ACTION - Week 4

Private Moments in Cinema.

You will see right away how a private moment is used.  It is discovery, spontaneous, and absolutely unique.


Robert DeNiro - TAXI DRIVER 

Professional Shakespeare

Stanislavski observed that, in the truest performances, the actor creates the illusion that his character is alone and unobserved. He's being private in public."  Susan Batson

During a performance, an actor cannot help but be aware of the critical eye of the audience or the camera.   We need a technique to "drop the fourth wall"  When you focus on the audience’s reaction, you cannot stay in the moment. You cannot concentrate on the character's needs and objectives.

The private moment  exercise was devised as a way to peel away the audience’s power to influence an actor’s performance. Using the exercise, the actor is able to shed the self-consciousness that sometimes inhibits an actor’s performance.


  • There are two kinds of Private Moment Exercises:  

    • The Personal Private Moment  (something we will get to later)

    • The Character Private Moment

  • For the purposes of this assignment, I want you to explore Character Private Moment.  

  • What is a Character Private Moment:  
    Doing the Character Private Moment consists of making three choices (activities) that your character would do in private. Determining these choices requires that the actor be a bit of a sleuth and careful reader, since the choices must be based on information given in the text.

    After doing this exercise, you will find it can be used effectively for developing any character. Specifying and exploring the character in his or her true privacy. Finding a character's private moment can translate directly into your work.
     Look at examples of "private moments" in the three videos top right on this screen.  When a character is left alone, they reveal what is really going on, and they do this through their relationship to the place, and to objects, activities and behaviors that they would not do if anyone else walked in the room.

  • A PERSONAL EXAMPLE:  Once upon a time, I played Doc Gibbs in OUR TOWN.  In the play, I had to attend my 19-year-old daughter's funeral.  I had no lines.  My only action was to lay a rose on her casket in the rain.  I chose a personal object and a "what if":  I was at my father's funeral.  (At the time, my father was alive, so I simply used my imagination).  My personal object was a fishing lure he gave me when I was seven.  My exploration of the object brought forth incredible memories, strong emotions.  As I explored, eventually I came to the moment when I was to lay the rose on the casket.  I just allowed a substitution, so that when I was saying goodbye, I returned to him my 30 year old lure so we could somehow be together in death.  this is an incredibly powerful exercise.  In my "goodbye" moment with the rose, I was truly alone and private.

EXAMPLE:  Katie playing Lizzie.  A private moment for you might be getting dressed in front of the mirror and confronting everything about you that feels 'horsey'.  Your need is to try to look beautiful and capable of being loved.

  • Some examples of private activities that could work for you and your character - let the play inspire your private moment and personalize everything.

    • Dancing wildly

      • Abi for Rosemary  (wild, drunken, abandoned)

      • Morgan for Abigail (witch dancing, abandon)

    • Examining yourself in the mirror

      • Duane (True West)

    • Singing your heart out

      • Rebecca - St. Joan (Songs of deep spiritual significance
        to you) 

    • Practice telling your girl you love her and finally imaginarily kiss her on the mirror.  

      • Sam - Broadcast News 

    • tweezing your eyebrows 

      • Lola in Crimes of the Heart - Need is to do something normal to ease your guilty heart.​

    • eating foods in a certain way

      • Mia in Blithe Spirit secretly hitting the bottle.​

    • reading an old love letter

      • Kalil as Felix mooning over his old love letters from his wife.​

    • Do a dramatic performance of your favorite role full out alone.  ​

      • Charley as Starbuck - act with complete abandon.​

    • Talking to yourself out loud

      • Ryan as Dauphin talking to himself about his failings... Personalize.​

    • Asking yourself existential questions about the meaning of life

    • conducting an unseen orchestra.

  • The above are only examples.  They are just there to give you a sense of how to choose.

  • Remember always to breathe.

  • Do the exercise On your feet - not in a chair - using real props, explore the activity physically and sensorily.  Use REAL objects.  Nothing imaginary.

    • Enter into a relationship with that object or do the activity it the way you would in private. Let it inform you. And feed you.  

    • REMEMBER - you are looking for a sense of privacy, not emotion.  Pay no attention to emotion.  If you get emotional, let it come and go as it wants.

    • GOAL:  You are looking to see if, as an actor, you can truly have a moment or moments on stage when you engage in a private activity that surrounds you with a bubble of internal focus.

  • If you become bored with your first activity,  (very common) switch to a different one.  And so on through your third choice.  Find the one  or two or three that work best.

    • Please be aware that this exercise is NOT to be performed (there is no obligation to the audience). It does not involve any rehearsal.  It is an exploration.

  • AND You need MUSIC!  Set up the place and objects. Make playlist of music that you listen to in private.  Play it while you work.  Let the music take you as well - as you explore your activity.  Let the music take you away - to a private place.

    • WE exist, we live, we want, we try, we pursue, we stop, we start again. The work in this exploration is purely self reflective. It is the only exercise where we are given this absolute freedom. We can talk to ourselves, sing outloud, move in any way we like.

    • The actor who can present his character in privacy has an opportunity to reveal to the audience his or her humanity.



You can use this exercise for every character you play. Set yourself up.   Always choose music for the character and then begin, Explore a private moment within this framework:

  • creation of place, inspired by play

  • private music, 

  • three private activities, personalized for you, inspired by the play.

  • use of fourth wall,

  • and my human needs merged with character needs.

Now, spend 45 minutes exploring the activities.  Best to do it in a private space - or at least warn your family so they don't interrupt you.  The first time through this exercise, it's important you feel safe and unjudged.  


Eventually, we will do these in front of the class.  But for now, the first step is practicing at home.

Marlon Brando - Reflections in a Golden Eye
This is a private moment of pure behavior

Marlon Brando in Reflections of a Golden Eye

Even though she is not alone on stage, this is as private and intimate as it gets.  Meryl Streep - "SOPHIES CHOICE"

Not to leave you depressed, look at this:  Three actors totally improvising - just following the private behavior that is totally personal.   This behavior does not come from the script, it comes from the inspiration and PRIVACY of the actors.