot""f.tly e*p-.e.r"d. Some actors are.so highly sensitized
a
and suggestiblethat a mere conversatlonabout a parn'
similarly
are
they
chill or"'"tl itch will convince them that
afflicted.Those actorsare the exceptions'Most of us have
to learn a correct techniquefor producing sensatronsso
that they will be readily available to us on stage'
Since the body has an innate senseof truth, we must
facts to help us avoid the violalearn some physi,ological
tion of the physicaltruth' Sometimes,by a mere incorrect
bodilv adiustment we can shatter our faith in a whole

53

sequenceof our stageexistence.It always irritates me when


a director or teacher or fellow actor commands me to
relax, or concentrate,or usemy imagination when my failure in theseareassprings from a lack of understanding of
the given task. If a playwright or director specifiesthat I
should be sound asleep and then wake up at the play's
opening, and I haven't learned what is physically entaiied
in sieepingor waking up, I will probably lie down and fight
for relaxation while, actually, my musclestenseup and my
nervestingle with anxiety. I will fight for concentration as
my mind racesto inconsequentialsbecauseno one has told
me on what to concentrate, and my imagination fails me
completeiy in the premiseof sleepingor waking becauseno
one has told me down what paths to send it. Even my sensory memory doesn't help unless I were to be allowed an
hour or so, and then I might actually fall asleepwhich, in
turn, would not help me to wake up on cue.
It's a relief to discover what the simple physiological
processof sleepingand waking entails, and to find out how
I can reproduce it in a matter of seconds;how I can execute it quickly, even after running from my dressingroom
after a quick costume change, jumping into the bed on
stageas the curtain rises and the lights come up, and convince myself and the audiencethat I have been deep asleep
and am now waking up. To do this, settle your body
snugly into the bed, concentrating on only one area-the
shoulders,or the hips, or the feet, for example.Now, close
your eyesand center them straight ahead under your eyelids which is the true sleep position (not downward the
way they usually are positioned when we first close our
eyes).Then direct your inner attention to an abstractobject
not connectedwith the given circumstancesof the playa leat, a cloud, a wave. Now, direct your inner attention
from the abstract object to something in the given circumstances-\fhat time is it? Have I oversleot?What must I

54

)
I

I
I

THE ACTOR

do today? etc.Then open your eyes'sit up and pursue your


objective. Your eyes will feel heavy, your body slowec
down as if a{ter a deep sleep, and by reflex your entire
behaviorwill be influencedfor the ensuingactivities'
If you are supposed to yawn' you must learn that the
physital ,."rot fo. yawning is a need for oxygen in the
t."in, Mot, of you open your mouths wide and exhale'
and then jump to anotheraction becauseit felt so peculiar'
Instead,you ihould inhale deeplyas you push your.iaw
down and back until the mouth opens,and you contrnue
to pull the air deeply into your lungs before forcing it up
into your head as you exhale.You can createa yawn at
will in this way so that your eyesmay even water'
You can fumble about on stage and believe it is very
dark when there's actually enough light for the last row of
the balcony to seeyou' once you understandthat when
yo,l a.tualiy are in the dark your eyesare wide.open and
around the eyes are expanded until the eyes
th. .or.l.,
feel almost glazed.(l used to think this occurred becauseI
was trying io ,ee bett.. in the dark' Then I realizedthe
conversewas true: eyeperception was deadenedeven more
bv this muscularexpansionthan by the darkness,but my
."r,r" of touch and i.ns" of sound were heightened'Concentration was focused on the feet, the fingers and the
ears.) Experiment with this and you will discover that
through the one correct adjustment of the eyes you can
believe that it is dark. Your hands and feet will
".ro"iiy
t.oly giope for a path through the furniture, and there will
be .,o1-bar.assing indication of stumblingaround'
Bringingabout your physicalsensationsfor the character's sta;e life is fraught with many of the same.pitfalls as
the repioduction of emotional sensations'The actor's
t.ndency \s to think hot all over, to think cold' tired, headach6 siik, and then to wait anxiously for sensationswhile
notiling happens.Or sometimeshe waits and is amazed

SE N S E M E M O R Y

5i

when, by accident,somethingdoeshappen.If you are supposedto be hot, you must first ask yourselfwhereon your
body you are the hottest, Localize one area; for example,
under the arms, Remembera sensationof stickiness,of
perspiration trickling down, and then searchfor what you
do to alleviatethis sensation.Raiseyour arm slightly,seeif
you can pull your shirt or blouse sleeveaway from the
underarm to let in a little air. In that moment of adiustment, or attempt to overcomethe heat, you will have a
sensationof heat.The rest of the body will feelhot, too.
You are to be cold. Do not think cold all over.Localize
one areayou remembermost vividly; for instance,a draft
on the back of your neck. Try to recall the sensationand
then immediately hunch up your shouldersand stiffen
your back a little, even make yourself shiver if you like,
and you will havea sensationof cold. (lVe often shiveron
purpose,not only involuntarily, becauseshiveringincreases
the circulation.) The body will respond to the point where
you may end up hopping from foot to foot and rubbing
your hands in an effort to get warm (although it might
actually be a.verywarm day).
Fatigueis a condition called for in endlessscenes.How
often haveyou seenthe entireaction dissipatedand out of
focus becausethe actor was draggingabout and generally
trying to feel tired all ouer?There are so many varietiesof
fatigue.Ask yourself why you are tired, and where. Suppose you have been typing for hours. There is fatigue and
tension in your back, acrossyour shoulder blades.Now
get up and stretchyour back, put your head back and try
to relax the shouldermuscles.You will feelexhausted.
Or rememberyour fatigueon a hot day in Augustwhen
you walked for hours in thin-soled shoes,and your feet
were hot and sore and more tired than the rest of your
body. Try to walk gently on your heelsto alleviatethe sorenessand burning under the balls of your feet.Your whole

56

THE ACTOR

body will follow suit and be accompaniedby a strong sensationof tiredness.


I am emphasizing the adiustments to overcomrng tne
sensationsbecauseI believethat the sensationoccurs most
fully at the moment when we are occupiedwith the attempt
,o or"rro*, it, not when we wait for it while trying only
you
to imagine and remember it. Nor do I mean that
withshouldjump to an outer indication of the adiustment
yourself
o"t f"ith in the cause,or that you should concern
with a desire to show that you have the sensation' Sometimes you question whether the sensationsand consequent
you make will communicate directly enough:
"dj,rr*.n,t
Witt ttr. audienceknow that I'm tired?, etc' If on the street
you seepeople without knowing the circumstancesof their
a
iiu.s, it-may look to you as though the person$/ith js
heaiache is iired, or that the person who has a headache
in
hot, or that someonewith a backacheis chilly' However'
pi"y yoru conditions are backed up by the playwright
"
o,ft.t actors; your headachewill be referred to' the
""a
heat will be sharediy others, the nauseawill make you ask
for a doctor, etc. The concern lot showing the condition
must lead to indication and falseness'It is not your responsibility to show the condition' but to haue it so you believe
it, and deal with it in terms of the play's action-'
Even the old clich6 of wiping the sweat off the forehead
to illustrate heat can become new and valid if you stimuof the sweat' the prickling and tricki"t. th. ,.-.-brance
it
Iing down from your hairline so that you need to wipe
off with the back of Your hand'
If you require a cough, find the exact spot in.your
you
throai where you remember a tickle or scratch, and
must cotgh to relieve it. If you want a head.cold' a
.topped-.tf, nose, localize the senseof swelling in the uvula
back of your soft
ittti'*rt iobe hanging down at the
as you contract the uvula' Sudpalate) and ,ry ,o ,i"[o*

denly, your nose will feel stuffy, and if you blow it you
might even produce mucus.
For nausea,pinpoint the queasinessof the stomach,
inflate your cheeksslightly, wait for salivato gather.Breathe
deeply and you'll be convinced you feel sick.
For headaches,recall a specificone in a specificspot. For
example, directly over the right eye. !7hat kind? Throbbing. What can you do to easeit? Slightly push into it?
Rise above it? Pull back out of it? Theseare tiny adiustments, but after stimulating the imagination to the remembered feeling, they will bring it into the presentfor you.
For a burn, recall the thin, tight feel of the skin on your
fingertip, and how it aches.Then blow on it, flip your hand
back and forth to easeit, and you'll be convincedyou just
burned it.
Sometimesit's only the oozing blood which frightens
you when you cut yourself, but remember when it hurts
and what you do as you dab the wound with iodine.
Drunkenness, which crops up in countless tragic and
comedic scenes,seemsto be one of the most difficult to
make specific, and traps even fine actors into a series of
clich6s. Perhapsit is becausein this state, with its endless
variations from slightly tipsy, to staggering,to thick speech,
we have the hardest time remembering. To find it specifically entails the samestepsyou have usedin the searchfor
other physical sensations.First, localize the most suggestiblearea ofyour body, give in to it, and then attempt to
overcomeit. In my case,it is wobbly knees,a loose,weakened condition which I attempt to correct by straightening
and strengtheningthe knees.The other sensationsof dizziness, lack of eye-and-manual focus seem to follow. My
tongue seemsfat and swollen so that I have a wild need to
overarticulate. \0hen I am tipsy it usually manifests itself
in a psychologicalneedto talk too much, and an assumption that everyoneis interestedin anything I have to say.

58

THE ACTOR

Sometimesyou ask, "\7hat if I work for a headacheand


it stayswith me?" I can only answer,"Work for an aspirin''
Rememberthe sensationwhen the headacheeasesoff,
when you hold yourselfvery still as the tensionleaves,and
eventLe back of your neck relaxesas you realizethe pain
is gone.
this technique-recalling a localized sensationand finding a physicaladjustmentto alleviateit-is applicableto
any condition you may be called upon to play' The--accumulation of a lifetime of sensationsshould be sufficient
with our newly acquired technique to serveus for any condition or combinationof conditionsdemandedby the playwright. Even if we are to portray pregnancy or labor and
haven't had a baby, or are called upon to have consumption or a heart attack, or to be stabbedto death, or any
sensation which, except for having a babn we hope we
won't ever experience,we can still find them within our
command if we apply theseprinciples, coupled with a little
researchon the medical manifestationof the condition'
Use the knowledge of substitution to bring bronchitis or
pneumonia or a simple chest cold to Camille's consumption; the rememberedgiddinessfrom too much cough syrup
for a feeling of drunkennessin caseyou have never had a
drink; or the moment when you stayed under water too
long and came gasping to the surface as a substitute for
strangulation, etc., etc.
To all this, add the magic "If" of imagination to help tie
it all up. I/I were dying! f I were in labor!
I trust that you now have sufficient examples to help
you find your way for any sensory problem which might
arisefor you.
Let me warn you of some common erfors and mrsunderstandingsin the use of sensememory. The sensationsof
heat, cold, headache,drunkenness,nausea' and illness'
etc., are conditions of the scene;rarely is the sceneabout

S E N S EM E M O R Y

59

the cold or the headache.The discoveryof the sensations


and how they influence you is there to condition your
actions truthfully in the scene,and with sensoryaccuracy
and faith, but it is not the final aim just to be cold or have
that headacheon stage.
Furthermore, you are dictating the sensations-they are
not dictating you. You will have the sensationsto further
the actionsbut not so that they will take over and put you
out of control. In line with this, let me state that if a dangerous or unpleasant sensory condition exists for you in
your real life, at the same time that your character should
have it on stage,avoid it at all costs.If you are really nauseatedat the time of having to be nauseatedin your stage
life, simply avoid the condition or the curtain may have to
be rung down. If you really have a headacheover your
right eye, work for a headacheat the back of your head,
otherwise the real headachemay take over and put you out
of control, unable to fulfill your stagelife. If you are to be
drunk, don't get drunk to be real or the play will turn into
somethingother than the author intended.
In summation, let me state the opinion that a correctly
functioning actor should, ideally, be the healthiest, least
neurotic creatureon earth, sincehe is putting his emotional
and sensorylife to use by expressingit for an artistic purpose. If he is employed in the theater, he has an opportunity of making use of his anxieties, hostilities, pent up
tendernessthrough an artistic expression.I think that perhapsthe peoplewho call us neurotic or vain or exhibitionistic are unaware how many talented actors are that way
only becausethey are without work opportunities, and
therefore releasetheir need for expression in alcohol or
unreasonablebehavior-or perhapsthesepeopleare jealous that when we do function we can do what thev onlv
dream of doing.

76

THE ACTOR

A mereimitationof naturein
take musthavepertinence'
of art'
irrf"mfirt, daily aspectsis the antithesis
'*
yet,differentiated
not
i" ,t . p."..ii.rg .h"p'ers,I have
I haveconttnubetweeniruth in life and truth on stage'
to do so) in
lortu ,rr.r..a life realities(andwill continue
and cu.s;;;k;;, ;. steerawav from the misconceptions
tricks
toms of old theaterconventions,falsetheatricalit5
on-stage'
truth
and eimmicks.But truth in life asit is' is not
evenbefore
melt'
will
it
into the theater
ft;?;;t;ow
milk
,fr. .,rr,luingoesup. I remembera play in,which.real was
The audience
il.if"a o*t"o" .rr" o" th" stagestove'
h:* thrs nao
drsillusionedas they audibly speculated9l
in Anger' vlar'y
beenmechanicallyachieved'lnLook Back
did the audiUr.lt"t"a with a realsteamiron' Not only
what she,was
arraaarrraor, "Realsteam!"astheymissed
shewas scalded'ano Tne
saying,but at one-performance
curtain
--in"r. was rung down'
is a lovely story about the old German-actor
play in which it
Albert Bassermanduring rehearsalsfor a
designer-were
*". ,oppot.a to rain' The director and the
be produced
it
could
realwaterand how
;;;;G;4"",
I co1t1-on
;; ;g". Bassermaninterruptedth.em:"x0hen
in his behaviorconvinced
t*gi, ?it-".'" And everything
vov th^t it didl
'"i."."'or"t.a
with an actorwho had to takeme by the
I had to put
urrrr, ,o .jh"i. -.' After showinghim that
rny face' he
L"r. ."f.""p on my bruised"'rns th"tt on
but tt'ilt

*ith, "it" sorry, I


l:lt hinally'
l:t^,,.i"d
at
again'
"p"ilgir.a
me
bruised
and
stage
on
went
pro-pdy
his fingers into the
one performance I screamedas he dug
me in
;t arms' He forgot his linesand let-goof
;;J;;;i
weren't
"You
me:
*ild .o.f,rrior-,, Backstagehe confronted
but I
'.'eam th;e'" I explained' "I'm sorrv'
;;;;;;;;
reallv
'"i titfelt it." He' neverhurt me agaln'
and
,ltply to slug ii out in a stagefight
"",';t."r

REALTTY

possibly send an actor into the orchestra pit or to the hospital. Really hurting someoneis like the boiling milk: the
audienceconcernsitself with the wounded actor instead of
with the character he is portraying. To bring about a
"real" fight requires the detailed and controlled definition
of eachmovement.The physical action must be as concrete
as the words of the playwright.
The intruding realities which spring from our private
lives must be put aside so that our stage realities will be
allowed to evolve spontaneously.If my Romeo has garlic
on his breath it is unreal to the play. It is also unreal if I
"useit" asis. (Somany actorsemploythis phrase,evidently
meaning that whateuer moves in on them on stageis supposed to be spontaneously put to :use,\In Romeo and
luliet, garlic is not a part of Shakespeare'sdictum. I can
plead with the actor after the performance not to eat garlic again, and if this fails, try to ignore it or desperately
endow it with attar of roses.
To swat at a live roach on stage in a room that should
be a palace may not only be irrelevant to the play and the
character, but will take the audience away from the truth
of the stage life. You must see what you haue to seein
order to tell the storS or seeit so that it doesn't distort the
story.
To go from the ridiculous to the sublime, I would like to
cite the example of Jean Louis Barrauit's Hamlet, in the
sceneof his advice to the players. While the chief player
was emotionally reciting about Hecuba, Hamlet quietly
approached him and literally lifted a teardrop from his
cheek, balancing it on two ingers and regarding it in wonder. It later catapulted him into, "Is it not monstrous thar
this player here . . ." etc. This is an exampleof poetic action
which might never occur in life, but which becamereal and
deepiy meaningful on stage becauseBarrault really did it
and believedit so that we in the audiencedid, too.

78

THE ACTOR

and sensation and


In our search for genune emotion
never forget that
tr"tftf"f behavior and action, we should

the obligation
.ii."ir"" J."t goal.Nor shouldwe forget
give-him even
to
io it pt"y*rigf,t' we canperhapsaim
of thedetail
"
hop'dfoibv ourrevelation
;";;'fi;;i;;;J

the humanbeinghe envisaged'


-'il;;;i;g
of
and
the differencebetweenrealitv in life
said,"somethingis addedlo nature
r."lit;-;;,,"T.lstov
b"fo"';' That "something"is the artist's
.iiil ;;;;i,i;.;
which comes
r"it, .f view and his power of selection'
new life'
from ltfe and makesfor

PART TWO

The Object
Exercises

Introduction

performing musician, a singer or a danceris extremely


fortunate in that he is presentedwith specificexercises
from the time he decidesto pursue his chosen art form.
He is forced into certain disciplines and consequently
learns to develop them. He must use them daily, and they
stay with him until the end of his career.He can practice
them at home and put in as many hours a day as he
chooses,to perfect his abilities.
As an actress,I have always envied these artists. I can
participate in some of their disciplines.I can study dance,
and practice my stretchesand pli6s alone. I can study voice
and speech,and practice my exercisesalone. I can study an
instrument and enlarge my musical sense.I can read and
study literature,history and plays, and know that I am
enlarging my understandingof the theater.I can work on
roles to a certain extent, and I can work on monologues.
But in the area of human behavior. its discoverv and
8r

INTRODUCTION

THE oBJEcr ExERcIsEs

8z

enlargement,I usually have to wait for a part and rehearsals


with my fellow actors. This always frustratd me as-an
actress, and so I began to devise exercisesfor myself to
tackle a variety of technical problems that continued to
bother me. Now I presenttheseten Obiect Exercisesto yo.u'
Let us take the problem of trying to find and re-create
two ordinary minutes out of life when alone-two minutes
when I say I wasn't doing anything (impossible!),when
nothing happened.To say this is akin to saying that nothing hafpens in Chekhov, to which I have heard the retort!
"Nothing does happen except that one world comes to an
end and another begins."
'lfhat
are the componentsof two consecutiveminutes of
mv life-not in crisii, but in the pursuit of a simple need?
What do I have to know if I want to re-createthose two
minutes of existence?

'Who
am I?
'V/hat
time is it?

'What
surroundsme?

Animate and inanimate


objects.

'What
Past, present,future, and the
are the giuen
events,
circumstances?
What is my relationshiP? Relationto total events,other

'what's
in my way?
'V/hat
do I do to get
u.,hatI want?

Who am l?

'V/hat

time is it?

Century, year, season,dan


mrnute.
Country, city, neighborhood,
house,room, areaof room.

Whatdo I want?

These are the questionswe must ask ourselves,and


explore and define in order to act. For the time being, I
would like to free you from the interpretative problems of
a given play and a character,and ask you to apply these
questions to a simple exercise of finding and re-creating
two minutes out of your own life when you were alone.
Example: I am sitting at this typewriter writing this
chapter.

Character.

Wheream I?

characters,and to things.
Character,main and immediate objectives.
Obstacles.
The action: physical,verbal.

61

'Where
arn I?

I have a strong, still too narrow,


sense of identity and self-image
formed by my parents,my origins,
education.' sociological influences,
loved ones and enemies-all the
thingsa human beingis conscious
of.
10 a.u. on September1,2, 1"972.
'We're
in the middle of presidential
campaigns.Vietnambombingraids
are on the morningnews.The air
is very still. The light from outside
has a slightly hazy glare. I am sitit is quite
ring in a sunsuitbecause
warm.
My housein Montauk. I am working at the white Formica table in
the dining area off the living room.
The kitchen is to my left. Through
the window to my right I can
seethe sundeck,and beyondit the
grassydunestoppedby the shellof
a World War II lookout tower,
long abandoned. Behind me the
sun is pouring through the living
room,

THE OBJECT EXERCISES

84

INTRODUCTION

Vhat surroundsme? The typewriter is new. House

What are the giuen


circumstances?

plants, which I recently watered,


are in the corner. The white tabletop reflectsbrightly. In the kitchen
a fly is buzzing over the newly
washed breakfastdishes.My Poisonous cigarettesare at my elbow,
and the ashtray needs emPtYing.
My poodles bark at a Passingcar.
My notes lie piled up in disorder
behind the typewriter.
My collaborator on this book is
expected. !7e have been working
all summer.I have been Procrastinating since 7 a'.ut. by cooking,
cleaning,arranging fl owers, watering the grass, arranging unanswered mail and all my notes on
"The Object Exercises."My book
is years in the making. A deadline
is coming up.

What is my
relationshiP?

To the book: it representsthe expression of my work both as a


teacherand as an actress.
To Haskel: he is my collaborator,
and also my house guest during
the writing of this book.

'What

To be of service,to be a particiPant
in society as well as to be needed
by those I love. To be a Part of art
and nature. To live up to resPonsibilities.
(Main Objectiue)-To finish this
chapter.

do I tuant?

8j

(Immediate O biectiue)-To have a


few pages to show him when he
arrivesat noon.
What's in my uay!

Time: he's coming in two hours.


'Weather:
its gorgeousoutside.The
garden: the vegetablesneed to be
weeded. I would enjoy a frothy,
cold drink. I'm unclearabout the
organization of the chapter.The
onionskin paper crinkles in the
typewriter. My poor typing skill,
and many typos.

V/hat do I do to get
what I want?

I type. I make typos. I raceahead.


I light a cigaretreafrer emptying
the ashtray.I battlewith content.I
battle with order. I take a breather
outdoors, and sniff the clematis,I
yell at the poodles.I write ten sentences with clarity. I deserve a
drink.

These areasare the essentialsto examine in order to


define what makes this moment in my life evolve. Every
one of them and many more influence and make this
moment inevitable.The examplesI havemadein eacharea
are minimal to finding my behavior for the moment. Some
of the things are primary and deal with the consciousexecution of the task, and some are secondary.
In turning this examination of a few minutes of your life
aloneinto a practicalexercise,I ask you not only to test all
aspectsmentionedabovebut to pinpoint all of the physical
and psychologicalsensationsinherentin them,and then to
make a layout of the action for the two minutesyou have
examined.Then seeif you can re-createthem as if for the
first time,

86

T H E O B JE C T E X E R C I S E S

I have given an exampleof somethingI was doing n ora


at this m"oment of writing, I could take a remembered
the
event from last year,or seasonor week' I might select
sameobjective (to finish a chapter) and put it at a-different
on
time (March 11, two yearsbeforein GreenwichVillage
untidy
, .u-, ,1..,y day, with knocking radiators in. an
have a
I
might
up"a-.nr. i"h. g^tb"g" men are on strike'
head cold, be wearing an old bathrobe and terry-cloth
.."ffr. n marred l"athe.-top desk, my twenty-year--old
my elbow' some vrcks
Remington
-dropttypewriter, hot tea at
and Kleenex' the telephone ringing incescorlgh
night'
,unriu, ur,*"nr.d company coming for dinner at
actions'
and I will discoverdifferentbehaviorand
etc.)
- -OUj..,
shouldnot be improvisations,although
exercises
a desreeof the rehearsalprocesswill obviously involve
.h"-I But the final work should be exactly like that on a
a presceneor a play, and you should be able to repeat
cisely defined io.t."pt broken down into actable elements
as if it were hapf.o-p"r"bl" to the scoreof a musician),
f"t the first time. The only difference between the
yourself
""ti.*
i".r.i"t. and a sceneis that you will be using
ot a
insteadof a character'and your life experienceinstead
youryou
find
oi"u. fh. addition of the play requires that
of
i"ii in .rt"tuoer, using the auditory and visual concept
"
the playwright, director and designer'
iou'will work on these exercisesby yourself under ciralso
cumstanceswhen you find yourself alone' This will
so
help you to develop discipline,which most actors ar
by
all
explore
iiscipline to work and to
."ily'l".king-the
to
vouiself. (No partner to tell you, "Let's get down
comin
wo.k.") Step 2 will be the testingof your exercise
-orri."tiorr'wi h your teacher and peers' The final work'
play'
when you apply the problems of any exerciseto a
*itt, o'f .o"tti, includi the powerful recognition not only
of the writer but of the other actors'

INTRODUCTION

87

When you first work on the exercisesyou will probably


balk for all of the reasonsI mentioned in dealing with
"Identity." You will think you are boring, and you would
rather look for eccentriccircumstancesor "interesting"
events.Rememberthe cat!
Don't becomebad playwrights. What should compel
you into actions are definite needs,not show-off inventions. Don't look for melodrama or eccentrictales, no
eviction notices,suicide notes or tragic love affairs. An
actor once brought in an exercisein which he prayed to
God in a cathedral,ran behind the curtain, fired several
shots, staggeredback on stage, and died in front of the
Madonna. Don't look for a B-moviestory,but a discovery
of your behaviorunder simplecircumstances
when fulfilling a preciseneed.To convincea group of your colleagues
that you are aliue with forward-moving action for two
minutes-that this never happenedbefore in spite of the
precisenessand detail of your selections-is what you
should aim for, If you can convincinglycreatefwo minutes
on stagein which you exist as if you were alone at home,
you will havesucceeded.
The very fact that you have no playwright's interpretation to hide behind ("But the characterwould feel, Da
would do, or wouldn't do . . .") forces you to examine
all sourcesand behavior with no excuses.You also are
establishinghabits of self-explorationwhich later can be
put to use for character.Furthermore,you will establish
the habit of working in many of the areasyou must usein
a scene.The exercisewill help you to test selectionand
pertinence.
After having rehearsedand devised the exercises,the
problem of presentation-how and where:-will be an
individual one. If you are a professionalactor, you will
undoubtedly have a studio or workshop available,with

88

THE oBJEcr EXERcrsEs

sufficient space,equipped with basic furniture and props (a


benchor sofa, a bed, a bureauor desk,a cabinetthat can
do for a refrigerator, tables-one of which can substitute
for a stove or sink---chairs, a blanket, some cushions or
pillows, books, bottles,magazines,ashtrays,etc.). If you
are lucky, there will be a movable flat or two with workable doors, and perhaps even a window. You will present
your scenesto a teacher or your peers for criticism and
possiblereworking.
If you are an aspiring actor, you should find a qualified
teacherwho will provide you with the samephysical setup,
and if you are a teacherinterestedin testing theseexercises
you should provide all of the abovefor the students.
Necessarypersonal objects which you know can't be
supplied,like clothing or an iron or a particular dish, pot,
glassor book, must be brought by the actor. As a matter of
fact, people who know me will recognizeanyone studying
with me as they approach the Studio, becausethey are usually lugging so many shopping bags full of props.
Sinceplace is crucial, let me remind you that when you
examine every aspectof it at home to seewhat influence it
plays on your life, already begin to make considerations
for how it can be transferred and constructed elsewhere.
Usereal objects.Theseare not pantomime exercises.Avoid
any task that will force you to pantomime an activity with
an incomplete object (like opening or closing doors when
there are no doors to work with). Take what's there and. if
necessary,endow it physically and psychologically with
what it should be.
The exercisesare not mute. If you find that you grunt,
use expletives, or verbalize when alone, fine. It will help
you with later exercises.
A minimum of one hour of rehearsal for each twominute exerciseis recommended-and by rehearsalI mean
doing it, not just thinking about it.

INTRODUCTION

89

Testing the communication of your selectedexistence


with your "audience" is, of course,the proof of the pudding in the valuetheseexerciseswifi havefor you.
The Ten Obiect Exercises
1. The BasicObiect
Exercise
2. Three Entrances

Re-creating behavior which


leads to the achievementof a
simpleobjective
preparation and its influence
on
the entrance

3. Immediacy

Dealing with the problems of


anticipationwhile searchingfor
somethinglost or mislaid

4. The Fourth Wall

The guarantee of privacy while


using, not ignoring, the visual
areaof the audience

5. Endowment

Dealingwith objectswhich cannot have total reality because


they might otherwise totally
control you; heightenedreality

6. Talking to Yourself

The problem of the monolosue

7. Outdoors

a/ Relationship ro space and


nature
&/ Finding forward-moving occuparion wirhout the help of
turnrture and props

8. Conditioning
Forces

Learning to put togetherthree


or more sensoryinfluencesheat,cold, physicalpains,hurry,
dark, quiet, etc.
(The last two exercisesemploy a character
from a play)

ENDOWMTJNT

r5
Endowment

you will really enjoy


his probably is the first exercise
essenceof make-believe'
I *o.king on. lt containsthe
turn cold water into boiling
and in its simplestform: how to
hemlock' if
trandv or bitter medicine-even
;;;;;;;;"*
makeupwithout cold-creamor
vou choose;how to remove

n'* t':?-:.1,:-'..o.il'
withouta btader
l""or'i"- l. .r-,"ve
and butter wrtnpotatoes
*itiro.tt heat;how to eat mashed
soddenclothing
seemingly
out getting fat; how to remove
havingbeenin the rain' etc'
with-out
"'n"*lJcit"pter
for the
5, "SenseMemorn" and then'
the endowment exercise'find circumstances
orro.*
t".i*
tangible.objects
"f
*ftr.tt yo., *ould be dealing with
with properttes tnat
*liii-t *.tfa'ftave to be endowed
example' take a.cup of
should not be real on stage' For
it with the propertv of steaming l"i -'^"
;;
;;;";J
recall how' as vou brlng 1t
i;.il;{
iust think it's hot but
from the steam' how
,
t.u pull back slightly
"'.i^'t""t,
Itz

rr3

you carefully blow and puff acrossthe top of the cup to


cool the coffee, how you gently test the rim of the cup with
your lips before sipping a few drops and gingerly letting
the liquid rest on your ronguefor a secondbeforeallowing
it to slide down your throat, how your eyespull shut as
you swallow and your mouth opens and you exhale and
then take in air to cool your mouth. Suddenly,that cup of
cold water becomeshot coffeeand staysthat way.
I might not even wanr to apply real lipstick on stage,
becausewith nervoushands on an openingnight it could
slip over the edgeof my mouth. If there is no room in my
stageaction for getting cold cream and tissuesand fresh
powder to repair the damage, I would rather endow a
rrode[,plasticlipstick with color and greasiness
as I stretch
my lips (alreadymade up) and smearit on evenly.
I rememberseeingthe final dressrehearsalof a play in
which a lover was walking out on his mistress.During the
courseof the action,shehad to polish his shoesas one way
of preventinghis leaving her. The acress was wearing a
pearl-graydress,and the shoepolish was black.As sheknelt
on the floor,a shoein one hand, the cloth with polish in the
other,the can of blackpolishon the floor in front of her,she
was crying and pleadingwith him to stay with her. Soon
shehad globs of polish on her face,hands,and all over her
gray costume.It was quite realisticexceptfor one thing. At
the end of the scene,the curtain was lowered for only a
secondand roseagain for the next scenewhich took place
a few days later. Her costumeand face were still covered
with black. In following performances,the inside of the
shoepolish can was painted black, without real polish in
it, and the actresshad found the cor.rectbehaviorof working with it, the cloth and the shoe,so that not only shebut
the audiencebelievedshewas actually usingreal polish.
In The Farewell Sultper by Arthur Schnitzler,I once had
to eat an enormous five-coursegourmet meal on stage

I14

THE OBJECT F'XERCISES

as specteieht times a week. If all the food had beenreally


have been unable to eat it in the time span of
i';-i,'i*."fa
itf", I would have gained ten pounds a week-and
;;:;;.
days' Vhat
r.'"i"Uiu becomesick-ceriainly on matinee
for the food lookedlike muchmorethan rt
was substituted
Endowing
*u., *u, neither rich, fattening nor too 6lling'
runnlng
quantity'
the food with sweetness,stickiness,
and
iui-c* ;; butter created a relish for eating, slurping
piled
I
as
u.td b.o,rght me a round of applause
;;i;;:
(reallv
final deJsert of whipped-cream torte
i;;;-;f,;
mounds of yogurt)'
,''M;;;
.;."".s call for sewing and threading needles'
Dy an
By now, I look forward to seeingthem pertormed
-in.*f.ri"rr."d
actor becauseI know I'm in for some comic
needle
r.iJi. iit" panic which setsin as shetakes that small
get
the
to
^"J n". siik thread, the variations of attempts
snarls and
,ir.^J,h.o"gtt the tiny eye, how the thread
and Panknots up. and how shefinally endsup pretendrng
threaded
get
it
becauseshe never could
t;*-g
;;;;;;
prethreadedand
o"i" o."a.tibl.. If -y ,t"tdle can't be
the needleI
"."
that
stage'I witl make certain
t-*iti a"
fatte.t iye in show business;if the thread is-to
,t. "on
,rr. t
", t;f f<''I will usesturdy corton that
snarl' If ir
["-nt.
-won't
through
-,rrt ,""-'difficult to thread, I will make it so
second
exact
the
still be able to control
.'"a.-rn.",,
"td will readily go through the eye of the
*^i* tft. thread
lee.dleneuer
needle.Only if it is a part of the plot rhat rhe
the hne
gets threaded' may I use the small needle and
thread.
e.ry oUi..t which cannot be handled and controlled
rt rn your
readily for the purpose to which you want to put
And there are
selectedaction becomesa dangerousobiect'
kntves'
the actually physically dangerousobiects-sharp
broken boltles, liquor' etc' If it.is one of
tlt.lt,l.,'l-"t,
actually
these, I don't expect you to rehearsewith it and

ENDOWMENT

IT5

hurt yourself to seewhat you do about it. You undoubtedly remember what it was like when you burned or cut
yourself, or otherwise did damageto yourself or were hurt
by someoneelse.
But wherever an object is not physically dangerous,in
the sensediscussedabove, start experimenting-let's say,
with polishing your nails (real nail polish on stagecould
create a major hazard if it spilled or got on your hands).
First, really polish your nails, and then take an empty bottle with its little brush and seeif you can reconstruct the
behavior of carefully and evenly smoothing the polish on
your nails until you find such belief that, by reflex, you will
blow on your nails to make sure they are dry, and you will
handle the next object delicatelyfor fear of marring the
polish.
For your exercise,find at least three tangible objects to
endow with physical properties which would otherwise
control you. You may also endow them psychologically,
but the emphasisshould rest on the physical. Avoid pantomiming the actions. By that I mean, if you take a stif{
drink, don't usean empty glassand then worry about how
far to tip it, or what actual swallowing is like. Fill the glass
with water and endow the water with whatever properties
you needthrough sensememory and muscularadjustment.
A studentoccasionallyasksif all threeendowedobjects
should belong together. Obviouslg they must belong to
your complete and logical set of circumstances.If, for
instance,your objective is to try to prepare a splendid meal
for your lover, and you have a bad cold at the time, endless
ideas for objects to endow will immediately occur to you,
connectedwith the food you are preparing, what you wilL
cook it on and what implements you will need for it, as
well as all the objects you may need to control your cold,
from vaporizersto nosedrops to medicinesand chestrubs.
Just try to give the objectsvariation so that all three don't

116

THE OBJECT EXERCISES

involve tasting, or all three don't have to do with hurting


yourself, etc. When you have masteredthe endowments of
the individual objects, give yourself fully to the need for
fulfilling your objective with faith in your circumstancesin
order to avoid simply iumping from one endowed object to
the other while checking the accuracy of your execution.
'When
the exercise is ready for presentation, you should
have found such trust in your objects that you hardly are
aware that they are endowed. They should be wholly there
for you.
Any object we deal with, once it has been made particular, will be partially endowed. If I can endow a dull knife
with sharpness,I can also endow it further by giving it a
history which will dictate evenhow I pick it up. If the knife
was a gift from someone I adore who knows I love to
cook-and I am aware that it came from Hammacher
Schlemmer'sand probably cost about twenty dollars-I
will handle it differently than if I physically have to deal
with the identical knife and endow it with having been
bought at Woolworth's ten years ago, which by accident
turned out to be iust right and becamemy favorite old cutting knife.
A rose,which may be wax or plasticon stage,must be
not only endowed with the texture, aroma, and thorniness
of the real rose in order for me to deal with it with conviction, but will be quite differently dealt with if it is from the
favorite plant which I myself grew, or if someone I love
gave it to me, or if it is from someone I detest who presentedit to me to butter me up. We can and should charge
or load each obiect that we deal with, not only to stimulate
our psyche and our senses,but again to learn how these
elements condition our consequent actions so that when
we have to make selectionsfor the character'sactions in a
play, we have discoveredall the areaswe must draw on to
make the selections.

ENDOVMENT

tta

Almost nothing in our character,slife rs what it ls_bur


we must make it so! .Weendow the given circumstances,
our own character,our relationship to others in the plaS
the place,each object we deal with, including the clo-thes
we wear.All must be endowed wirh the physical,psychological or emotional properties which we want i., o.d., t,,
sendus richly into action from momenr ro moment.
And so the exampleof turning an apple into an onion
c.anbe a beginning of comprehending that by turning one
thing into another,or by supplying missingrealities,aclions
may_becomesharperthan usual, and that reality can be
heightenedinsteadof ordinary.It becomesa distiiledreal_
iry and that is whar I loveabout it.
Now, you are halfway through the exercises.If you havc
beenactuallyrehearsingand presentingthem for criticism,
not iust reading about them, you may have discovered
their interestingby-products.By now, you are undoubtedly
not just rehearsingduring the hours you set asidefor the
exercises,but are "rehearsing,,off and on every day. I
can't open an oven door without noting how my head
pulls back at an anglefrom rhe heat. If I'm makins a tele_
phone call, a part of me is marking the fourth wall I'm
using.Secondaryand reflex behavior becomesmomentar_
ily conscious.I'm aware of what brought me into a room
or out into the street.And the most astoundingpart <-rfit
all is that I don't feel a bit less spontaneousubout -u
behavior. The purpose in establishine habits of seli_
observation,
in discovering
rheendless
uariarions
of behav.
ior which occur from day to day is not to reproducerhis
behaviormechanically
&at. . .
1. To find what inner and outer objectsI get involved
with under the given circumstances,
and whv I deal
with them.

THE PLAY AND THE ROLE

Once I actually succeededin doing this for a Broadway


opening by telling myself that the entire event was ridiculous and didn't matter, and that everyone in the audience
was a dope. I might as well have stayed home' and I got
deservedly bad reviews. Personally, my nerves' iust as in
the old adage, have increasedwith experience-or ageand I have come to accept them the way an older athlete
might. At best, I hope they will heighten my energy and
make me more alert. They should zot make for fear. Above
all, I try to control them by focusing on my main obiects
and intentions, using my technique to keep me in the universeof the play.
An acrobat will not only get nervous but fall from the
tightrope if he looks down, tries to show off, or questions
his senseof balance instead of trusting his technique and
concentrating fully on his task, An actor's nerves can similarly put him out of commission if he shows off or if his
acting score is general, has been thrown together quickly
or his preparation is shoddy.
When you are beginning to learn a correct technique, as
your goals get higher and you become more aware of the
areasin which you might fail, you also may be, temporarily, more nervous than when you proceededwith the faith
of an unknowing beginner.Just remember that the better
your technique becomes,the more you should be able to
concentrate, to eliminate distractions and shed the concerns of your private life in order to involve yourself in the
life of your character.Don't replace the joy of playing (or
making love) with the nerveswhich result from a personal
ambition for success.

"How Do I Get a Job?"


"Do the rounds" of agents,producers,directors for off-off,
off, and on Broadway, {or regional theaters, for summer

PRACTICAL

PROBI,EMS

zo1

stock, for dinner theaters. Do the rounds over and


over
again until the solesof your shoesare worn thin. In
order
to do them and to face everyone, develop a thick
skin.
(Keepyour rhin skin and your sensitivitiesfo.
the work on
the character.)Be as.preparedin your craft as is humanly
possrble.Keep pracricingforever.Be prepared
wirh audi_
tion material. Have thirty things ready to be presented
ar
tne drop ot a hat. Have material ready for any audition,
wherher it be for a soap opera at a televisionofn."
o, io,
classicin New York or the provinces.Have monologues
"
ready, and prepare sceneswith obtiging parrners
*ho"."n
assist you-when you need them. (It wili probably
be to
their benefit to help you, if you have
fo. ,fr.
".r".rg'"d
tion.)I haveseenactorslosework again
""ai_
and again because
after readingsomerhingfor a direcior, produJ.. o,
upon being asked,"What else can yo, sho* ."1:i,i.
"n"",.
answer was, "Nothing. "

Auditions
How you land an audition in order to get a
iob must be
separatedfrom how you work on a part. When you
apply
for an interview, a job, an audition L g"t the j.b;;.r';;.
in.point of fact selling yourself in much the sa.rre*ay
th"t
a Fuller Brush man sells his merchandise,How yo,:'-"n_
age it is your individual problem. If you are ,.rr.ibl.,
uou
can learn to protect yourself from any .1...rr, yor,
-igh,
meet up with in the theater,except criminality, and for
tfrat
you should go.to the police. Or ro Actors Eiuity
Associa_
tron, your trade union, which is there to proieci you.
The
pro.ducer,the agent, the director for whom you'-;rr;;;
aldition has the samepower as the housewife*no
.iei,
stam rhe door in the face of the brush salesman,or
w"h<r
might let you inside to show your wares.
Auditions can range from an open call where the actors

THE PLAY AND THE ROLE

are lined up across the stage like cattle and are eliminated-without a reading-because they are too tall or
short, fat or thin, fair or dark, or lately, becausethey are
the wrong astrologicalsign,to a situationin which you are
given time to study the script, work on the scene,and have
an opportunity to presentyourself at your best.There is
also my favorite kind of audition, in which you may present material of your own choosingwhich you have prepared in advance.
\Vhat you should do at a reading,even a cold reading
for which you have been given little or no time to prepare,
is to go out on a limb: give yourselfan objectiveand then
head for it with improvised actions which are as real as
possible. Try for a full performance with your improvised
actions. Endow tuhoeuermight read with you into the living substancewhich could serveyou. Your craft will serve
you, if you havea craft. Evena mediocredirectorwill hold
you becauseof your reality, not on your interpretation. A
director wants what any primitive audience wants-to
believethat you are, to believethat you are really saying
what you read from the script.
Remember:Whoever may employ you is totally disinterestedin your credos,so don't burden them with that.

"Do YouThink I HaveTalent?"


To quote Max Reinhardt: "Never mind your talent! Do
you have tenacity?" Or, to quote my mother: "Talent is a
gift which many people have. What you make of it determineswhether or not you will be an artist!"

"How Can I Work Conecflv in Summer Stock?"


With only a week's rehearsalyou have to set yourself different goals. A painter can make a very fine quick sketch

PRACTICAL

PROB LEMS

zo5

which people enjoy looking at. He doesn,t ask that it be


considereda finished oil painting. Very often, long before
the stock seasonhas begun, and you have signedyour contract, you may already know which plays and parts are to
be yours. Here is where I have found actors to be unbelievably lazy, really missing their chance, when they don,t
immediatelyserabout their homework
In stock, your speedand flexibility will be marvelouslv
tested.Also, the experienceof performing for an audience
cannot be replaced by refusing jobs for fear of getting bad
habits. rl0hatever damage you do to your instrument bv
having to produce quick resulrscan be correcredafteiwafo.

"ShouldI StickIt Out in the Theater?"


If you have to ask this question-don't!

"\I/hat about the Pacing?The Rhyrhm?


The Tempo?"
These questions fall into the same category as ,.louder,
faster, funnier!" or the "mood.', They all soell doom i[
you, the actor, concern yourself with them. Tiey are noq
always have been, and always will be the results of the
actions,how you head for your objectivesunder the correctly defined circumstances.The responsibilitv for these
resultsis in the handsof the director.

"Do You Think I WasOveracting?"


There is no such thing as over or under. There is only acting. No moment is roo big or too small if it hasvalidiry for
the moment in rhe play. Overacting, as it is usually thought
of, meansthat the actor is playing to the gallery irrste"Jof

THE PLAY AND

THE ROLE

with the other characterson stage.Or that he is hanging


onto his own sensationsor wallowing in false emotion
Underactingis primarily an empty imitation of nature,the
actor playing in the "manner" of naturalness,unrelatedto
the roots of the given reality,
"How Do I Stay Fresh in a Long Run?"
I think I am one of the few actors in the world who loues
long runs. The challengeto make a character live anew, as
if for the first time, as if never before, night after night after
night, is, to me, almost more exciting than the idea of playing in repertory.Severaltimes I have beenlucky enoughto
run as long as two yearsin a good part in a good play, and
eachtime I have found somethingbrand new internally at
the closing performance which I deeply regretted being
unable to put to use the next night. I have found that
something getsstale or dries up only whenl becomeaware
of outer effectsor ol uatching my actions rather than staying involved and truly executing them. The two-year run
can help you to deepen, and to be the character for those
few hours every night. It has also fascinatedme how work
which I had done, perhaps a month before I began official
maybe
seemedto emergefrom my subconscious
rehearsals,
a year later to add a new or different dimension to my
character.SometimesI've longedto play at leastsix months
in front of an audiencebefore anv critic would come to
seeme.
"How Do I Work with a Replacement
in the Cast ?"
If, a{ter a play has beenrunning, an actor leavesthe company and is replacedby a new actor, I find it as challenging
to work with the new actor as I do rur-mingfor a long time

PRACTICAL

PROBLEMS

with the sameactor.t have also been a replacementon a


number of occasionsand often sufferedfrom the treatment
of bored actorswho didn't want to changeor adjust their
performancesto mine, or to change their daily routines to
come to "new" rehearsals.
As a result,I havelived up to a
vow never to put another actor into this spot, and have
worked as diligentlywith a new replacemeniasthough the
play werebrandnew to me.
It should be exhilarating,not tedious,to go along with
the ideas of a new partner, unless you treat the theater as
iust a place to check in and out of, It,s a sure proof of
working inaccurately
if your performancedoesfii change
with a different actor. Your opinion aboat liking the new
actor more or lessthan the first actor is irrelevant!
An extraordinary experienceoccurred while I was playing Blanche.While the four principals of the New yoik
company took a summervacation,they were replacedby
the four of us who were to go on tour as the National
company. JessicaTandy took off six deservedweeks of
rest, and the other three took only two weeks.This meant
that I would work first with the National comDanvAnthony Quinn, Mary Velch, and RussellHardie-and
then-two weeks later-with Marlon Brando, Karl
Malden, and Kim Hunter. I got in a few rehearsalswith the
New York company before playing with them, except for
Marlon! For a numberof reasons,he didn't appeartackstageuntil thirty minutes before we were to go on stagefor
an SRO performance. Ve had neuer seeneach other,s oerformance.Miss Tandy'sand my interpretation
of Blanche
were as different as Mr. Quinn's and Mr. Brando's Stanley.
There was a hasty conferencebackstage:Should we risk
playing together without a single rehearsal and without
any knowledge of each other's interpretation? Tony, who
was standing by in full makeup, said he hoped Marlon
would play becausehe didn't want to hear the groans of

THE PLAY AND THE ROLE

disappointment from the audience if they were told Marlon wasn't playing.Finally,I said, "Let's try to rehearsethe
first five minutesofthe play and seewhat happens."It was
such an adventurethat we were both game, and on we
went. Nothing went wrong, and a lot went right. What
made it work? Both of us were totally familiar with place,
objects,and circumstances.Neither of us was willful or
selfish.Neither of us violatedthe intentionsof our characters. The rest of the four weeks continued to be adventurous. And so was returning to Anthony Quinn.
"How Do I Talk to the Audience?"
\(hether I am talking to the audiencein a Shakespearean
play,a Molidre, inThe Matcbmaker,TheGlassMenagerie,
Joe Egg, or The Bald Soprano, specific ptinciples always
apply. I am not talking to myself; the audienceis my partner! This partner,the audience,must be made as particular
as any other characterwith whom I have a dialoguein the
play. Who are they? What's my relationship to them?
\Xlhere are they-in time as well as place? Why are they
there, what is the obstacle, and tuhat do I want from them?
Answeringthesequestions,I stand a good chanceof finding my actions with them.
Vhether I'm talking to one person or to many' I specify
my relationship to them-are they with me or against me,
do we have a past together, or are we new to each other,
etc.?I always put my audienceinto the time and place in
which the play unfolds. I might use courtiers sitting in the
king's loge, contemporariesof Moliire, if I'm working on a
play of his and askedto addressthe audience.Or I might
take somefriends from Yonkers at the turn of century who
are listening to me and watching me from another sitting
room or from the street, if I'm talking to the audience as
Mrs. Levi in The Matcbmaker. Or I mieht addressthe

PRACTICAL

PROB LEM S

audienceas if they were specific people coming out of the


pub into the street if I, as Launce, in The Tuto Gentlemen
of Verona, am lamenting to them about my poor dog, erc.
I don't want to haye to hurdle the realities I've created irr
the play for time and place by having to usethe audiencein
the theater on 45th Street in 1973 as is. The faith in my
very senseof being the character would be shaken.
Now comes the hardest part! You want your audience
to be enfolded-as if you were talking to eachone of rhem.
Laughtoncould do it. Sinatraand Judy Garlandhavedone
it. I try to do it by placing my imaginary audience or,
the fourth wall as primary objects,or in conjunctionwith
the dim shapesof people in any area of the auditorium
where I cannot make direct eye contact with an actual
memberof the audience.(I(hen you were in the audience,
have you ever been visually contacted by a performer?
Didn't you feel self-conscious,
uncomfortable,abused?If
you were sweet,you tried to guesswhat was expectedof
you, and perhapsplayed back with facial reactions.If you
were annoyed,you probably made a stony face, or yawned
into the actor's face, or simply adiusted your clothing in
misery-feeling you were being used.) In a night club or in
vaudeville,performersoften make direct useof a member
of the audience(at his expense),but if he talks back, the
performer can improvise on it, or out of it, or take it further, In plays, too, as in everything, there are exceptions
when the play demands that you cope with shifting realities or the director makes the charactert task a direct confrontation with the given audience or a member of it.
Occasionally,your character might have to ask for a specific responsefrom the living audience;or the characier
may be askedto step out of the play and out of the character for an interlude with the existing audience.But these
are the rare exceptions.
To return to the rule: remember that your character's

2lo

THE PLAY AND THE ROLE

dialoguewith the audienceis written down, that it must


stay in the time and place of the character, and must be
alive as it is sent to your imagined audiencewhom you
have put around, in back of, and betweenyourself and
the actual audienceso that they will feel included, and
enchanted,but not put upon!
Accents and Dialects
If I have to play a character with a foreign accent or a
regionaldialect,I consulta specialist,and with the help I'm
given by my good ear (thank God) and my knowledgeof
the phonetic alphabet, I work around the clock on the
soundsand rhythm of my new speechpattern. I get records
of it so I can listen all day. I go to films where peopletalk
the way I am supposedto. I make my friends and family
the victims of my continuous practicing. I try to speakwith
my new speechpattern until it becomessecond nature,
until I stop hearingmyselfor checkingmyself.I try to do it
long beforc I get to the words of the play, becauseif I practice it immediately or exclusively on the lines of my part, I
will set line readings that can't be undone; I will test my
words for sound rather than meaning,and do my character irrevocabledamage.
Evenmy husbandwas a little shockedwhen I went, as a
replacement, into Tbe Deep BIue Sea and was introduced
to an almost completely British cast and immediately
spoke to them with a British accent (" What a nerve!").
They may even have laughedat me, and I wouldn't have
blamed them, but the point was that they didn't largh
when I cameto rehearsingand playing my part with them.
The transition into Hester's languagewas all prepared for.
I recommendthis practicewhether it be Russian,Chinese,
Scotch or New England-whatever the accent or dialect
may be.

PRACTICA L PRO B LEM S

2I I

There is an interestingpsychologicalrlillct, n., lor the


characterif he is speakingin another lrtrtgrr.rli,rlr:rn his
own with an accent,or if hehasthelocaltli,tlc.t , 'l lrrsorigin-his childhood. Rememberthat if you lt,rrr' .r l,'reign
accent,you are trying not to have it. Y()rt .trc tr\rnll to
(A
bc.ttrtrlrrllv.
overcomeit and to speakthe new language
Rumanian friend of mine, on hearing herscll on ,r l.rpc
recorder,asked,"Who eezdat wooman?" and I lt.r,lt,' r,ry,
"That's you." She said, "Dunt bee seelly,drrr \\' or])rul
t, r lr.rt
has an ahksent!")If on the other hand, your chitr.r,.
a regionaldialect,"you" are speakingin and dcalrrrlirr itlr
the depths of "your" origins. Become familirrr rlrtlr
anotherchildhood with new soundsand melodies.
I alsoclaim that if you don't havea perfectear,ollc(' v()ll
have studiedthe speechpattern diligently,the result rtcc.l
n't be absolutelyauthenticas long as you have faith irr ir
and belieuethat it springsfrom you in your role. (Laurcttc
Taylor, in The GlassMenagerie, did not have an authentic
southernspeech,but shethought shedid, so we believedit
too!)
Dressing the Part-the

Costume and Makeup

An eyelash,a mustache,a wig, the shoes,evenpaddingput


on for a role must becomean integral part of you. They
ought to free the new "you" wholly. Everything must be
developed for its sensory effect on you, the character. I
think an anecdoteabout Alfred Lunt tells the story. He was
working on Tlte Guardsman by }i4olnar, In the course of
the comedy, the character he was going to play wants to
test his wife's fidelity by pretending to be a Russian officer
and attempting, in this guise,to seduceher. (Mr. Lunt hac
to find the truth of his character's dress and makeup p/zs
the realiry of his disguisewhich had to convinceeveryone
that he was that Russianof6cer.)He didn't seehow it was