Inner and Outer Actions and “Why?”

Lesson 6:

Inner and Outer Actions and “Why?”



Students will demonstrate their ability to use inner and outer actions by answering the “why” to what they want and do in their performance piece.


Materials Needed:

Place and time cards 2.Time.Place.Objective Card Ideas

Lines of dialogue cards or slips of paper

Object with a lot of texture/flaws in it




Do the INNER ACTIONS (KS Exercise 4.5)

Have a pair of students come up at get the two cards: place and time.  Then give each of them a line of dialogue.  For the improvisation each can only say the words on their card.  Focus on the relationship and actions of your partner to know what to say and when to say it. Look for the precise moment when your line of text absolutely fits your own inner action and with the silent action going on in the scene.


Lines from plays:

You’re so lovely.

I’m not going to set foot inside this place again.

How boring these people are.

What’s the matter with you?

I’m too simple to understand you.

Maybe this is the very thing I needed.

I’m sorry.

I had a feeling we’d see each other again.

Shut the window, there’s a draft.

Touch me and I’ll scream.

You have such beautiful hands.

You going anywhere?

I’m not meeting anyone.

I’m not perfect, I know.

I knew it wasn’t right.

I thought I was a bird.

Tell me what you want me to do.

Is your friend coming today?


Reflect on the exercise.  What worked and what didn’t?  How can the focus on the inner actions (what is this? Thoughts, feelings, subtext, checking with partner, etc.) help you in your performance piece?  You need to absolutely know your text, but the focus can’t be on the lines themselves.  It needs to be on the meaning behind the line – the objective and why you’re saying what you’re saying.




Model this idea OBJECT SA p.75 – using the inner action by doing the following: have a student stand in front of the class simply holding an object in his/her hand.  Have the student simply stand there for a full minute or so.  It should be awkward and odd to just have everyone watching the student just stand there.  The student might start to fidget and play with the object – direct them to not do that and to just stand.  Now direct the student to look for defects in the object they are holding.  Encourage him/her to examine the object carefully and say what he/she finds as the exploration goes on.


Ask the class audience and the actor separately: What was different between those experiences?  What does having some specific action do for you as an actor/watching as an audience member?




With students taking notes in their actor’s journals, review the term super-objective.  A character’s super-objective must have urgency: every action and objective must have immediacy (how badly do you want it and what will happen if you don’t get it?)  If it’s too easy to reach then look for/create obstacles for your character to need to work though (that are grounded in the text).


Connect the outer actions, inner actions, and objectives by encouraging students to keep testing their objectives with the question: “Why did I do that?” so that the the outer actions (what am I doing?) will collaborate with inner actions (what do I want?)


Share the following quotes with the students (you can print them out and distribute them to three students to share with the rest of the class):

“What happens onstage should be just as complicated and just as simple as things are in real life.  People are sitting at a table having dinner, that’s all, but at the same time their happiness is being created, or their lives are being torn apart.”


“How might actors experience artistic inspiration?  The answer lies in ACTION.”


“Physical actions are small, achievable tasks that are directed straight towards the other actor(s) on stage.” (or invisible partners)


To accomplish the experience of real feelings the actor must work moment-to-moment talking and listening.




Pair monologue students up and have them perform one action unit or beat for their partner.  Have the partner say “Why?” and the actor has to justify the bit before being allowed to move on.  The scene partners could do this with one line/section going back and forth.  The constant justification of the text should include subtext from their paraphrasing as well as action/objective.




Bring the students back together and discuss their experience with that practice.  How does having to know why they think/do everything alter their interpretation or performance?




Give students the rest of the class period to rehearse their pieces; focusing on the actions of their piece.  They need to work moments, not just run through the piece over and over.  But rather, direct them to work a moment or a beat a few different ways (change the outer action; try a new inner action; play the opposite, etc.) and get away from their preconceived notions on voice and body.  Only after that beat is worked should they move to the next one.  They should run through what they’ve worked at the very end of the class.