Playing Mean or Nice:



Images of Rachel performing her sceneRachel didn’t want to look a ‘bitch’!!
“How do I do that?” she asked this week during a class.
She was considering the performance options for her scene.

One of The Rehearsal Room tools is a really simple way of creating a likeable person … and it works. Although it’s simple, there’s a fundamental understanding of process that sits behind this effective trick. I’m referring to The Rehearsal Room technique for managing character.

An actor creates a character by managing patterns of behaviour. When you describe a friend to someone, it is your friend’s dominant patterns of behaviour you use to explain the type of person they are. “She is very sporty and really intelligent”; “He is totally crazy and very funny”; “She is nice but incredibly flighty and erratic” … are all patterns of behaviour which reveal the nature of that person’s character.

For the actor determining a specific pattern of behaviour to control the performance is the way to create a character.   If your character needs to be a Type ‘A’ personality businessperson then dropping in an unconscious desire with the verb ‘to dominate’ will generally do the trick. But if your character is a quietly spoken academic then ‘to be respected’ is more likely to do the job. You can set yourself to effectively play a character that has those personality traits in about 3 – 5 seconds. What’s more, if your director then decides they want something different you can change to another personality type in a similar time frame.   The technique is as practical and effective as that.

This is not a completely new concept. It’s just using these verbs to label an ‘unconscious desire’ in much the same way that Stanislavski always envisaged. The difference is our approach to using verbs has been simplified to make it manageable and efficient, with a much better chance of delivering the outcome that the actor intended. That’s the key to all The Rehearsal Room processes. They have been tried and tested. Their value and effectiveness has been proven.


(If you would like to understand more about The Rehearsal Room ‘List of Playable Verbs’ email and I’ll send you a copy with some notes)

This is where Rachel comes in. Feeling that in some performances she was a darker and less likeable character than she intended, Rachel wanted to know how she could make her characters ‘nice’. The answer is really SIMPLE.

Drop in the desire ‘to share’, was my suggestion. The question that immediately arises is always …
“Why does that work?”
My explanation is that when using any other verb (‘to be liked’ or ‘to control’ or even ‘to be trusted’ etc) there is always the potential for negative baggage to be attached. For example, a person who wants ‘to be liked’ can sometimes seem desperately needy. ‘To be liked’ doesn’t necessarily generate likeable qualities. But ‘to share’ always does.

There is a simple reason for this. A person whose essential drive is ‘to share’ creates an evenhanded equity in a relationship. They will always want to be heard because they want to share their views and experience, but because they like sharing THEY WANT TO HEAR YOUR VIEWS AND EXPERIENCE, TOO. It is not possible to dislike someone whose desire is ‘to share’.

Rachel tried it in her scene. She was charming and likeable. It worked!! It always works. Even when she conducted a pretty mean conversation she still managed to do it in a likeable way, because she still wanted ‘to share’.

We have been testing these theories for a long time. In 2007 Michael was working his way through all The Rehearsal Room’s classes. One day he was returning some clothing to the dry cleaners because he had found when he got the items home that they weren’t clean. The manager of the dry cleaners watched him as he arrived carrying the items and Michael knew from the start that he wasn’t going to get any joy from the conversation. The manager aggressively rejected his claim. After quite a bit of heavy-duty argument Michael realized he wasn’t making progress. He told our class that night that he decided, at that point, to drop in ‘to share’. “The change was instant,” he said. The conversation quickly became quite pleasant and in a short time the manager agreed to take the clothing back. She re-cleaned it free of charge.

Maybe ‘to share’ works in life, too.

AND … If you want to create an unlikeable character use ‘to blame’.
It has the opposite effect to ‘to share’ with equal impact and equal efficiency.


(Email The Rehearsal Room for your ‘List of Playable Verbs’ NOW.
I’ll send you a copy of the list with some notes about this uniquely practical technique.)

Rachel has completed 4 terms at The Rehearsal Room.  
This is her first MASTER CLASS.
For this scene she was working with Jessica.

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