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Published:May 30th, 2013 11:44 EST
Building a Character and Being An Actress

Building a Character and Being An Actress

By Tiffany Rothman

When a performer tries to build a character for a play or film or even in dance choreography, a full story has to be created for the character. This means that a background needs to be provided for the character - her story, likes, dislikes and how the character views herself and her environment. The more details the better in term of learning more about the character.

There are times when the character of one play can carry over into the actor`s next performance. For example, once I was in a play called: "Flowers: A Thorny Romance." This play was about domestic violence and I had one of the principal roles. My character was a housewife from another country and had been abused after being in a marriage. I ended up as a widow after 15 years of being childless. The implication was that I had purposely poisoned my husband by giving him two cups of contaminated tea. I was told that I was a black widow. 

After the play, " Flowers: A Thorny Romance", I was cast in a feature film called, "Finding Home." In that film, I was a single mother with a daughter. My character has a bitter and hostile attitude toward most of her neighbors. In "Finding Home," my character wanted justice for those who had been mistreated by their family members and would use unorthodox methods to shield them from getting hurt.

I felt that the film "Finding Home" was a continuation of my role in "Flowers: A Thorny Romance." Most of the history of the character in the second work could have been taken from the " Flowers" role. The reason the "Finding Home" character became hostile and bitter was because she was experiencing discrimination by her neighbors as well as being abused by her husband. Then after the husband died, she discovered that she was pregnant with a daughter. In addition, during the shooting of the second work, cast mates referred to me as "the one who most likely buried her husband somewhere in the yard nearby." This made the process of filming "Finding Home" easier because of the previous experience with "Flowers."

Overall, my most fortunate experience as a performer has been to be able to study with the actress Lenore Harris (who was trained by Paul Mann) and to study with Dr. Jeanne Bresciani of Isadora Duncan International Institute. Their brilliant teaching skills are highly comforting as well as nurturing which allowed me to develop in various directions.

An additional value of the support of these mentors is to help one to better deal with the sometimes harsh comments from critics.

I started to audition seven years ago. Five years ago, when I earned a role n "Romeo and Juliet" with Teatro Latea, I invited the critic John Simon to attend a performance. In the email, I also mentioned that I expected him to be no less than his usual self since he is well known for upsetting/intimidating performers. John Simon emailed me back and kindly turned down the invitation since the type of obscure production I was in was not within his purview. I was also told not to invite him to my other play "The Fourth State of Matter" because the play`s author might develop a block after reading Simon`s review.

However, I had always wanted Simon to come to one of my plays. Most performers and industrial professionals would be surprised and wonder why! My response would be that I would welcome the insights, however harsh, of a critic who is highly knowledgeable, cultivated and who applies high aesthetic standards to his assessments.

I would have tried to treat the criticisms as guidelines for improving my craft. Being a performer is no different than being a servant who tries to share her sensibility with the viewer. If there is sufficient growth, the actor`s craft can, at its best, reach the level of art.
Tiffany Rothman, Actress