Step 1
By Kimon Fioretos
(inspired by great teachers of acting)

A part of the second year of Meinser technique tranning is somewhat dediccated to character development and script analysis. BUT...

In their attempt to flesh-out the character they are trying to experience, most actors tend to use what we might call the intuitive approach.
Meaning they do not really get into a script or play analysis; they just read the play or
script multiple times (Truth be told, usually once or twice) and then try to answer a few
basic questions.
As a result, they early on "see" a picture of their character in their mind's eye, or even
worst, they "hear" the scene, play or script in their "minds stage" and then try to act it
out! No wonder most of the performances assembled by such hasty decisions are either
one dimensional or cerebral.
Their intentions are good — unless they are just lazy. They do this to avoid overintellectualizing, a dreaded path — sometimes the wrong type of script analysis will do this to you — and end up avoiding facts altogether. They fear they will succumb to "paralysis from too much analysis", so they caress the surface of what the author wrote.
However, there is intellectual script analysis, and then there is acting script analysis.

The first one is fun for bar conversations, friendly discussions, and academic
dissertations, but only the latter will genuinely help an actor flesh his or her character out.

Unfortunately, both actors and directors will often end up doing the former by over
indulging in social and psychological babble.

Now there is a vast difference between what the author presents to us as hard facts (in
their true nature are always composite — compiled by smaller facts and by patterns
of behavior) and what the actor usually reads, most of the times what resembles a
simple-minded assumption deriving from a singular fact with absolute disregard to
its composite nature.
Once that simple-minded premature assumption has been made by the actor, it will be
chased relentlessly, resulting unavoidably in a one-dimensional character on stage. This
single dimensionality results from an ageless pressure by teachers and directors who ask
only one question — albeit an important one — what does your character want? When
answered, the actor single-mindedly follows this hollow objective as an independent idea
that doesn't follow or resemble human behavior's true nature.
Yes, the objective is fundamental; in fact, Stanislavsky stated and emphasized its
importance. But what drove the character to want this objective (he or she didn't
parachute into this decision) and how he or she goes on chasing that objective — the
pattern of behavior that explains both why and how — are the driving forces, and without
them, the objective will just remain an idea, a concept chased by the actor instead of a
core necessity that they cannot live without.
These behavioral patterns that they have to be fleshed out by stating and investigating the
hard composite facts of the play will explain and give the actor true meaning and

"The broader the assumption the actors makes on facts, the shallower the information
they get from them is".

You must discover the consistent behavioral pattern that runs through the play, this
pattern will consist of hard composite facts, and in turn, in their composite nature, they
will consist of smaller facts that create the said pattern.
Of course, the author has already given you facts that attempt to set the scene like town,
country, season, year etc. The actor will always be tempted to generalize on facts like
these, but the good actors will remind themselves of Meisner's adage :

"always be specific"

because each one of these "images" that the author bestows upon us can and will produce
so much more for us if we only let them.
Now a lot of teachers and director instruct the actors to disregard from the very beginnin the parentheticals — not bad advice when it comes to performance and to drive this point
forward, let me quote Peter Brook:

"A word does
not start as a word—it is an end product which begins as an impulse, stimulated by attitude and behavior which dictate the need for expression. This process occurs inside
the dramatist; it is repeated inside the actor. Both may only be conscious of the words, but both for the autho and then for the actor, the word is a small visible portion of a gigantic unseen formation. Some writers attempt to nail down their meaning and intentions in stage directions an explanations, yet we cannot help being struck by the fact that the best dramatists explain themselves the least. They recognize that further indications will most probably be
useless. They recognize that the only way to find the true path to the speaking of a word is through a process tha parallels the original creative one."

Nevertheless, from the actor's Analysis standpoint in these "directions", "meanings an intentions," there might be intricately hidden small behavioral useful patterns that should
be taken under consideration at this stage.
Do not look at them as obligatory emotional states that you have to wear on your
performance in the end like a lifeless marionette but as guides to the overall behavioral pattern that you should consider.
So when you see descriptions as "shyly" "shaken" "unwillingly" or "looks out the
window", "reads a newspaper", etc don't feel obligated to follow them later on instead, let
them inform you because these are signposts that must be observed if you want to flesh
out your characters pattern.

For example, if a character, whenever their spouse addresses them, is desperately trying
to find something to do and to "escape" from (reading the newspaper, looking out the
window etc.)it says something about them and their situation.

I am a proponent of early line memorization without becoming a line reading, but if the
actor indulges to early on into line study without having considered such preliminaries h or she inevitably will allow shallow judgments to ensue into their performance later on.

To make things simple first and foremost, the actor should start by listing the facts he or
she sees in the text "given" by the author.
Assumptions on these facts (facts that should be meticulously studied and archived on
paper) should be set aside as much as possible in the beginning, at least until a pattern
starts to emerge.

We are not in absolute disregard of instinct nor of inspiration. These are necessary
components of acting, but while we delve into the analysis process, we should, for its
most part, be scholars of the character's behavioral pattern if we want it to make a lasting impression on us.

We can have one up to three lists of these patterns as we are fleshing them out.
The first one (usually the bigger one) will be of the most obvious and dominating facts;
this list will grow faster and longer.
Then we might have two more lists (columns) with smaller actions, result actions, and
reactions that complement the more extensive list with the dominating pattern's behavior.
Often items from these lists might, later on, be transferred to the larger list.

All these facts must culminate from the given text of the author. They often times might
seem repetitious but by no means should they be overlooked by the actor as much as it is
tempting to do so, their repetitiousness is evidence, and of their behavior and by placing
them or moving them from column to column, we might find that the enlighten and
reinforce the pattern.

Explaining the columns

After a couple of first readings, there will probably emerge two or three prominent patters
on behavior. For example, our hero:
(First column title ) needs his freedom, he feels trapped
(Second column title) he yearns for recognition
(Third column title) he is an asshole with everyone
Under each distinct pattern of behavior that we have now recognized (fist, second, and
third), we start writing the facts that indicate this behavior (words- behavior, etc.), for example:

Column one
— Needs freedom, feels trapped —
● Reads magazines about extreme sports
● He is looking out the window all the time.
● He is always on his mobile sending messages
● Tells his wife he hates home cooking
● Tells his wife that he never wanted a long term relationship
● His wife tells him he drives too fast.
● Tells his wife he will not make it to the diner he is too busy.
● His wife tells her best friend that he is always nervous and he can't settle down.
● After his wife reveals her pregnancy, he doesn't come home for a couple of days.
● He hates the fact that his friends call him a dad and a family man.
● He starts micro-dosing on drugs.
Now the list might continue for two or three more pages.


Then the second column.
— He yearns for recognition—
● He is jealous of his friends buying new fast cars.
● Even though his wife tells him that she is pregnant, he buys a convertible instead of a
family car (this after a while can be easily be moved to the first column )
● He overspends
● Carries a briefcase with nothing in it (just his lunch)
● He doesn't like his house because it is located in a poor area.
This list will probably be smaller.


Third column
— He is an asshole with other people—
● He is sarcastic about most of his friends with his wife.
● He is sarcastic about his wife in front of most of his friends.
● Refuses to do anything that his wife likes
● Calls his wife's sister a baby factory
● Tell his wife she dresses like a maid (that can move later on in the second column)
● Talks about his dead dad as if he was a low life.

All three columns indicate recurring human behavior patterns. The first one is the
dominant one for this character, and the second and third we can call them the secondary patterns (but still very important if we want our hero to have three dimensions)
Now, as you might have noticed, all three titles of the behavioral patterns are in the
negative, meaning I have expressed his primary patterns in a negative term instead of a
positive one. Yes, it could be possible to do so — instead of writing, he "feels trapped he
needs freedom" he is "a dreamer, he is a free spirit," but notice how this would make the
character less interesting.

Again, after a while, I might even disregard the "wants freedom" and stay with "feels
trapped" because it creates in me an even bigger feeling for the character and his
predicament. To achieve the experiential qualities of the character, the negatives will
always trump the single-dimensional positives.

continue to fleshing out 2