A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel

By Melissa Bruder, Lee Michael Cohn, Madeleine Olnek, Nathaniel Pollack, Robert Previtio, Scott Zigler, David Mamet

6 operating actors describe their tools and philosophies of the theater. All have labored with playwright David Mamet on the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

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Extra resources for A Practical Handbook for the Actor

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In the case of Stanley and Stella, the characters are husband and wife. However, in a given situation, husband and wife can be pals, adversaries, best friends, lovers, student and teacher, or rivals, just to name a few. Just as you choose the essence of the action specifically, you must define for yourself the nature of the relationship with equal specificity because it will make the action that much more meaningful to you. Again, the question to ask yourself is, What do husband and wife mean in this particular scene?

Through practice, it will become second nature for you to place your attention on the other person in the scene. Also keep in mind that replacing your attention on the other person in the scene is the best solution for those moments when you’ve no idea what to do. That other person will always hold the key as to how to go about executing your action. Although it is okay to remind yourself of your action if you find yourself lost or confused in a scene, don’t constantly compare each moment to the action.

Once you have used the as-if to personally invest in a given scene, the lines and attendant physical activity therein are simply tools to aid you in executing your action. The great debate throughout the history of acting is whether the actor must feel what his or her character is ostensibly feeling at any given moment. The bottom line is: What does it look like to the audience? The crucial thing to remember is that the actor is not onstage to have an experience or to expose himself to the audience, but to help tell a story.

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