Thespians On: Character

Puck and Oberon in the Arden Theatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tips for Developing a Character

So, you got cast in a musical, a movie, or whatever. How are you going to play your character? How do they behave? How do they respond to the other characters, the situations, the sets? What steps do you take to figure this out? Well, you need to figure out their motives. Figure out what makes them tick and how they feel. What are their relationships with the other characters? Think about these tips and you can find your character’s “voice.” (I mean, not their voice literally. That will just be your voice. But their…reasons for the things that they do and how they do them. See, voice is easier.)

1. What is your character’s motive in the story?

This is about identifying why your character does what they do, why they say what they say, and how they say it. A line or an action can have so many meanings, but the meaning can be determined by how it’s performed. What does your character intend to do with said line or action?

2. What do they express and what are they thinking?

These can be two different things. A character that has a big secret probably won’t be expressing it, but hiding it could have an affect on them or give them little habits, especially if it’s something they want to desperately want to reveal. Think about how they express themselves and if it lines up with who they truly are. If it does, then follow that path. If it doesn’t, add some hesitations or some differences in behavior.

3. What makes them fight for their personal resolution?

Basically, why are they doing what they are doing? What fuels their determination to complete whatever storyline has been planned for them? If you can identify that, it will really help with identifying the motive (thinking now, I should have put this before motives, but whatever) and figuring out how you want to play the part as a whole.

4. What do they know and what don’t they know?

Is your character in on the scoop? You have got to think about what they know. Will they try to incorporate what they know into what they say? Will they try to hide what they know? If they don’t know something, where does their confusion come in? If someone is talking about a subject you aren’t aware of, you’d be confused, right? Well, it’d be the same for your character.

5. How do they feel about other characters? Are there other characters?

Relationships with other characters are some of the most important aspects of a character’s personality. They determine the chemistry between characters/actors, as well as behavior (the way they hold themselves, the way they speak, etc.) around certain people and in different situations. Think about how each character met your own, how each character feels about you, and how you feel about each character.

6. What is their home life (or life offstage) like?

This isn’t something that’s absolutely necessary, but still something that should be considered. This involves what happens when they go home at the end of the day. It can affect how they act and how they feel. Write out a regular routine for your character, as well as a house and family summary in order to see what it’s like.

7. Do they have tics or habits? If so, what are they?

Does your character always need to know the time? Do they have a crick in their neck they constantly try to get rid of? Do they need to tap something, do they knot their hair, do they twirl a pencil? Think about it. It’s really important. Humans have tendencies to develop habits based on where they channel extra energy that they need to express. Write down some possibilities and try them all to see which one feels right.

These are all ways to figure out how to become your character. Generally, when people act they think of it like wearing a sort of mask or costume, but that won’t work. You have to become your character, allow them to take over your body, because if you don’t it just won’t seem very realistic. The things you say are just your character using your voice.
THIS ISSUE’S DICTION WARM-UP IS…

Toy Boat (x15)

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Audrey Blinman

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