If you’re looking to refine your skills before your next audition or self-tape session, turn to one of the most important tools in the industry: the practice script. Here we explain not only what makes a good practice script, but we also provide some of the best examples across a wide variety of genres to help you develop your craft.
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No matter if you’re going with a full script, sides, or a single scene, a good practice script should be:
- Character-centric: A practice script should allow you to build a strong emotional connection with your character—and therefore ultimately with your audience. Whether your character is funny, dismal, or a romantic, creating that emotional connection is key.
- Stakes-driven: Choose a script with stakes that motivate you. High stakes mean high emotions, giving you space to explore your full range as an actor. Additionally, passion about the script and its stakes helps you get through long practices and grow your craft while doing it.
- Feasible: Unless you’re really trying to stretch your actor wings, stick with a script that’s feasible with your specific skill set. It’s best to aim for a script that’s a little difficult so it helps you grow, but not so out of reach that you give up out of frustration.
“Breaking Bad” Credit: Doug Hyun/AMC
The following are a small sampling of acting scripts across drama, thriller, comedy, coming-of-age, and confessional genres to help develop your performance capabilities.
- “The Amen Corner”: Religious idealism and hypocrisy, racial prejudice, complicated family dynamics, the devastation of poverty, and the role of the church are just some of the topics explored in this labyrinthine drama from James Baldwin. The core of the play depicts the intricacies of the relationship between religion, love for family, and knowledge of oneself, making it ripe for actor analysis and interpretation. A critical text in the Black theater movement, this drama invites actors to explode into life in an emotionally impactful way. Use this script to explore the space between the spiritual and the secular, the innocuous and the injurious.
- “Breaking Bad”: The pilot episode of Vince Gilligan’s iconic drug drama covers the full spectrum of human emotion. In just over 58 pages, we see Walter White (Bryan Cranston) thanklessly teach high school chemistry, learn he has terminal lung cancer, and be given a new lease on life as a meth cook. The script is captivating, immersive, and dark, with multiple nuanced characters. It’s a lot—meaning that there’s a lot you can do with it. While Cranston’s performance feels inimitable, you can use his emotional range and depth as a goal post for your practice sessions.
- “Juno”: While Diablo Cody’s script is highly comical, it also touches on poignant topics including first loves, unplanned pregnancy, and the power of family. Spend some time really exploring its character’s conflicts. Try delivering the clever dialogue with as much deadpan as possible, and then take it on again with a different performance style to improve your craft using multiple interpretations of a single script.
- “Othello”: This Shakespeare tragedy opens troubled by literal failures to “place” various people and things. Desdemona is not “in her chamber or [her father’s] house” (Act 1, Scene 1, Line 139); Othello is not at his “lodging to be found” by the Senate; the Turkish ﬂeet occupies an unknown position in the Mediterranean Sea; and one “Marcus Luccicos” (not mentioned elsewhere in the play, but earnestly sought by the Duke) is “not…in town” (Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 44–45). This displaced feeling sets the stage for a play in which nothing is as it seems; friends are secretly enemies, devout lovers are believed to be unfaithful, and a moral man becomes a murderer. Whether you play deceitful Iago, wronged Desdemona, or the titular Othello, the script provides much fodder for actors who want to practice bringing subtext to the surface.
- “10 Things I Hate About You”: This cult classic allows actors to lean into their best high school melodrama and bring their comedy chops. As a modernized adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” the script invites you to play in the liminal space between the adaptation and its source. Whether you want to portray a character as they appear in the film or how you read them on the page, this script gives you space to explore. Try reading through the script on its own, and then compare your interpretation to the film starring Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Are there any acting choices they make that might inform your own?
- “The Vagina Monologues”: This feminist classic is as hilarious as it is provocative. Character-driven monologues provide a subversive look at womanhood and its relationship to gender norms, power, trauma, and desire. Actors of all identities can benefit from exploring the script’s feelings of discomfort and connection. Try modernizing the text with one of the updated revisions that include monologues by trans people, gender non-conforming people, and people of color—or, for an extra-personal connection, try writing your own monologue to add to the script.
It’s helpful to know where else to find practice scripts, since practicing with quality texts is one of the best ways to grow your skill set as an actor. You can find scripts for acting practice using:
- Script-sharing sites: Sites such as Scripts on Screen, Simply Scripts, and our monologue database offer many practice scripts categorized by genre.
- Archives: Project Gutenberg, Archive.org, and Drama Online provide full-length theatrical scripts that are no longer protected by copyright.
- The library or local bookstore: You can find an array of scripts at your local library or book shop. Even if they’re not stocked up, you can always request some.
- Writers: Offer any screenwriters you know a mutually beneficial relationship—they provide you with practice scripts and you let them hear how their work sounds out loud.
- Reading apps: Finally, try purchasing scripts of interest on apps like Kindle, Libby, and Nook.
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- Practice your cold read: Read through scripts, explore different characters, and learn how to respond to other readers quickly. Interrogate your character’s mindset and the world they live in. This practice will come in handy if you’re ever asked to do a cold read audition.
- Learn to properly read a screenplay: Reading practice scripts is a great way to familiarize yourself with script formatting, the functional elements of a script (arcs, acts, scenes, and beats), and how to analyze a script.
- Test out different emotions: Since acting requires you to express a full range of emotions, try reading a character as joyful, expectant, hurt, bashful, or whatever inspires you. Go over a single scene multiple times while summoning different emotions to really put your range to the test.
- Record yourself: Take videos of yourself reading scripts aloud. Watch the recordings with an analytic eye and note areas for improvement. Should you be speaking slower? Emoting more? Are you overacting?
- Study the greats: Watch iconic performances to see how the best actors bring these scripts to life. If possible, take note of how two different actors interpret the same role—what choices does, say, Denzel Washington make as Macbeth that are different from Michael Fassbender or Orson Welles?
- Practice scenes with others: Ask friends or colleagues to run through a script together. You can do a table read or try your hand at a full performance. If you don’t have enough people to fill every role, you can try taking on several roles to really test your acting capabilities.
- Keep on practicing: Every time you practice a scene, sides, or a full script, it helps you grow as an actor. With each read, you further develop your abilities in formal script analysis, character interpretation, delivery, improvisational reaction, and memorization. The more you practice, the better your acting will be.