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Acting School Monthly Newsletter -- Have Fun Working on Roles
March 14, 2012

Have Fun Working on Roles with the Chekhov Technique

Here's the news from Acting School Stop, your one stop on the road to an acting career.

In this issue... It's all about the Michael Chekhov acting technique! Read our new page on this acting method to learn all about it and read an exclusive article on how to have more fun working on roles by trusting your instincts and making the most of your creative imagination.

1) Article of the Month - Preparing a Role with the Chekhov Technique

One of the great things about the Chekhov technique is that it's rooted in every actor's natural creativeness and inspiration. It's not about analyzing a script and following a set of rules to "break down" a scene or character. It's about trusting your instincts as an artist and letting your imagination run free. If you feel like working on a part should be more fun and intuitive, take a minute to read this overview of how Michael Chekhov suggested actors approach a role in his book, To The Actor. For an introduction, also read our new page on the Chekhov technique.

One of the things Chekhov stresses in his book is that there is no one way to work on a part. Except for reading the script enough times to be familiar with it, an actor has many options and tools to work on any given role. Below is a list of four Chekhov techniques that can be used together or individually to develop a role.

1. Working with Images

Imagine your character in different scenes, concentrating on the things that appeal to you the most. By just doing this, you will eventually start seeing and hearing your character. You will start to see what they look like, but also what their inner life is like and how they sound.

Start asking questions from your character regarding different moments in the play or script. See the answers through images you create in your imagination. Keep questioning your character until you get images that satisfy by stirring feelings inside you or making you want to act. When they do, you can start incorporating these images into your acting.

2. Creating Atmospheres and Sensations

Create one of the atmospheres in the play all around you and submit yourself to its influence. Just like we change when we enter a place with a different atmosphere, so the new atmosphere you created will give you great insight into the character by how it influences it.

Take it a step further and think of the general qualities of your character. You don't have to analyze the script, just go with your intuition. Is your character more fearful, aggressive, thoughtful? Incorporate this quality in your character's gestures (moving fearfully or aggressively, for example), changing the quality as often as you need to until it feels right.

By incorporating these qualities in your movements, you will arouse specific feelings within you. Don't judge them and don't force them, just go with them to explore your character further.

3. Using the Psychological Gesture

What do you think drives your character? What is their main desire? Take your first impression and come up with a gesture that fully embodies that desire. Start with your arms and hands and move on to the shoulders, head, torso and legs, trying things out as you go. For example, if your character's main desire is to get something out of his reach, your Psychological Gesture may be a stance where your entire body is erect, arms stretched above, head tilted back and looking up.

Once you have found the right Psychological Gesture for your character, you can use it to prepare each time you go on stage. This will keep you possessed by the objective, making the drive of your character to get what he wants much more real than by just telling yourself, "I want this".

4. Building the Character

Another approach is to start exploring your character from the outside in by inhabiting its body. Imagine your character's outer appearance and create an imaginary body to dwell in. Just like we act different when we wear different clothes, you will start to act different when you wear this imaginary body. Practice all the motions of your character as defined in the script with your new body. Locate an imaginary center that feels right for your character (for example, a grounded character may have a low center while an airhead may have the center above their head) and make every impulse to move come from that center.

These four Chekhov techniques to approach a role can be a lot of fun for creative actors, so why not try them and see what happens? As Michael Chekhov said, "The Technique of acting can never be properly understood without practicing it."

2) What's new on

The Michael Chekhov Acting Technique
We've added the Michael Chekhov approach to our overview of acting techniques. Click to learn what it's about, see sample exercises and decide if it's for you.

3) Best from the Blog

How do I become an actress?
How much does an acting school cost? How do I become a famous actress?

Getting a Part without a Callback Audition
What if you did not get on the call back list? Could you still get a smaller part?

4) A word of Inspiration

"The audience as a whole senses the play with its heart and not with its brain." - Michael Chekhov

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Good luck with your acting career!

Alex Swenson

Acting School

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