Communication & Subtext

Lesson 4:

Communication & Subtext



Students will demonstrate their understanding of the text of their piece by paraphrasing the literal text and subtext of their performance piece.


Materials Needed:

Communications Powerpoint 4.Communication




Do Circle Freeze (someone holds a position, another finishes it, first one leaves, a new person finishes what is left in a new position/pose, etc.) **not performing, get to the task!  Jump in!


Do the Scarf Circle exercise (this is a scarf – what else can it be? pass it around the circle and have each person say and show what else it can be.)


Now do the same idea but with lines of dialogue (here is one way to say it – how else can it be said?)

“I must see you”  “Then this is goodbye” (inspired by SA p.177)


Reflect on the activities – how did they lead to communication?  What were some of the ways that the lines were said?  How did the way the line was said change the meaning or intent of the line?




*this discussion was based on the original execution of the unit, but it is likely that many of these same issues happen in other settings of the lesson rehearsal; written in facilitator/coaching fashion directly to students*


Some of the rehearsal last class period was solid work exploring things, but much of it turned back into tricks and habits.  The exploration was lost in the desire to “perform”.  Don’t set your choices too early – you shouldn’t finalize your acting choices until between preview and performance.  This rehearsal time is to explore the variety of the choices in front of you and question yourself on “How am I using the tools Stanislavsky is giving me?” 


It might mean that you stop to relax for a few minutes to free your body and mind.  It might mean doing a concentration exercise to get yourself into the environment and other given circumstances – would drawing help?  Writing?  Talking aloud about what is around you?  You, that actor, must see this all. The audience will see you, but you need to be in this world.


We are going to go back and start with basic choice exploration with the actual text.  Remember you are not performing – you are to complete a specific task of understanding the dialogue and making it your own.



Pp Slide: You begin by understanding what the words mean and why the writer has chosen to have the characters express themselves in precisely the way they do, not only because you have a responsibility to communicate the meaning of your lines, but also because it reveals the way your character thinks and feels.


Think about this…your character has an idea that forms into a through that develops into dialogue.


Make sure you understand every word you’re saying.  Look up words you don’t know.  Know the effect of given circumstances (GC) in the language.  Then ask yourself why your character has chosen to use THOSE particular words instead of some others that mean the same thing.  What is there about them that is exactly right for the thought and feelings of your character at this moment?





Pp Slide: Use the monologue as the example.  Take the first few lines and discuss what they mean.  Then paraphrase the lines into a literal translation in modern vernacular.  Then discuss what the subtext is.  This might involve examining the GC, right?!?  Translate it now in subtextual paraphrasing (not translating word for word literally).




Pp Slides: do this work yourself in writing as directed in the Pp slides:

Step 1: literal paraphrase

Step 2: subtext paraphrase

Step 3: read them aloud to partner


If time allows, read the original script again out loud and time it.  Get to the appropriate time limit constraints.


As you continue to work on memorization, you need to own the words and make them your own.  Pp Slide:

  • The words you speak as the character are a residue of a complete state of being – the actor’s job is to re-create the fullness of the character by restoring body and consciousness to this residue.




If there is time remaining, have students rehearse their piece while making the words their own.  They need to remember their paraphrasing to keep it natural.


Have them turn in the paraphrasing written work today or next class period.  If students have fallen behind or been lazy then encourage them to take this opportunity to catch up.  Cut their piece if need be (go lean).  Work on memorizing their lines.  Be ready for next class period’s rehearsal with a solid understanding of their piece.