The Rudimentary Elements of the Dramatic PerformanceBelow are links to articles and documents adapted mainly from Erik Sean McGiven’s book “The Rudimentary Elements of the Dramatic Performance.”  He taught acting workshops as well as coached privately and through the years developed a systematic approach based on analyzing the performances of award winning actors.   The list starts with the basic issues and progresses to the more complex skills and techniques.


An Approach to Acting
Actors are the storytellers, for it is through the characters they portray that the story comes to life. Misconceptions confuse this point, the role of the actor and paths to becoming an accomplished performer.

As an Acting Student, What Should I be Learning?
Acquiring the skills to be a professional actor can be overwhelming.  However, knowing which skills are the most instrumental will shorten the journey.

For Actors, There are Many Pathways to Success 
Many young actors entering the entertainment industry have the mindset that there are only a few ways of pursuing a career. They get stuck on well-trodden pathways and they wonder why they don’t succeed.  Their strategy is to follow the herd instead of seeking out what they need to know, how to implement that knowledge, and how to do it brilliantly so people will hire them.  Instead of being pragmatic, they follow a culture of mediocrity doing just enough to get by. Article exposes this archaic thinking and offers practical pathways to supplement ones formal training.

Eye Acting – The Key to Internalizations
Eye acting is rarely addressed in one’s training yet in film and television it’s the main focal point of the audience. Knowing simple eye behaviors can help clarify the character’s inner thoughts and feelings by placing them in recognizable focal zones.

Eye Behavior Focal Zones
This illustration depicts the focal zones commonly used in a face to face two-person scene

Creating Believable Facial Expressions
Harnessing the range and power of facial expressions is a difficult task for the actor.  Yet there are ways to make them behave as the character and trick the brain into creating believable expressions.

The Six Basic Facial Expressions with examples of Degree.  Plus Exercise Scenarios for Facial Expressions

Sameness – Antidote is Imaginative Changes
Sameness in storytelling and acting can create disinterest and monotony.  Repeating what has been done before lowers involvement in the story and its performances.  Audiences expect and demand unique, fresh and imaginative creations, creations that surprise and enthrall us.  Identifying sameness, even in its smallest facets, and finding imaginative ways to vary, modify, and invent can bring immense power to storytellers.

Dialogue Delivery
Dialogue delivery and memorization take up most of the actor’s preparation time. While vocal skills such as projection, articulation, and phasing are the obvious, the dramatic aspects of dialogue delivery center on pauses, tempo, emphasis, dynamics, and contrast. Gaining control of these areas allows more time to search out strong dramatic choices in other areas such as selecting the intention, emotion and acting style.

Gestures in Acting
Gestures are instrumental in expressing an idea or conveying a feeling.  Using them effectively can increase the credibility and sincerity of the character.

Head Acting – Gestures and Implications
The head, by its movements and gestures, can impart meaning to the character’s intentions and/or feelings. Understanding the potential of these gestures and their implications is a valuable tool for actors, especially in film acting where the head and face dominate the screen image. Article discusses a number of head gestures and their meanings, and how they become more defined accompanied by dialogue, facial expressions, and blocking.

Movement in Acting
Inner thoughts, emotions, needs, and wants motivate movement.  Movement should be such that even a deaf man could comprehend what’s happening.

Selecting the Character’s Objective
The criterion for selecting the character’s objective relates to the story telling process.  These choices create conflict and drive the story forward.

Implementing the Character’s Objective
How one implements the character’s objective is as important as the objective itself.  Knowing the possibilities is a step in the right direction.

List of Intentions (Objectives) Compiled from Various Workshop Scenes (Listed according to worthiness)     List provides examples and proper format for stating the intention of the character.

Selecting the Character’s Emotion
Emotions are the forces that move the characters through the story.  They are instrumental in leading the audience in the desired story direction.

Implementing the Character’s Emotion
Generating readable emotions is a process for which every actor strives.   Various methods such as remembering past events , the physiological sensations, as well as mechanical means can be used.

Root Emotions
List and Discussions of Root Emotions.  Document discusses the delineation, characteristics, and physiologically of 37 root emotions.

Selecting the Motivation
Behind the character’s objective is a reason, a motivation justifying the intention. It’s the answer to the question, why?  The motivation aids in developing subtle shadings that give the audience a sense of what drives and guides the character through the story.

Motivation Selection Examples
These motivation examples are labeled by their originating component, i.e., biological (B), learned (L), cognitive (C), and intervention (I), along with further clarification of sub-justifications.  They answer the why question behind the motivation and place it into an actable format.

Story Structure
By studying storytelling principles, the actor can make choices that support the dramatic equations, propel the story to its optimum potential and create the desired illusion within the mind of the audience.  Knowing the essential ingredients of a good story along with its structure can greatly improve one’s artistic contributions.

Blocking and Movement
Blocking is the positioning and movement of the characters to tell the story in visual terms. It is a comparative portrayal of strong and weak movements, and their relative positions.  Today’s hurried productions demand understanding blocking terminologies and its principles.

Styles of Acting – What Defines the Differences?
This article reflects how acting elements define performance style, acting elements such as reality, dramatic flow, pace and timing. Article gives primary attention to the differences between drama and comedy.

Style Generalizations
This article covers style generalizations for acting  drama and comedy.  Acting elements are addressed for each style in abbreviated form and reflect key differences.

Dramatic Style Generalizations
These charts cover the acting elements for the more prominent styles.  Listed on same page are style examples from film, television, and plays.  Other acting styles and hybrid styles are also listed.

Comedy Acting
Comedy acting is seldom given the attention it deserves.  Being much more disciplined, stylized, and precise, its complexities make it difficult to fully comprehend, perform, and likewise, teach.

Implementing Humor
To implement humor one must understand the style parameters and the wide range of skills required, the foremost being agility.  Comedy acting is pointalistic in flow with edges that promotes quick turns, derailment of thought, and surprises.

Considerations in Playing Comedy
This illustration depicts the progression of a joke and the factors in portraying comedy.  These building blocks, with their edges and sharp corners, defines the clarity and simplicity of humor as well as the potential for quick changes, sudden drops in dignity, and unexpected surprises.

Character Development I
This article explores the process of character development from heroes to villains and those in between. It discusses methods, character elements, and their hierarchy.

Character Development II
This article looks at the character’s function and how it affects the portrayal. Does the function hinder or assist the protagonist? Article also looks at the development of protagonist, antagonist, heroes, villains, and mythic characters.

Character Development III
In further developing a character, we must also look at personality or temperament types, abnormal tendencies, learning and social disabilities, plus character relationships. How to find actable qualities that embody the character and serve its function within the story.

DVD’s — Alternative Acting Coach
With acting classes and workshops charging outlandish fees, aspiring actors are finding DVD performances by award-winning actors a cheaper and more effective means of learning their craft.  Instead of the catch-as-catch-can workshop approach, students follow the lead of award-winning actors and emulate their time-tested techniques.   Scene workshops charge $350 to $600 per month while DVD rental services charge as low as $8 a month, and deliver similar results.  Article sights numerous clips for studying specific techniques.

DVDs Help Define Acting Styles
Article explores how the selection and arrangement of dramatic elements depict the genre of the play and its appropriate acting style. By knowing the paradigm for each genre such as drama, comedy, suspense, or farce, the ensemble can solicit the desired audience response and likewise serve the purpose of the play.  Article uses two award-winning movies available on DVD to illustrate how various dramatic attributes differentiate style

Putting It All Together – Improving and Marketing One’s Acting Skills
How does one put it all together, use the information in these articles to improve ones performance, and market ones acting skills? This article addresses how knowledge, application, and marketing skills are essential to working as a professional actor and the various steps required in reaching this goal.

Film and TV Video Examples
This listing of video examples relates to acting articles posted on this site as well as those at  Most examples relate to award-winning performances plus a few others that exemplify the skills and techniques under discussion.  These examples will help the learning process emulating highly skilled actors and their time-tested techniques.

Audition Tips for Actors, Presenting Your Best Talents
Article recaps audition tips made by casting director Julia Kim at Film Independent’s IndieLink: Actors Program.  Tips include information about preparation time, scene length, and ways to utilize allotted time.  Additional comments addressed acting styles, and using pauses in conjunction with look-aways to portray internalizations.

Demo Reel Creation – An Essential Tool for Actors
Having an actor’s demo reel has become a prime factor in opening doors to industry people such as agents, managers, directors and casting directors.  Article explores the creation of such a reel, its basic format, and what industry people want and don’t want.

Actors Setting Goals — Producing Peak Performance 
Actors get caught up in the minutia of the industry and instead of being specific about their goals; they become fodder for an archaic training system that eats up both their hopes and savings.  By identifying, what’s relevant and attainable ones energies can focused on what will produce peak performances.   In addition, by being accountable, you create innovative strategies, meaningful milestones and deadlines that push you towards success.

Vulnerability – The Actor’s Choice to Be Authentic
Vulnerability is a highly desired character trait.  However, incorporating it into a performance with the proper touch requires awareness, research and practice. Article discusses what is vulnerability, what does it look like, and how can it be nurtured and portrayed.

Audience Collaboration – An Overlooked Storytelling Force
The audience can enhance the story provided there are engaging elements, space, and payoffs.  Article explores awareness of opportunities, benefits, and collaborative means.  Article is relevant to directors, writers, actors, producers and casting directors.

Why You Didn’t Make It — Acting Failures
Neophytes have little knowledge about what it takes to make it as an actor.  Instead of learning their craft, they invest time and money promoting their marginal skills. Article explores the various reasons why actors fail in their career and steps to reach professional status.

Scene Study Workshops are a Bad Investment
Article questions the validity of scene study workshops by weighing the acquired skills against invested time and expenditures.  Also provide insights to better venues.