The Fourth Wall


Students will demonstrate their understanding of Uta Hagen’s The Fourth Wall exercise by performing a rehearsed telephone conversation, illustrating the function of the secondary fourth wall.


Materials Needed

· Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen


Lesson Directions


Anticipatory Set/Hook

Review the previous 3 exercises students have participated in (The Basic Object Exercises, Three Entrances, Immediacy). Ask them to identify what they were and what they did. (Review pages 91-105 and previous lesson plans for exercises and descriptions.)



Step 1:
· As a class, read Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting, pages 106-111.
· Throughout the reading, periodically asks students
o to summarize what they’ve read
o for examples from productions they’ve seen
o for personal experiences they’ve had


GOAL: Students will have an understanding of
1. the fourth wall as a primary function
2. the fourth wall as a secondary function


Step 2:
· Have students find a partner they haven’t worked with while doing the previous exercises
· Inform them that they are going to create a telephone conversation between the two of them (page 110), deciding the:
ü Time
ü Place
ü Circumstances
ü Objects
ü Objectives
· Once they have determined the situation, have them sufficiently rehearse a resulting dialogue so they do not need to improvise the conversation
· As soon as the conversation has been solidified, have students work on interacting with the “secondary fourth wall” (i.e. as they are talking on the phone, they need to be aware that there is a fourth wall; however, the moment they directly acknowledge an imaginary object on/against their fourth wall, it has become a primary fourth wall—which they want to avoid)
· Give them 10-15 minutes to create/rehearse this activity


Step 3:
· Once students have had sufficient time to practice, begin performing.
· To performers: encourage them to maintain a secondary 4th wall
· To viewers: see if they notice when the fourth wall becomes primary instead of secondary


GOAL: Students will
1. Be able to incorporate this exercise so that they feel “relieved of the old agonizing burden of audience intrusion” (Hagen, 111)



Once everyone has performed, discuss their process in doing this exercise (Possible questions: what did this exercise do for you? How did it help you? How do you think it can help the performance overall?, etc.)



Participation: 10pts
Implementation of Exercise: 5pts
Total possible points: 15pts


Implementation of Exercise POINT VALUE
Description of Qualifying Standard Points
Barely understands the exercise and its application to improving one’s acting ability 1
Sufficiently understands the exercise and its application to improving one’s acting ability 3
Understands the exercise and successfully applies it to improve one’s acting ability 5