Scene study is a different process than cold reading. Cold reading is immediate, heightened, choices are made to give a “performance“. Scene study is a “process“, a day-to-day discovery of the play structure, its spine and theme as well as a discovery and exploration of who the characters are. The play reveals itself slowly from “ground zero”. Cold reading is a result-oriented technique which “demands” bold and accurate choices to be “performed”…now! Scene study is a slow exploration and preparation process, a journey inward to understand the ideas of the writer and how to best reveal his or her intentions.
The first readings…to find the “spine” or the theme of the material. What it is about? What is the author intending to show or prove or reveal about human nature? What is the plot? What happens from scene to scene…act to act…how does the theme unfold? Who are the main characters? Who is the protagonist (hero) and antagonist(s)(villain)? What is the main conflict of the play or script? What is the main clash of wills? What are the characters going through? What do characters say and what is their relationship to other characters? What are the exact circumstances surrounding each scene? What are the events (facts)? What are the complications (things that go wrong)? Where is the climax(usually toward the end). It is the deciding factor or twist that makes everything irreversible…and leads to the resolution (the way it ends).
1-Plays & screen plays are created to be acted not read. The play is broken down into scenes organized by the plot. Each scene is divided into “doable units” or “beats“. Each beat has an objective (from your character’s point of view); a beat changes when a new element or event is being introduced (usually someone says or does something). The task of the actor/director team is to find the best, most clear, simple & entertaining course of “actions” to let the theme and ideas of the playwright come through. The final “blocking” is the result of the rehearsal process, not the starting point. There are ideally as many ways to direct a scene as there are directors to direct it.
2-First approach…ground zero…read, study, relax, let the play speak to you. Do not impose your point of view or judge too soon what it is all about. Let it work on you. Try not to read as your character but instead without coloring or emotional input. Read it out loud and with your partner as many ways and as many times as you want.
3-Place…the most grounding and important element. Where am I and what am I doing here? Packing, cleaning, looking at photographs, getting ready to go out, expecting guests, watching TV, cooking, fixing a lamp…?
4-Circumstances…hunting for facts as to what the situations in each scene are: time, season, date, location, surrounding events and happenings. Hunt for the unusual, the odd and different. You can safely assume that in each scene there is something different happening that gives the scene its flavor. It’s rarely the “same old boring day”…something’s up!
5-Character-relationship-what am I going through here (what would I be going through versus character to find the differences). Identification with the human element, the struggle.
6-Improvise on different circumstances-characters-relationships-conflicts, to find more interesting identification with the circumstances at hand.
7-Beats-the breaking down of beats rehearsed one by one and then consecutively. More rehearsal techniques will be discussed. The important factor is that repetition itself, even though it is obviously very important and crucial, is not enough. The parallel step is creating, generating, inventing ideas and their immediate applications.
Everything in acting has to be “translated” into doings and then tested for its value and power. It is the #1 governing rule and principle. Actors often forget that interpretation is making choices.