The Strong Want


The students will demonstrate their understanding of character objectives by breaking down a scene into action units.


Materials Needed

  • List of character aspects
  • Towel
  • Film clips
  • Sample script
  • Character Aspects:


his loves

his fears

his frustrations

his emotions

his thoughts

his habits

his memories

his mannerisms

his needs his hopes

his self-esteem

his hobbies

his profession

his politics

his use of language

his uncertainty

his wants

his ethics

his pride

his eccentricities

his uniqueness

his strengths

his weaknesses

his energy

his expressions

his habits

his mystery

his pleasures

his worries



Lesson Directions

When the students enter the classroom, they will find about twenty-five phrases listed on the board and an empty chair sitting in front of that board. The phrases will include, “his hobbies,” “his dreams,” “his language,” “his wants,” etc.

-The teacher tells the students that the character they are going to portray is sitting in the chair and the aspects that fascinate us about that character are written on the board. Conduct a debate among the students as to which aspect on the list is most important in portraying this actor. The answer that is most exciting for an audience to watch, of course, is “his wants.”


Step 1: Transition. Discuss with the class why a character’s wants are the key to portraying him. Make sure you discuss that a person’s wants are what drive the actions of a character and are most interesting for the audience to watch.


Step 2: Ask the students for recent examples in their own life when they wanted something from someone. (These examples will be used later.)


Step 3: Instruction. Inform them that in acting “wants” is synonymous with “objectives.” A good working definition of objectives is “what a character wants.”

-Discuss effective ways to state a character’s objective. It should be similar to this:

I want __receiver__ to __verb/action__.

Such as, I want to persuade Ann to kiss me, I want to win Kristin’s admiration, I want to reduce my lover to tears, or I want to ignite the crowd to riot, etc.

-The verb must be actable, the receiver is necessary so that your objective has a direction and focus.

-Discuss what makes an objective particularly strong and which verbs are stronger than others. An actable verb is active and you can pursue it for several minutes. “It is a verb that you can get your shoulder behind and push.”

-Allow the students to put the wants that they mentioned before into correct objective statements.


Step 4: Practice. Show the scene in Dead Poet’s Society where Neil’s father is telling him he cannot be on the yearbook staff. Ask the students what it was each character in that scene wanted—these are their objectives. Then ask them who won. Have them write down their answers.

-Repeat this activity with other film clips.


Step 5: Modeling.  Call up two students to come in front of the class and cold-read a cutting from a play.  After the reading, model for the class how to discover the objectives for each of the characters.  What clues does the script give to help us get to what each person wants?


Step 6: Practice/Performance. Put the students into partnerships.  Give them a different short scene cutting from a play.  Have them read through the scene and then come up with what their character wants in the scene (their objective).

-Have the students act out their scenes with each holding to one end of a towel (ala tug-of-war). This activity helps the students to add urgency to their scenes and gives them an understanding of what it means to “fight for an objective” because they will be able to physically influence the other character.

-Allow the students to paraphrase their lines because the objective is more important than memorization.

-More than one pair may perform at a time with small audiences observing each pair.

-If the class is particularly aggressive, this activity may be modified. Have the students stand near a table and stack their hands one on top of the other. Whenever their lines indicate that they are winning their objective, that student can take his hand from the bottom of the stack and place it on top.


Step 7: Discussion.  Discuss the results with the class…how were the objectives played?  What could make an objective more clear?  How can the actors use their voice and bodies to convey their wants?  Why it is important for an actor to know whether or not their character achieved their objective?



Students will discuss their objectives with their scene partners. Have them turn in a paper stating their objective and a few sentences defending their objective – WHY their character wants this thing right now.