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3 Guideposts to Breaking Down a Script

By: Diane Christiansen

Here are a few simple strategies to get a quick jump start on not only memorizing, but also understanding your script.

  1. Listen for the voice of your character. Read your lines aloud several times, over and over again while reading the other character lines silently. This way the only lines you hear are those of your character. After a while, you should begin to hear your character’s voice. You will begin to get a feel for the tone, cadence, and personality of your character. Try to find new ways to say the lines, using different inflections, levels of volume, and rates of speech. Continue to play and experiment until you land on a voice that resonates with the essence of who your character is.
  2. Note what is said about your character by the other characters. Take a closer look at what the other characters in the script say about your character. How do they refer to you? Do they refer to you at all? What types of adjectives or phrases are used to describe you? What is the tone of the conversation when your name comes up? All of the various ways in which your character is mentioned or not mentioned in the dialogue of the script may give you some useful hints about the type of person you are portraying.
  3. Find the most important words in each line of the script. Dissect each of your scenes line by line, marking the most important words in each line of dialogue. For your lines, this will help you to better choose moments of emphasis where you may decide to pause on or punch particular words. In addition, identifying key words in your scene partner’s lines will help you find more poignant moments to react to, thereby providing stronger motivation for your character to speak in response. This is a great exercise to improve your listening skills as an actor because it keeps you engaged in both what you are saying, as well as what is being said to you throughout the scene.

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