. . . and Uta Hagen's Six Steps
You’ve gotta know these six things about every scene and exercise you do. Uta [Hagen] calls them the six steps (See A Challenge for the Actor, by Uta Hagen, Macmillan 1991, p. 134): Who am I? What is my present state of being, how do I perceive myself, what am I wearing; What are the circumstances? What time is it, the year, the season, the day? Where am I, what city, what neighborhood, what room, what’s the landscape like? What surrounds me, the immediate landscape, the weather? What are the immediate circumstances? What has just happened in the room that I left? What is happening in the room that I am in? And what do I expect to happen in the room that I am going to; What are my relationships? How do I stand in relationship to the circumstances, the place, the objects, the other people; What do I want; What is in the way of what I want; And what do I do to get what I want?
So, you need to know all of those things. And what’s amazing is I sit there in class and watch students come in and do these exercises [from A Challenge for the Actor]. And I swear to you, each and every one of you would sit there, you wouldn’t be able to tell what the difference was, but you would know instantly who knows where they’re coming from and where they’re going, and who doesn’t know where they’re coming from and where they’re going.
It’s metaphysical. I don’t know how to explain it, but you can feel the difference when somebody’s done their homework and when they haven’t. It’s just crystal clear.
This is an excerpt from a talk I gave on acting as a career as part of the Working Professional Series at the Theater Department of Lehman College. It is also available as a transcript and podcast on the Lehman College Website.