Introduction to Acting Theory, Methods and Practice, and Development From Self to Character

The details
East 15 Acting School
Southend Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
13 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA W496 Acting and Community Theatre

Module description

This first year acting module provides an initial training in acting theory, method and practice based on the uniqueness of the individual and the ability to change, adapt, extend, perceive, accept and reject. Students move through self-study to look outside themselves, approaching firstly improvised situations and then scripted text in imaginative and collaborative ways. By the end of the course you will know how to start work on a play and will have begun collaborative text work. You will be able to begin to create a character from a text and to start the process of creating the world of the play.

Module Content
Improvisation: The Basic Rules
- Finding the correct activities of an incident
- Exploring 'What If?'
- Status
- Altering given circumstances
- Being/responding in the moment
- Giving circumstances that are new to the character
- Answering the 'W' (and one 'H') words:
Who am I?
Where am I?
When is this?
What am I doing?
Why am I doing this?
What do I want?
How do I get it?

You will start with a series of small imagined situations gradually building into large group improvisations as you develop your ability to work together. You will learn how to improvise truthfully and to give and take with others.

Story Telling/Play Reading
You will learn to tell stories individually and in groups, studying some of the great world stories and acting them out in class. You will begin to feel the pulse of a narrative drive. The course will examine increasingly complex tales, myths and legends which students will enact using different theatrical styles and formats. Mask, dance, music, sound, choral reading or any art form, as well as words may be used to tell stories, encouraging students to embrace more complex narrative material using all available techniques. You will be encouraged to extend verbal skills and vocabulary through the discussion of texts. Texts studied will become more complex in form and cover a wider range of styles than those of the earlier part of the course, encouraging students to develop the ability to lift increasingly challenging language, both implied and written, and make it their own.

Sight Reading
You will develop sight-reading skills by reading from a variety of plays and will begin to understand how text and punctuation are used to make characters' voices come alive. You will learn how to 'lift the words off the page' to create the world of the play in an exciting and immediate manner.

Study of Self
Students will use visual material to portray themselves. Each student begins by giving a 3 minute autobiographical introduction to the group. They recount personal recollections, which may be improvised by other group members. You will choose to use passionate or dispassionate emotional recall. You will write 2
poems about yourself and the discussions which follow will focus on issues of self-study: subjectivity, objectivity, positive and negative attitudes, tendencies to sentimentality, romanticism, under/over-statement. Adult/child relationships may be recalled and discussed. This is a challenging part of the course that is designed to help you develop an objective attitude to self-assessment so that you can begin to develop awareness of your own personal emotional, vocal and physical habits and mannerisms.

The Sensory World
Students learn through games, improvisation, exercises and discussion the role of the senses in remembrance and recreation so that they can begin the process of learning how to create the world of the play. This work is revisited throughout the year and applied at increasingly higher levels in text work and rehearsals.

The Community
You will research places that are significant in the lives of various groups of people. You may, for example, visit churches, law courts, street markets or a particular area of London. You will recreate short improvised scenes using research, powers of observation and personal experiences. This work encourages students to recognise the importance of research in the creation of a character. You will develop awareness of the differences between your own characteristics and those of others. You will begin to understand the ways in which actors combine truth and imagination through improvisation.

Releasing the Imagination
In Term Two students begin to use improvisation within project rehearsal time in increasingly complex situations. You will learn the value of improvisation as an aid to the rehearsal process and explore greater emotional ranges, adapting to more complex and different situations.

Self to Character
This module invites students to question why and how people do what they do. You will begin to learn the scope and variety of experiences that affect human development and develop the ability to analyse character through observation and research. You will learn how to deliver a well-realised, detailed and believable characterisation and begin to understand how to use self as a basis for transformation to character. Students are asked to interview and observe a living character in a work environment over an extended period. Observation normally takes place during the Christmas vacation. On your return to the School in Term Two you will be asked to recreate that person in as much detail as possible in a 5 minute presentation. (N.B. This is a performance-based presentation.)

Voice into Text
Students begin to learn the process of applying principals of voice production to work on text. This class helps students make the connection between voice work undertaken in skills classes and work on texts, from play reading to scene presentation.

Neutral Mask
This class uses 'Neutral Mask' as a learning tool to help students develop emotional honesty and economy of movement. Students will learn how to develop an inner core that is balanced and focused and to express themselves through the exploration of different movement dynamics.

Text Analysis
Text analysis is taught throughout the first year beginning with learning how to break a play down into 'units of action'. As the terms progress each scene study will apply 'uniting' and build on ways of understanding plot, through line and context of play. Text analysis also covers work on character behaviour such as objectives, actions, events, intentions and explores contrasting language used to express character motivations.

Module aims

To provide students with opportunities to learn:
- The ground rules of the art of acting
- How to improvise truthfully
- Sight-reading skills
- Textual analysis and discussion
- Objective self-assessment
- How to create a character
- The importance of the ensemble
- To study people in practical, real-life situations
- To observe and understand aspects of human development
- To develop an appreciation of the complexity of human nature.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module you will be able to demonstrate:
- Professional potential: range, focus, presence
- Commitment: energy, positive attitude, personal contribution
- Creative Inventiveness: fresh responses, spontaneity in a range of experiences
- Flexibility & Sensitivity to Change: responsiveness to others and to direction
- Ensemble Acting: adaptability, generosity, awareness of relationships
- Objective self-assessment: awareness of own strengths and weaknesses as an actor, ability to accept criticism and act upon it
- Research Skills: in-depth interviews, objective observation, selection of appropriate material, accurate documentation
- Application of research to practice
- Textual comprehension
- Creative repetition

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

* Students work with tutors in group practical classes. * Learning also takes place in workshops and rehearsals. * Oral formative assessment from/with a panel of tutors At the end of the first and third terms * Written formative assessment and tutor feedback report at the end of the first and third terms * Improvisation and group discussion.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Practical   Continuous Assessment     

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Ms Ainslie Masterton, email: amast@essex.ac.uk.
Ainslie Masterton
East 15 Acting School Gateway Building Elmer Approach Southend-on-Sea SS1 1LW



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
East 15 Acting School

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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