The Importance of Character Study

FROM ISAAC HOTCHKISS (AKA MR. LAWRENCE)

Isaac Hotchkiss Arts Umbrella Theatre ConservatoryAlas, I, Isaac, am back once again with a new update and more notes on the wonders of the artist’s process (I’m in an artsy mood, let me have this.)

When we have officially started our rehearsal for Act 2 of Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, and everyone is really getting into the groove, we started wearing clothes that reflected our characters. Everyone’s really getting a good feel for their characters: how they talk and how they move around the space. Now, we’re able to make offers to our director for how our character is moving in a particular scene. Everything is looking even brighter than it was a couple weeks ago, so again, we can only go up from here.

Putting in character work is essential for truly giving a great performance. Even if you think you share enough attributes with a character that you could just use yourself in that character, YOU ARE WRONG.

You really need to delve deep into a character to find what makes him tick, what makes her mad, what makes him happy, what makes her sad. This is so crucial, because you can’t just use your own attributes and reactions because it might not be entertaining to watch. The audience would likely just be watching you reacting to certain hardships in a minor way, rather than the full pomp and circumstance—with every ounce of your effort—that the stage requires.

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From personal experience, trying to use my personal attributes for Mr. Lawrence would have been an absolute failure. Not because I don’t share enough qualities with him, but because it just wouldn’t be good enough. Like I said before, all the qualities of Mr. Lawrence that I don’t give those kind of important feelings to suffer, like understanding the underlying reasons he’s upset or quiet.

From character study, I found all kinds of nuances in Mr. Lawrence, and also identified a problem in acting that I really needed to know: a habit of not keeping my eyes open. It meant I was losing the ever-so-important connection with my scene partner and the audience. So basically the kiss of death for any performance.

With the help of my director, I’ve really been able to overcome this fatal flaw, turning Mr. Lawrence into a much more interesting and complicated character than I first thought possible. He’s someone who knows when there are certain tensions and feelings in the room. And he really knows more than he’s letting on, and he has things to hide—and understands that he needs to hide them.

To sum up, character work does so much more for a character than one might initially think. Not only does it expose any preconceived notions one might make a about the character, it also offers insights into the character that allow the actor to play with and bump up the character’s strengths, and expose their weaknesses. In the process, it also sheds light on the notions one might make about themselves.

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