Theatre and Acting Workshop: Preparing a Scene – Part 1

Preparing A Scene Part 1
“The Moment Before”
by: Lynn Stallings

Magic happens when your character has a full and engaging life. Have that life begin before your scene and you’ll engage the audience instantly. Have you ever watched a performance and felt like it took the actor a while to get into character? To warm up? I think most of us have. That often happens when the actor begins a scene cold….begins a scene without creating a “moment before”. In reality, our lives are ongoing. We are always coming from someplace, from some activity or event. We have thoughts or conflicts or physical conditions that affect the way we behave. If you choose a clear moment before your scene begins, then you start the scene filled with energy and momentum. You won’t need ‘warm-up’ time because that has already happened off-stage.

Sometimes the script TELLS you what your character is doing the moment before the scene begins. In this case, it’s your job to take ALL the information the script provides and add the details. Bring it to life as you prepare off stage. Then you’ll enter with purpose and meaning.

Sometimes the script DOESN’T provide a moment before. Especially in audition situations. You may only have a page or two of the scene and not much information. This is a grand opportunity for you to exercise your creativity. You get to invent those strong, clear choices and each choice will color and shape your scene. For example, a person coming in drenched from a blinding thunderstorm will enter very differently than a person who enters while texting her boyfriend.

The “moment before” is critical. It determines how you approach the scene. It affects everything your character does. Developing a moment before also has a nice fringe benefit. It can reduce stage fright. See, when your time backstage is spent focusing on what your character experiences prior to coming onstage, then you won’t have time to get nervous. So enjoy developing a full life for your character.

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