Answers 4 Actors

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review of The Right Questions for Actors plus more

My News

It seems like ages since I was in Hong Kong in May. I have so enjoyed hearing what all my Hong Kong friends have been doing. So many fun exciting projects. It is so much fun to watch your projects grow into these beautiful exciting films, television shows and theater performances! Thanks for keeping me posted.

So what is going on with me. Well I am so pleased and honored to share a review of my book, The Right Questions for Actors. It was online at the NoHoArtsDistrict. I have put a copy here.

The Right Questions for Actors

Written by Paul D. Marks Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Actor's Detective Series – Volume 1
How to create exciting, believable characters for Stage and Screen
from The Actor's Detective, Jeanne Hartman

When you watch a play, movie or television show you can often tell when the actors are "acting" or when they are truly inside the character they're portraying. When they're going through motions, reading the lines and hitting their marks or one with the character. And that latter ability is often the difference in how we as the audience react to not only that character, or the other characters, but to the show as a whole. If you've ever had the chance to see more than one actor in the same role you'll know what I'm talking about. One actor can make you believe, draw you in, make you part of the drama, while another actor reading the exact same lines makes you aware of the proscenium arch or the parameters of the movie screen.

So what makes the difference?

Some people are born with an innate ability, perfect pitch, athletic skill or the facility to portray a character. Most people, even those with natural talent, still need to practice. They need a coach to guide them and help them be the best at what they do. That's where acting coach Jeanne Hartman's The Right Questions for Actors comes in. And the title truly says what it is – a series of questions for actors to help them get to know their character and draw it out. But the book is not only helpful (and necessary) for actors but also for writers and directors who want to get the best performances from their players.

Some of the questions are directed at the actor's character while others are directed at the actor himself or herself. Question #11 is "What information is it that only you know?" I found this particularly interesting in that knowing this info can truly change how one might interpret a role. Another intriguing question, in a book of intriguing questions, is #13, "What's the Game?" in which Ms. Hartman lists several "games" for identifying the roles of two characters in a scene. A couple of examples are The Victim and the Oppressor and the Taker and the Giver. In looking at this list it truly helps one to crystallize the relationships and power differentials of the characters in the scene. There are, of course, not only the questions but also discussion of how to utilize and delve into them.

The book is in a spiral bound format, making it easy to use as it can be set down to any page and stay open. And there are worksheet pages for every question where the actor can fill in their answers to the questions.

Actors are not the only ones who can benefit from this book. As a writer, I've found it to be a great tool in helping me think about and write richer characters. And actors don't act in a vacuum, they act within a scene, within a script and with other actors. The Right Questions for Actors is an essential tool that will help them dig deep into their character's background so that, even if that specific information doesn't come out in the scene or even in the story as a whole, it will inform the actor's decisions about their performance and help them give a richer, deeper characterization. And that can make all the difference between a good actor and a great actor, whose performance involves the audience and engages them in the play.

Paul D. Marks is a fiction writer and script doctor. He can be reached through his web page at

Also I wrote a piece called My Love Affair with the Noho library.
Here is a link to it.

I also just finished an interview with a theater director who has a play opening this fall. It will be posted soon.

So besides coaching actors, I really have been writing a lot. I’ve got a few other projects in the oven but will let you know as they come alive. I’ve been invited to have a monthly blog about Acting as well. I’ll let you know when it is up.

So stay in touch and keep the info coming. Hope to see you all again very soon.


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