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

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Latest Videos

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/bryan-cranston-emmy-award-speech.jpg
Watch: Bryan Cranston’s Emmy Award Speech: “I love to act. It is a passion of mine and I will do it until my last breath.”
The Emmy Awards weren’t the most exciting awards show this year but with Bryan Cranston winning for Outstanding Actor in a Drama for Breaking Bad, we at least got to hear one heck of a fantastic acceptance speech. “I was a kid who always looked for the shortcut,” he said. “I did happen to stumble […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/audition-tapes-gerard-butler-aud.jpg
Audition Tapes: Gerard Butler Auditions for ‘Dracula 2000′
Check out Gerard Butler auditioning for the role of Dracula in the movie, Dracula 2000. The film, about a group of thieves who break into a chamber expecting to find paintings, but instead find Dracula himself, also starred Christopher Plummer, Jonny Lee Miller and Nathan Fillion. Bulter has some sweet rock star hair, huh?  
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/interview-matt-dillon-and-carla.jpg
Interview: Matt Dillon and Carla Gugino Talk ‘Wayward Pines’
FOX has a new limited-series that’s got a terrific cast and interesting premise. It’s called Wayward Pines and stars Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, Toby Jones, Terrance Howard, Juliette Lewis, Tim Griffin and Shannyn Sossamon. The show, whose pilot was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is about a Secret Service agent (Dillon) goes to […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/interview-wayward-pines-stars-ti.jpg
Interview: ‘Wayward Pines’ Stars Tim Griffin and Shannyn Sossamon on the Show, Their Characters and More!
Griffin and Sossamonwere at Comic-Con where they sat in on some roundtable interviews to talk about the show.
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/interview-m-night-shyamalan-talk.jpg
Interview: M. Night Shyamalan Talks ‘Wayward Pines’ and Why He Expanded a Young Actors Role on the Show
I talked to Shyamalan at Comic-Con in a roundtable interview where he talked about the cast, what he learned from working in TV and how young actor Charlie Tahan started out with a small part but as the story grew, so did his role.