How to analyse scripts
I am writing this article from the perspective of the actor: so pre-article apologies to all other creatives.
I will begin in the early days 2005 to be precise. I was given some fantastic advice from an English teacher when I was in high school. He said, 'before anything else write down three things, what the play write says about you, what others say about you and what you say about yourself'. Seems self explanatory and almost obvious but it was the best advice I took and served me well all through drama school.
It is also helpful if you take one outlook per read, (not only will you read the play/film three more times but you will find something new every single time - guaranteed) A good playwrite will always have character perspective to add depth and controversiality to their work. When I played Gertrude in sea horse it was so important to know what the playwrite and others thought of me, in order to give Gertrude the justice she deserves. Just by 'reading my lines' the performance would be one dimensional, knowing that she is so well loved and yet so affected by her past that she can do nothing but reject this is much more powerful to internalise and indeed watch opposed to what can easily be interpreted as negativity.
Another obvious one and yet often forgotten is always always always look up the meaning of words - every single word (in the whole play/film) if you get the script before an audition then this is something to do straight away. Once the job is yours, do it again. Apart from the fact that it's respect for the writer/director/other actors, it is impossible to give yourself the best preparation needed. Further more, you never know who will be in the audience.
Give a script a chance. Writers (especially comedy writers - due to the timing and punctuation needed to transport from page to spoken word) spend hours, days, months, years even picking their scripts apart word for word, painting the world for you, like any artist it comes from the heart and a need to express, so its essential to give the script a chance. I heard a brilliant story from a director at drama school. He was directing a play and this particular director takes a very (seemingly) laid back approach to direction making all actions organic and necessary whilst the actor unknowingly produces, to a tee, precisely what he had in mind from the word go. An utter genius if you ask me. Now this director brought the play 'Threads' by Jonathan Bolt to his company and they read through it, by day 3 the play was on it's feet, the actors complained that the language didn't seem natural, they were struggling to find the thought processes of their characters and were convinced that it was a hindrance to their acting capabilities, the director said, "fine if that's how you feel we will improvise the lines and find the thought process organically". This is what they did. As the rehearsals commenced each day the improvisations changed as the characters grew and developed into themselves. Three weeks later they were asked to go back to the original script, unanticipated by the actors they were already word perfect. There own 'organic' interpretations of the script had miraculously developed back to the original lines. The moral of this story is trust. Trust in another artist. The playwrite will have done all the work for you. All you need to do is 'be' and the rest will fall into place. This story has a further twist. The director of the company in discussion was Jonathan Bolt himself. He was so confident that what was on that paper was fundamental to the final production that by letting the actors explore their own boundaries and improvise there was no doubt that they would eventually just 'be' and let the text do all the work.
Taking all into consideration it is all about listening. Like your favorite song. At first you like the title or perhaps the composer. Then you are hit with a genre. The score will make you feel what the words are saying. If you go to see a play by the time the curtains go up you know what you are in for, you know the title, the playwrite, usually the performers on stage, you have seen the set and are possibly being entranced with music. It isn't until you hear the words of the actor, it isn't until you are transported into the depths of the play and truly listen that you allow yourself to go on a journey. Much like your favorite song. An actors job is to truly listen. Not just to read a play but listen to its message. Listen to what is being said by the playwrite. Listen to what is being said by others. Listen to what is being said by you. Listening will undoubtedly and effortlessly internalise all text and action.
Of course What, When, Where, Why and How play huge roles in the overall interpretation of the text. The intellectual and research side of any production will correspond directly to how the performance is tackled, to how a word is pronounced, to how a thought is provoked, to how the tapestry of the production is layered. These are all essential for analysis and understanding and yet will never be found if you are not prepared to listen.
I am like most, a starving actress. I completed the textbook of acting, won a scholarship to an acting conservatory, found myself an agent, signed up to casting call pro, spotlight, CNI, tweet on average 10,000 tweets a day to all, Facebook stalk casting directors, actors, producers, write my love letters to production company's and show up at symposiums. I am yet to find my staring role or my lucky break. However I will not give up. I am in it for the long run as I am in it for love. A love for the arts a passion to hold a mirror up to society. I leave you with a quote from my acting teacher at AADA, "It is what it is". Trust in the paper in front of you and simply 'be'.