Are Characters Puppets Or People?

Summarized from an article in Script Magazine, it is useful to explore characters from the actor’s perspective. A character is defined as a conglomeration of human traits expressed both verbally (dialogue) and physically (actions). They are representation of people. Actors often prefer characters to be constructed from the inside out. Tell them what motivates and drives the characters and they’ll work out how to play the role.

Some actors believe that the actor doesn’t need to become the character, only the illusion of one based on the words on the page. The actor is free of feelings and therefore detached from the character. The puppeteer controls the puppet.

Stanislavsky believed that actors must inhabit the role of the character and manifest their characteristics as if they were human. Actors are free to psychoanalytically explore their characters with sensation, feeling and emotions. The puppeteer becomes the puppet.

Strasberg believed that actors must live inside their characters before the story starts. Then, the actors are free to take their characters where they wish. The puppet controls the puppeteer.

Characters are broken down into three basic dimensions:

PHYSIOLOGY – Expression of behavior

SOCIOLOGY – Environment and situation

PSYCHOLOGY – Motivation to achieve a goal. Psychology is a product of physiology and sociology.

Given that all characters are written for actors to play, it is worthwhile considering how actors tackle a new role.


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