The Technique of Acting

By F. Cowles Strickland | Go to book overview

Chapter 9. POINTING

MOST ACTORS refer to pointing as though it were a separate technique, when actually it is a combination of all the techniques. It is closely related to the problem of the size of a performance in that it involves the use of techniques in relation to a single line, to a short phrase which is part of a line, or even to a single word. Pointing is frequently confused with timing because it often uses a physical action in a nice time relationship with the word or phrase which is being pointed, but it differs from timing in some respects because it can sometimes be done with the vocal techniques alone and sometimes with only the physical techniques.


Definition of Pointing

Pointing is the use of any technical device to bring special emphasis to a thought or an emotion which is expressed by some relatively brief phrase or action. It is, in a sense, the smallest possible unit of acting; but the sum of all the things which an actor chooses to emphasize, plus the skill with which he achieves that emphasis, adds up to the interpretation of the role. Pointing is to acting as the use of highlight and shadow is to painting; it gives the performance roundness and fullness. The actor's understanding and grasp of the character, and therefore his stature as an artist, will be revealed by the things which he selects to receive special emphasis, and his skill will be revealed by the facility with which he is able to point the passages he has selected.


The Uses of Pointing

When Hamlet, in Act III, Scene 3, has the opportunity to kill the King as he comes upon him while the King is praying, he does not seize the opportunity, lest the King should go to Heaven.

Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't: and so he goes to Heaven;
And so am I revenged? That would be scann'd:

-175-

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The Technique of Acting
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • How to Use This Book xiii
  • Contents xvii
  • Chapter 1 - The Nature of Technique 1
  • Chapter 2 - A Beginning Exercise 19
  • Chapter 3 - The Entrance 32
  • Chapter 4 - Phrasing Actions in Relation to Thoughts 54
  • Chapter 5 - Progressions 70
  • Chapter 6 - The Use of Techniques to Build a Climax 100
  • Chapter 7 - Timing 123
  • Chapter 8 - The Size of a Performance 150
  • Chapter 9 - Pointing 175
  • Chapter 10 - The Invention of Actions 204
  • Chapter 11 - Timing, Rhythm, Tempo, and Pace 230
  • Chapter 12 - Style 253
  • Chapter 13 - The Design of a Role 278
  • Character Index 295
  • Subject Index 299
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