Justification For Actors
I referred to the term “justification” in the previous section about “Moment-to-Moment” by stating that I prefer to let the actors block their own scenes in most cases, because I feel the actors are well trained enough to justify where they are and what they are doing on the stage.
The actor starting out in this work will be doing a scene in which he is seated in a chair. After a few moments of dialog, he will get up, and go over to his partner, or look out a window, or just generally pace around the stage.
Why does he do this? More than likely, he feels that just sitting in the same place is not interesting enough for the audience, and some kind of movement might spice things up. Of course, he shouldn’t be thinking of the audience at all.
Or he might be experiencing the kind of tension that results from proper lack of concentration on a specific object, and thinks that by moving around, the observer will think he is concentrated on something.
In these instances, I ask the actor to explain why he got out of the chair at a particular moment, and paced about the stage, or walked over to his partner, and back to the chair.
The actor is not usually aware of making the specific movements in question. Or he might say, “my character is nervous, therefore he felt like pacing.” I then remind him that he is the character.
Unless the actor has a specific reason for making a movement on the stage, and can make that reason real, and believable to himself, I won’t accept his explanation.
But if the actor says, “I walked to the window, because I created the sound of a truck backfiring “outside”, and wanted to see what it was, just as an exercise in justification.”, I accept the movement as justified, even though it may not have been a logical choice for the scene at that moment. Of course, if the actor had really created such a sound, I would probably not have questioned the movement in the first place.
Occasionally, a director will need to have an actor in a place onstage where the actor doesn’t feel comfortable in the moment. Actors trained in this approach to the actors’ art have learned to justify such “blocking” by creating for themselves real reasons for accommodating the director’s seemingly illogical requests.
The Justification Exercise requires the actor to jump and move around the stage in “abandonment”, and when the instructor says, “Freeze!”, the actor is asked to justify what he is doing in the position in which he has found himself.
This exercise is a great deal of fun for the observers, but a little awkward for the actor doing it. The actor might end up with his hands and knees on the ground, with one leg up in the air. I ask, “What are you doing?” Often, the actor is stuck for an answer. He can be seen thinking. Then he might say, “I am doing exercises.” I’ll tell him, “No, that’s too obvious. You can do better than that. Use your imagination. “
When he finally says something like, “I’m teaching my dumb dog how to use a fire hydrant.”, I let him off the hook and call up the next actor. The energy levels in the workshop are quite high at the end of a round of justification exercises.