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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There Are No Throwaway Lines

When an actor has not established the character's overall objective, which is based on the theme of the work, and then establish that character's objective in each scene as well as "moment to moment" objectives, he will deal in an expository way with scenes that don't turn him on emotionally, hoping he can get past them as soon as possible, and on to the "meaty" scenes that are emotionally clear to him.  The actor's task is to not only understand the theme of the work, but also how each scene is related to the progression of the story that the writer has chosen to state that theme.  Therefore, each sentence in each scene is related to that progression and no sentence should be uttered unless it drives that progression forward.  "There are no throwaway lines," said Stella Adler on page 19 of The Art of Acting, and the only reason I didn't put it in quotes in the title of this post is because I said it to actors before I read her book.  I'll continue, in future posts, to point out that there were no differences in technique between Adler and Hagen, only in the way they expressed that technique.

Actors frequently make the error of throwing away lines, and an obvious example that I point out to my students is the scene in the film Notting Hill in which Hugh Grant helps Julia Roberts learn her lines for an upcoming film in which her character will star.  Because Ms. Roberts had not paid attention to the progression of the screenplay, she addressed that scene as if the only objective her character had was to learn her lines; lines that were boring and "not exactly Henry James," as Grant's character states.  But that scene occurs well into the progression of the story, after a connection of mutual attraction has been made between the characters.  The actors must be mindful that this is a romance and that the scene is definitely not merely about learning lines.  However, Ms. Roberts played it as if that's all it was about, so the scene was as boring as the lines her character had to learn.  Ms. Roberts seemed to think so too; she tried to get through it as fast as she could.

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