You may have done the best research on the planet, but if you can’t connect to your character, getting into and certainly staying in character becomes extremely, extremely difficult – Especially when your character needs to be alive and true in a room full of people that in essence aren’t there. Your character’s reality needs to be so true that their bubble of existence makes sense in their (your) head regardless of how it has been translated onto a stage. So what do you do if you can’t get inside their head to start with?
There are a few things I like to do to really connect myself to a character. If you are finding it hard to connect to yours feel free to give them a try!
1. Let them into your world. Find a space that is yours and you know and unlearn it. Rediscover it as your character. Use their voice or accent to vocalise as much as you can. If you have family or friends that will play along interact with them as your character. You are still likely to be in a development stage here, but sometimes getting started is what you need most. If you can practise reacting as your character in an unscripted scenario then the script can start to make a lot more sense. I find by using and playing with a space I should know it helps me unwind from my space as well as approaching my character’s.
2. Write a diary. Try writing diary entries as if they were written on the exit from each scene. How do you feel? What has just happened? Think about how they are writing and the way their hand holds the pen. Do this without your script and without distractions or your phone or computer. Decide where your character is when they are writing. Decide what time it is and what they have just done. Who is in the other room? I often like to do this very late at night when I’m quite tired and the world outside is still – I find this helps me let the character emerge. This can really help me connect scenes if my play spans a short time period or can help evolve a character if there is a longer span between entries (especially being mindful of how the entries are different with age etc).
3. Dress for the occasion. Lay out your costume or something similar. Think about something your character could wear. Now get dressed. Do your hair and make up. But most importantly be mindful that you are your character getting ready. Watch yourself in the mirror and try to imagine their running inner monologue as you go. What have they just been doing? What are they dong next? Think about how your appearance is making you feel. Why do you dress this way? What do you like about how you look? How does it physically feel? How do you feel? Similarly in rehearsals it can help to keep your clothing in step with what your character can relate to. If you are playing a tomboy your physicality may be easier in pants than adjusting your stance around a dress or skirt.
4. Step into their world. I usually do this as part of my initial character building but certainly a refresher can help. Find the things they like and enjoy and immerse yourself in their world, their time and their part of the world. It can be as simple as google searching an album of music they might enjoy (or from their time period) and lying down listening to the lyrics and trying to interpret them as your character. Or maybe your character loves a certain book or author that you have never explored and read yourself. Think of their favourite colours and the kinds of food they would eat. Do they have a skill that you have never tried before. Use those things to trace back to who they might be to enjoy them.
5. Explore your space. If you have the opportunity to translate this into your physical set and actual costume it can really help. Imagine and play out what your character is doing between scenes or try to make sense of what exists and where even if it cannot be physically seen. What do you “remember” about it from your character’s life? For instance – did you sit upon your porch when you were a child – was it your happy place? What is foreign and what is home? It can really help to make those connections before placing the script and then audience on top of it.
So these are some of the things that I do but I’m sure there are lots more. Hope you found something that helped!