Once in the realm of theatre, the first step is to impersonate -to act. The first step of acting is to understand that the term itself is a misnomer .The performer does not just mouth lines , he lives the character .On stage a performer's first duty is to let himself go , lose his own identity; in fact not just his identity but also his own circumstances . A character has some identity of its own and the actor is its bodily representation. If the performer, let's his own identity interfere then he inflicts injustice to the character - however this must not be misunderstood as a step away from improvisation.
Every performer has his own methods of enacting a character; but no matter who you are, an amateur or a veteran; nor does it matter, if you are playing the protagonist, the antagonist or a tree in the background - the primary step is to adopt the identity of the character, his space and his circumstances. Every character comes with a set of traits, good and bad. You gain the character's identity only after you lose your own; once that is done; these traits help the performer to step into the character's shoes.
Improvisation though is a tough cookie. One might question, on how can one character be enacted in many different ways without disturbing these set traits? To answer this, we must understand that these traits are guidelines and not rigid rules. A child who is modeling some clay is fascinated by cars, but it is his wish on how his car would be; what color will the clay will be and what shape the car will be. The child is the character, fascination to cars - his trait, the color of the car for instance is the improvisation.
But traits aren't the only constraint, which a character has - there are circumstances. A situation with which the character will deal. The actor's primary job then is to analyze , how the character will respond to these circumstances with the constraint of it's traits. Again , to keep in mind , there might be several ways to respond within this constraint because circumstances might and do have an effect on application of traits . Let's add a circumstance to the earlier example, the boy now needs the car to be such that he can race with. Now, won't the perception of color and shape change?
To finish, it is important understanding that the ultimate aim of the actor, is neither just to please the audience nor is it gain respect in the eyes of critics - it is to do justice to that character by living it. The actor must also be willing to shun his identity like everyday clothes to adapt to that life, to that space and time for a brief moment. That brief moment is sheer joy.
Arpit Kumar, B.A.(Hons) English, I Yr.