Monday, August 15, 2005

My Method (of) Acting

Part Two: Research & Script Preparation

Tonight marks the beginning of rehearsals. So I thought I'd better touch on the next phase of my process.

Since this is my first historical character I've played, research is going to be very important. I'm reading biographies of both Charles and his wife Anne,
as well as listening to popular music of the period. Some initial impressions:

  • Charles' grandfather fled Sweden because of a brewing political scandal and marital infidelities that resulted in the birth of his Father. That may explain a few things.
  • There is a great picture of Charles on the witness stand at the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. At first glance, he appears uncomfortable. But the more I look at it, the more it seems that Charles is always wound up pretty tight.
  • Charles had no idea what would happen after he landed The Spirit of St. Louis in Paris. Maybe the kidnapping and murder of his child was a necessary sacrifice for all the adulation, fame, and money.

This process will continue through rehearsals, so I'll offer more insights as they come up.

Now, the next important thing I do is prepare my "working script". I write out all of my lines (and their cues, if necessary) by hand for two reasons:

  1. To help memorize my lines.
  2. To prepare the lines for textual analysis.

For a comprehensive explanation of the kind of textual analysis I do, please read The Actor and the Text by Cicely Berry. The process is pretty simple, yet layered. First, I look at each sentence and determine their subjects, verbs, and any important modifiers. What if a sentence contains more than one modifier? Then I try to determine which modifier is the most important. This is one of many choices that we actors have to make in the crafting of a role. What is of most importance to this character at this moment. Because this can always change later on. I also pay particular attention to slang words. From what I've been able to determine, Lucky don't use no slang. Interesting...

Then, I look for sound patterns, both consonants and vowels. Just doing this provides as much insight into your character as any biographical research. Why? Well, the prevalence of a particular sound (or sound pattern) can indicate one or more vocal choices you can make. People have different vocal habits: slurring, rate of speech, diphthongs, and accents. So you can play with these patterns to develop your character's speech.

Lastly, I divide up the text into "breaths" and "beats." What's a beat? Well, let's look at these famous lines and I'll explain.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?


Ok, I'll show you my beat diagram of these lines:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

This is the first beat since it is a complete thought. As an added bonus, it can be comfortably uttered in one breath.

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, |
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?


This is the second beat. Now, it's longer than the first. But it is a long thought, and you are probably going to take a breath at some point. I choose to take my breath in the middle, but you could take your breath after "troubles", thereby giving the last line more vocal weight.

Shakespeare, or any other verse text, is pretty no-nonsense when it comes to determining breaths and beats. Modern blank verse or text is a bit trickier. Punctuation can help you out, but not always. Take a look at some David Mamet and you'll see what I mean.

This process is almost complete, I'll probably wrap it up this week before rehearsals really get going.

Next up: the rehearsal process.

3 comments:

lemming said...

I think you're exactly right about the picture of CL at the H trial. At least I had the same reaction that you did to the picture, and if you and I agree, that's proof that we're exactly right.

oddangel said...

Charles' grandfather fled Sweden because of a brewing political scandal and marital infidelities that resulted in the birth of his Father. That may explain a few things.

Interesting. What do you think this explains? I only have a cursory knowledge of Charles, so could you tell the rest of the story? (If you have the chance, that is. I know you're pretty busy these days....)

tommyspoon said...

oddangel,

Lucky fathered 8 children out of wedlock. Yeah, you could say he got around a bit...