The Technique of Acting

By F. Cowles Strickland | Go to book overview

Chapter 11. TIMING, RHYTHM, TEMPO, AND PACE

THE FOUR WORDS timing,rhythm,tempo and pace, may be used to designate four separate, but interrelated, time concepts which are of vital concern to those engaged in theatrical work. All the words have been borrowed from music or the other arts, from sports, or from general human activity and have no precise, accepted definitions when applied to the theater arts. Although these terms are commonly used by actors and drama critics, each person seems to use them to describe slightly different concepts, one person talking about "pace" when he seems to mean exactly what another person means when he talks about "tempo." The battle of semantics has often confused the discussion of time in the theater to the point that an understanding of the problem has been obscured rather than clarified.

Timing has been discussed in a previous chapter, where it was arbitrarily defined as the precise time relationship between a spoken line and an action. A separate chapter was devoted to it because it is regarded as a separate technical device, while rhythm, pace, and tempo are not in themselves techniques but are rather the result of techniques.

Stanislavski devotes two chapters of Building a Character to what he calls "tempo-rhythm," one chapter dealing with its application to movement and the other with its application to speech; Boleslavsky discusses rhythm as meaning something entirely different and as having more to do with the effect of acting than with a method of acting; critics of theater performances most frequently use one or another of these words to describe the effect of a performance upon the audience, referring to a slow performance, or a slowly paced performance, when they seem to mean an uninteresting performance.


Pace Is Audience's Sense of Time

Since the purpose of drama is to awaken in the audience a predetermined response, it is well to consider first the problem of time as it relates to the audience. This sense of time in the audience will be the determining

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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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