Applying the Physical Process to a Character
|Applying the Physical Process to a Character
You now know how to access an authentic physicality that is connected to your emotions.
Now, apply it to a character that you are developing. Whether the character is a princess,
a teapot, or even Ophelia:
• Find the moment you want to express
• Use your acting technique to feel the corresponding emotion
• Apply that emotion to your body
• Transpose the psycho-physical knowledge to the character
For example, an actress is studying Ophelia. She knows that Ophelia is consumed by the
deaths of her father and brother, Polonius and Laertes. However, the actress has never
experienced death of this magnitude. In one particular scene, Ophelia is throwing imaginary
fl owers on her father’s grave. How does the actress emotionally connect to Ophelia doing
this action? Instead of playing the amateur idea of Ophelia as a crazy young girl (running
around wide-eyed), the actress looks at each moment in the play and identifi es what Ophelia
is feeling. In this specifi c moment, the actress discovers that Ophelia is sad as she remembers
her father. She then explores how this specifi c emotion moves through her body and fi nds
her movement to be languid and deliberate because she is refl ecting on this loss. Thus, she
throws the fl owers slowly and deliberately onto the grave
Developing Intentions and Objectives in the Dialogue
The dialogue of the characters must be imbued with the character’s objectives and intentions.
As the great acting teacher Sonia Moore said, “The words are like toy boats on the water.”
Think of every important moment in your life. Did the words ever convey the depth of your
feelings? Think of the fi nal goodbye you said to a friend or your fi rst break-up. Underneath
the words are the emotional currents—the intentions, needs, goals, and desires, as expressed
through the silent actions of the characters. One of the delights of the animated short is the
minimal use of language. Yet, while the dialogue of a scene is usually simple, it is important
to remember that the words only become powerful when they are forged with authentic
The goals and intentions/tactics give the language its meaning and context. To learn about
how an intention clarifi es the language, let’s look at this sample scene with the assigned
characters of A and B. You can view this work on the companion DVD titled Acting: Exploring
the Human Condition, but fi rst read the scene without any infl ection.
A. How are you?
A. Well, I’ll call you later.
At fi rst glance, this is a “nonsense” scene. It doesn’t really make sense, yet it feels slightly
familiar because of the usage of common conversational words such as “Hi” and “Bye.”
However, we don’t have any context for the scene so we don’t really know what the characters
are talking about.
Impose an objective/goal on the scene to create meaning. Let’s say that Partner A’s objective
is to make up with Partner B. Partner A is in love with Partner B. They had a fi ght.
Partner A wants to make up and Partner B does too. Now, using what you learned about
emotional recall or empathy, read the scene out loud or with a partner
Objective #1: To make up.
Result: You can probably feel how emotionally connected the two characters are. We
all have felt this. The two characters are in agreement and a resolution is reached.
Write down your result.
Read the scene again and change the objectives.
• Partner A will choose to make up.
• Partner B will choose to reject.
Notice how the change in Partner B’s objective will affect the whole tenor of the script. Let’s
call this scene “The Break-Up.
Objective #2: Partner A’s objective is to make up. Partner B’s objective is to reject
Result: You will hear a completely different reading of the same scene as the objectives
and intentions infuse the text with the emotional truth of the relationships. (See the DVD.)
Write down your result.