Using Actions and Tactics in Acting

Playing With Actions - Using Actions and Tactics in Acting


Every time we speak in real life, the content of what we say is already connected to why we say it and the desired outcome. In acting, we get the words, but the psychological action, the desired effect and the reason for saying it are missing. If acting is speaking emotionally, then we don’t really ever do anything to each other. But if we work out the function/intention of those words, they will become whole, and a speech/action will occur. 


In the beat we are working on, you should remind yourself of the NEED of the character (maybe we would call it the Character’s Superobjective). That is the master compass point, guiding us towards our understanding of the writer’s intention. 


With the NEED in mind, we examine the beat by beat WANTS of the character. The wants are the distillation of the NEED in every scene. For each beat, we ask - what does my character want the other character to do? If the need is REDEMPTION, the WANT might go purposefully TOWARDS or AWAY from the need. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. In John Patrick Shanley’s Danny and the Deep Blue Sea - Roberta needs redemption, but in the final act, she also doesn’t feel she deserves it and wants her one night stand to punish her for her sins. That’s a kind of redemption too, I guess. 


Tactics are how you get what you want in a scene. Some people call them actions, they are the actions we take to get what we want. Generally, they are transitive verbs like CONFRONT, PUNCH, LASH, CARESS. 


Choosing a TACTIC for each line is called ACTIONING. When we do this, we start with the WANT, we say if she wants to be PUNISHED, what kind of tactics will make him punish her? We might then ask how she wants him to FEEL? Angry? Insulted? Belittled? Disgusted? We ask which one fits this sentence of the script? Angry? Okay, which tactic might make him angry. Then we pick some tactics that might help us get there. 

Of course, the flow of tactics should follow the structure rise and fall of the story of the scene, so that our performance may also have that rise and fall of tactics. The tactics will be at their most intense when our need is most. 


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