Pin It

The 2 Most Important Questions to Ask in a Scene

douglas-taurelWritten by Douglas Taurel

I believe that the two most important questions you must ask yourself when breaking down a scene or a monologue are:

  1. “What does the character want?” and
  2. “Why do they want it?”

If you can always start by answering these two important questions then you are 90 percent towards success in the scene.

By answering these questions you will be more grounded in your work, more truthful and more importantly, more confident. The answers don’t have to be perfect, and in many cases you make up the why, but all that matters is that it makes sense with the circumstances of the story and that it exists for you. If it exists for you, it will exist for the audience.

This is true for any scene, whatever the medium, and no matter how big or small. And once the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the the scene are answered, the ‘how’ takes care of itself. You will know how to fight for what you want once you know what it is you are fighting for, and why you are fighting for it.

Here are two quick examples by one of my favorite playwrights, Tennessee Williams.

In “Kingdom of Earth,” there is a character named Chicken who is basically asking for forgiveness from the other character Myrtle. He shares with her that life is hard and to exist in this world, you must be strong to be a man.

Chicken: “I think life just plain don’t care about the weak. A man and his life has to be made of the same stuff or one will break and the one that breaks won’t be life.”

  • What does he want? He wants forgiveness from her. Remember forgiveness is never self-pity. In life we hate to see self-pity and this is especially true on stage. Always fight for forgiveness. Get the other character to understand and see your point of view. You are right!
  • Why? Because he has murdered his only son because he was not man enough for this world, as Chicken sees it. In his point of view, his son and his wife will be better off, and he has done them all a great favor.

In “The Glass Menagerie,” Tom’s last speech is always tricky because you really never know to whom you are speaking. It is up to actors to choose who we are speaking to and to craft the want and why. In playing this role, I always chose to craft that I am speaking to Amanda, my mother.

  • What do I want? I want her to approve of my decision for leaving Laura and her behind.
  • Why? If I don’t pursue my dreams now, I will never have my freedom and I will die. This is my only chance to save myself and my dreams. Always be selfish!

Once you are clear and specific on what it is you are doing, specifics from your own personal life will begin to affect you and begin to blend into your work. You begin to use yourself and your history to help tell the story of the character. I believe acting is the use of different acting techniques and your own personal experiences to create a sense of truth and reality for the world of your character and for the audience.

An accomplished actor and producer, Douglas Taurel has starred in television roles on Nurse Jackie, Damages, NYC 22, The Americans and Person of Interest. He is active in the independent film scene, where he currently has lead roles in two independent films that will soon be screened in film festivals across the country, “Waystation to the Stars” and “La Croix Rising.”

Follow him on Twitter: @DouglasTaurel

Leave a Reply

Latest Videos

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/cate-blanchett-asks-graduating-s.jpg
Cate Blanchett Asks Graduating Students a Heavy Question: “What the hell can you do with an arts degree?”
“What the hell can you do with an arts degree?” Many actors ask themselves that when they find themselves struggling to make it in Hollywood while saddled with student loans. It was Cate Blanchett who posed that question recently to graduating students at Macquarie University in Sydney where she received an honorary doctorate degree. The […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/matthew-mcconaughey-rallies-his.jpg
Matthew McConaughey Rallies his Alma Mater Football Team to Victory with the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Chant
Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey delivered a different kind of speech two weeks ago when he spoke with the Texas Longhorns football team after their close 20-17 loss to UCLA. The moment was a bit odd, but hilarious at the same time. Coach Charlie Strong was the one who invited the Dallas Buyers Club star to inspire the […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/watch-anna-gunn-reveals-her-awkw.jpg
Watch: Anna Gunn Reveals Her Awkward ‘Breaking Bad’ Audition Details
Though Breaking Bad was obviously a career highpoint for every actor involved, they all must move on to their next projects (except for the few who are involved in the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul). This includes Anna Gunn, who portrayed Walter White’s wife Skyler on the award-winning series series. Gunn’s new series, the […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/watch-conversations-with-maggie.jpg
Watch: Conversations with Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott of New CBS Series ‘Stalker’
Both Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott are TV veterans, with Q recently starring in Nikita and McDermott recently starring in both American Horror Story and Hostages. This season both star as the leads of Stalker, a drama series on CBS about LAPD detectives who specialize in crimes that have to do with stalking. In a […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/watch-conversations-with-the-nor.jpg
Watch: Conversations with ‘The Normal Heart’ Actor and ‘The Last Ship’ Director Joe Mantello
Joe Mantello received an Emmy nomination for his performance in HBO’s The Normal Heart, and what makes that particularly extraordinary is that it was Mantello’s first TV role since a 1998 appearance on Law & Order. In fact, besides appearing in the Broadway production of The Normal Heart in 2011, Mantello hasn’t had any other […]