I am doing a 15 minute skit based on the short story ‘On the Sidewalk Bleeding’ and I play Laura, a girl who is deeply in love with her boyfriend, but he is killed in a gang fight and she finds him dead in an alley. I’m not sure how to get in to character for the scene where she finds him. Any tips or suggestions?
I find the best way to approach these highly emotional scenes is to not force it and use your imagination. Start just asking “What If”. Think about the situation and ask yourself, “What if this was happening to me? How would I feel? What thoughts would come through my head? What would be my first reaction? What would I do to try to change things”, etc.
Start imagining the relationship between your character and her boyfriend before the tragedy. How did they meet? How did they fall in love? What did she love about him? Imagine a lot of details and specific moments. When we lose someone, we tend to remember specific moments (a smile, something they said, a moment where they made you laugh, etc.)
Don’t just make up details for the sake of it. Keep questioning how your character felt as you build the backstory so you start to understand her better. What were her fears? Was she worried about gangs? Did she think her boyfriend and her would always be together? Would marry? What were her dreams before the event?
You can use the Chekhov acting technique and question your character directly (ie. “show me what you would do in this terrible moment”) and keep questioning until you feel a connection on an emotional level. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll start feeling the inner life of your character if you just keep asking questions and using your imagination rather than making any decisions ahead of time on what she must feel. Some people completely close off when they experience loss and are unable to feel anything, others fall apart completely, others are overwhelmed with anger or denial.
If you are trained in Method Acting, you could do an emotional memory exercise. I prefer to work with my imagination but everyone’s different.
Hope this helps. Good luck! I hope you use the comments section to let us know how the performance went.