Script Analysis for Actors

Script Analysis for Actors

You’ve got the part! Congratulations. It is exciting to open a fresh new script and begin the journey of building your character. Once you have read the script then the next important part of any actor’s job is to begin script analysis. Good script analysis will uncover the truth about a character and help them understand what is happening in the story world. Nothing bugs a director more than an actor who comes to the first day of rehearsal without some knowledge of the play, and some early ideas and decisions on character. By exploring the text in some depth, you’ll not only be familiar with your character and the text—but you’ll also approach rehearsals with confidence and readiness.

Why Analyse?

We cannot determine a solution until we have correctly defined the problem. And that is why script analysis is so important. We cannot decide how to act the scene if we haven’t first defined for ourselves what is happening in it. Script analysis is the key to understanding the scene. Actors must read the scene over and over and go through every word and every bit of punctuation. They must learn how to take in and understand all the information the writing is giving them. For example, very happy is different from happy. An exclamation mark is telling you something different from a period. How the language is written tells you so much about the character. If it’s written in slang, that is very different from dialogue written in proper English. The choice of words tells you something about this person. Does the character always end what he or she says with a negative statement? Are there lines the character repeats? One common mistake is when a writer writes two sentences and the actor combines them into one. When you do that, you’re losing a colour or a beat in that section. Script analysis gives your work specificity and authenticity.

The First Read

Script analysis is a process and the process may be slightly different depending on the actor. However, in general, script analysis starts with the basics and gradually adds details. On the first read through it’s important to understand the situations and events affecting a character at each point. These script “facts” are the given circumstances that help to determine the actions you will take in performance. As you read a script, make a list of all the facts about your character. Anything you can glean from a script is helpful. What do they do for a living? Where do they live? Who is closest to them?

Beats

After you have a feel for the character, map out the story into scenes and beats. Good scripts are written as a series of related events that lead from one to another. The idea of mapping out a scene is that it helps the actor to understand the story sequentially. It also provides built-in points for action change. Look for points in the script where the setting changes or the characters on stage change, or time passes. These are common ways that scenes change. Beat changes are smaller shifts within the scenes where the characters may change their action, attitude, or topic of conversation.

Super-Objectives & Objectives

Super-objectives and objectives determine your character’s motivations and actions. The super-objective is the one goal that they wish to achieve throughout the whole story. In other words, your character’s life goal. Your character will also have objectives scene by scene. Ask yourself, “What does my character want other characters in the scene to do?” The answer to that question is your character’s objective. Each scene objective must contribute to the super-objective. Objectives determine why your character is doing/saying anything in the script.

Obstacles

Next, identify the obstacles scene by scene. This is an important step because they raise the stakes of the scene. Obstacles are the aspects that will stop or hinder a character from achieving his or her individual objective. For example, a character may need to make a cup of tea to keep another character in a scene. The character searches for tea bags to make the cup of tea and finds there are none. This is an obstacle to their objective.

Acting is a collaborative exercise and actors must also take a director’s opinion into account. Listen to what a director says and incorporate it into your character in an honest way, based on your own analysis of the script. Sometimes your initial analysis won’t be correct and you will have to make adjustments throughout the rehearsal process. But, if you start with a strong foundation, built from a thorough analysis of the script, changes will be minor.


To find out more about how to analyse a script effectively contact The Performing Arts Conservatory today and speak to us about our professional development program, which includes a script analysis component.

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