Category Archives: Acting

Problems with Speed and Meaning

Actors who are good at memorizing often speed through the words because it’s so effortless for you to remember.  Many actors are trying to remember the words, so they naturally put in the natural pauses; others aren’t, so it’s easy to get the engine revved up and lose the audience.

Read that last paragraph quickly, and you can follow it.  Read the following speech from King Lear, and you can’t:

Detested kite, thou liest!

My train are men of choice and rarest parts

That all particulars of duty know

And in the most exact regard support

The worships of their name. O most small fault,

How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,

Which like an engine wrenched my frame of nature

From the fixed place, drew from my heart all love,

And added to the gall! O Lear, Lear, Lear!

(strikes his head)

Beat at this gate that let thy folly in

And thy dear judgment out!

 

I could say “slow down” but actually it’s not so much that I want you to slow down as to have an intention when you speak and use the words to play the intention.  Slowing down won’t do that.  So, there are two tricks that work well to slow you down.

  1. Figure out your goals, and then before you even start speaking, wait as long as it takes to find that goal inside, and only then, speak.
  2. Go through your lines and underline 2 words per line that you’re going to play.  Then play ONLY those words to the audience.  How to choose?  Usually, it’s a verb and a noun, and usually one of the words is the last word of the line and the other is in the middle. But it depends.

Here’s the speech from King Lear and I underlined a couple of important words per line to play. Always the last word.  One time I underlined three words.

Detested kite, thou liest!

My train are men of choice and rarest parts

That all particulars of duty know

And in the most exact regard support

The worships of their name. O most small fault,

How ugly didst thou in Cordelia show,

Which like an engine wrenched my frame of nature

From the fixed place, drew from my heart all love,

And added to the gall! O Lear, Lear, Lear!

(strikes his head)

Beat at this gate that let thy folly in

And thy dear judgment out!

 

So, those are the tricks.

 

Wait for the impulse and intention to speak.

Play only two words per line, almost always the last word.

 

Homework:

Record yourself doing several of your speeches

Go back and read the speech and record it playing only 2 words per line.

Go back and record yourself again, while waiting for the intention to come to you.

 

What worked: Count till 5 at every period.  Look at fellow actors upstage or downstage ear.