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The Craft

How To Create a Credible Back Story and Emotional History

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How To Create a Credible Back Story and Emotional History
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In her article “Bridging the Gap Between Meisner and Adler,” Donna Morong, co-founder of Aquila Morong Studio, discusses script analysis and why it is critical to character creation. I would like to expound on that idea.

I’ve been a casting director since 1984. But I started my career with actors as a teacher. During my undergraduate study at NYU, the Adler Studio was my home. Stella Adler was my teacher, my mentor.

Stella believed that an actor’s talent was in his or her choices; the more intelligent the choice, the “better” the talent. She stressed the importance of an author’s intent. She was strident about identifying the theme of any piece on which we were working and emphasized the importance of the job of the actor. It is through you that the message of the author is presented to the audience. To know where you are in time and place, to know the historic, economic, social, political, and geographic specifics that affect your character, together with the themes of the piece on which you are working, is critical.

As you journal this research, a complete back story will begin to emerge. Your goal is to create a credible back story and emotional history, taken from the clues the author has provided in the text. Approaching your process of character creation in this way, with great specificity in the five areas mentioned above, will help you truthfully create the world in which you will be living. You will come to know your character as intimately as you know your own life, though you will not be using your own emotional history for fodder. The character you create, rooted in this truth, will have an emotional resonance with the audience with whom you are communicating.

Deborah Aquila is the co-founder of Aquila Morong Studio in Los Angeles.

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