Thursday, January 28, 2010

Audition by Michael Shurtleff - Communication & Competition

The following is the seventh in a series of twelve articles based upon the twelve guideposts listed in Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part by Michael Shurtleff. The author was the casting director for many of David Merrick's Broadway productions. He also worked with Bob Fosse and Andrew Lloyd Webber. His book is known as the actor’s bible. If you take a college acting class, it will likely be required reading. While Shurtleff’s book is aimed at actors, his principles are beneficial to both writers and directors as well. This series is geared toward writers.

Communication and competition are both imperative ingredients for each scene in a story. Authors must effectively communicate feeling from one character to another. They must ensure that this emotional communication is a two-way street between the sender and receiver. The character receiving the message must acknowledge the message by sending a reply, via words or action, back to the character that has sent the message, thus completing the circular cycle of successful communication.

Communication also requires duplication. The character sending the communication must: 1) make sure his or her message is clear and 2) ensure that the receiver has received it. The character receiving the message must: 1) make sure he or she has received the message and is capable of duplicating it and 2) let the sender know he or she has received the message. All story characters must constantly play both roles of sender and receiver. Authors need to view this communication process as a circle. What is sent out, must come back. Until the circle is completed, authors can not have their characters take the next step in the communication process. Authors need to ask themselves if the sending of feeling reaches the reader/audience. Is the author receiving feelings from the characters?

Competition is the next step in the communication process. All dramatic relationships are competitive. All human relationships of love and friendship are competitive. There are two points of view characters should imbue in every scene: 1) I am right and you are wrong, and 2) you should change from being the way you are and be what I think you should be.

Competition is healthy; it is an integral part of life. Strong characters are the ones who compete willingly. They enjoy competing. Characters must compete with each other to generate conflict, or the game isn’t worth playing, and the pages aren’t worth turning for the reader.