How do professional actors make a scene realistic?
Most of us know that the basics involve reading the script, understanding the character within the context, and then putting life into the writer’s words.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
In this post, we discuss the different ways we can explore the meaning behind the artistic expression of a character.
Read The Script Fully
Reading is the first part of the process.
Much like in an English comprehension class in school, you should be able to analyze the story and its characters. What is your character’s goal? Who do they like and dislike? What are they doing to achieve their objective? All these details will be contained in the script. Our job is to find these clues like a detective, in order to authentically portray the character. The scriptwriter will make the overview of the story obvious to a reader.
However, you can always simplify the process.
Break down the script into scenes and beats. Read them aloud. Read them neutrally. Read them fast. Read them slowly. Play with your lines. Try performing them in multiple ways. This will help you have different interpretations of the scene. Pick and choose the ones which fit best.
Understand the Character’s Motivations and Behaviour
Most of the time, the writer and director will have control over the character you play.
They would have already defined a background, profession, and character arc. You will have to take your time to understand all this.
- Requirements: Research the profession and the social background. For instance, if your character is a head chef in a busy restaurant in Mumbai, read up on expert knowledge on the subject of cooking. And take the time to understand that region of Mumbai and the character’s relationship to it.
- Freedom: What you will have more control over are the behavioural traits of your character. This head chef might have excellent time management skills because of the urgent nature of the business, of serving customers on time. They might have an occasionally commanding voice at work. They might also be able to handle cutlery and crockery in an unusually efficient manner.
Bring out these traits in your own way, even when the head chef isn’t in a restaurant kitchen for a scene. Sometimes, the professional leaks into one’s personal life, so the chef may be unnaturally commanding with their family at home. Or they might not be.
Exploring a character is complex and subjective, which is where the fun lies.
Practise and Tune Your Instrument
Once you’ve done your script analysis, it is time to put the words in your body.
Treat your body and voice as instruments that need regular tuning. Do daily riyaaz of your voice and body, similar to riyaaz in the Indian classical tradition in music and dance.
- For body and movement, you can learn various body movement and dance forms—yoga, capoeira, kalaripayattu, and zumba are a few examples. These exercises will unlock your body for the performance. You will understand the power of your body in space, and the transitions between tension and flow in a scene.
- For the voice, do regular vocal riyaaz. Train in playing with your vocal range, volume, pitch, tone, and resonance to the text. Understanding the text (point 1) plays a strong part in these exercises. Students are taught how to read and interpret popular poems, stories, and monologues—for example, Viola’s monologue in scene 2, Act II of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ or Konstantin’s mother monologue in Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.
Get Guidance From Experts
There is no substitute for creating your own process of interpreting, rehearsing, and performing. But expert help is always a complement to self help. The presence of acting instructors, directors, and professional actors in the vicinity can inform your process so much more.
Where can you find access to the thespian community and a conducive learning space?
The best chance to gain that kind of experience is in a drama school. A drama school generally has several professional performing artists commissioned to train students. If you go to a drama school, they will teach you how to unlock your full potential in front of the camera or on stage.
The Drama School Mumbai runs courses and workshops which are conducted by a community of experienced theatre educators. We also have access to an international network of performing arts experts who have roles as visiting faculty. We train our students to become actors, theatre-makers, designers, musicians and producers of their own work—we make them independent artists equipped to navigate the industry.
As you accustom yourself to our expertise, you become an expert!