Acting

On Finding Different Meanings in a Scene

Consider this brilliant scene:

A: Do you like my dress?

B: Yes, it’s beautiful.

Imagine you’re playing the role of B. And that is your only line in the entire show.

The “obvious” choice is that B thinks A’s dress is beautiful. It’s the obvious choice, and it’s also the least interesting choice.

  • What if B is lying? Why would B lie? Because B intentionally wants A to look bad.
  • What if B is lying? Why would B lie? Because B is going to a function that A wasn’t invited to.
  • What if B is lying? Why would B lie? Because B feels that A has always lied to her.
  • What if B is lying? Why would B lie? Because B is a people pleaser and says what she thinks people want to hear.

What if B is telling the truth? Are there interesting ways for B to tell the truth? Of course!

  • B is overwhelmed by the beauty of the dress and needs to compose herself before speaking.
  • B had her eye on the same dress in the store and is forlorn that A bought it before she got a chance.
  • B loves the dress but is jealous that A could afford it and she couldn’t.

If you only have one line in a show, the director’s probably not going to spend a lot of time with you to develop your character, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one.

Interesting choices – they don’t require a huge shift in performance, nor should they draw focus from the scene, but the interesting choice makes everything on stage more three-dimensional.

There’s no such thing as a small role, just small choices. Make big choices. Make interesting choices.

About the author

Craig Mason