The Gonsalves Method – Objectives, Stakes, Entitlement Tactics – How these help create truthful acting.
Fill in these blanks for every scene and I believe you have a really strong way to get an actor to begin their journey when rehearsing. You may be amazed to know at Butterfly Theatre this is all we need to start rehearsing. Now to be fair, my actors all come with their lines entirely learned off book and without inflections. This is a feat in itself, and something I’ll explain further next month. Also they come armed with character lists of what their characters literally know and literally do, gaps and links and all their 5 conditions thought about but these things are for future articles. This article really outlines the very essential conditions I think any actor needs before opening their mouth on stage! Or even being on stage at all quite frankly!
But the premise is that if your have the lines on the tip of your tongue, and you don’t have to have your attention inward to look for lines, your attention can be totally outward on the other person responding to whether you can see you are getting your objective or not.
G Method Tip: When rehearsing before the lines are learned in this extraordinary way “beyond learning” you can have someone behind the actor feeding them their lines uninflected and loud, and three or four manageable words at a time. You’ll find it amazing to see the difference once you get an actor’s eyes onto the other actor, particularly if he/she is busy trying to get an objective and seeing how well it’s going.
Now the magic sentences!
Examples with blanks:
Get him to …… me (Objective)
Because if he …. Me then he’ll …… me (Positive Stake)
If he doesn’t …. Me then I’ll ….. (negative stake)
He should …. Me because ….. (Entitlement)
Examples with blanks filled in:
Get him to kiss me (Objective)
Because if he kisses me then he’ll marry me (Positive Stake)
If he doesn’t kiss me then I’ll be alone forever (Negative stake)
He should kiss me because we’ve been dating for years and he says he loves me (Entitlement)
Example of Lady Mcbeth [Act 1 Scene 7]
Get him to obey me (Objective)
Because if he obeys me then he’ll do what i say and he’ll kill Duncan (Positive Stake)
If he doesn’t obey me then I’ll never be queen (Negative stake)
He should obey me because we’re married and he says he loves me (Entitlement)
There are so many Lady Mcbeth objectives you can try out, and it’s brilliant because you can just test them out. Get him to keep his promise… Get him to hold my hand because… Get him to be strong…Anything. Try them and fill out the sentence. The stakes will give you the answer for the one you eventually want to use. Try them all out – why not? That’s what rehearsing is. Trial and error – doing it will actually give you an answer as then you will discover it and it will land. I will discuss adjustments in the next article. But essentially try this first and see what happens. You’ll think it’s too simple – try it. Remember you’re working with a genius in Shakespeare and totally unique actors that’s all the complexity you need. Keep the interaction simple it’s more likely to be true.
Mcbeth’s example may be:
Get her to go away
Because if she goes away I can stick to my decision to not kill the king
If she doesn’t go away I know she’ll persuade me and I’ll be a king murderer
She should go away because I’m her husband and she loves me etc…
[Ed. Now here’s a scrollable Macbeth script so you can try Lady Mcbeth’s objective… Even better, play the scene with a friend playing Macbeth. You can both try out different objectives. Click on the button A1S7 in the script below, and the scene will appear. If you want you can use the set-up wheel to use Highlit Text or Parts and cues]
If you put yourself under pressure with what is at stake. You will change tactics automatically in response to your partner.
A mother trying to get a stranger to drive her hurt child to the hospital will do anything to get them to agree to drive. The mother doesn’t even care about the child’s injuries, doesn’t get involved in the emotion of the moment, will even shout at the child to shut up, if that means the driver will agree to drive. She has a job to do (her objective) and getting it done is more important than anything, as her child’s life is at stake.
Do not decide any tactic is inappropriate. If the stakes are high enough we will do literally anything. And in Shakespeare, stakes are always high. Do note though we can be driven by stakes that are about getting £100 rather than 10 million because we actually believe it is plausible. So don’t just pick big stakes but stakes that you can buy into and that mean something to you. Someone’s good opinion of you may be a high enough stake.Discover what pushes your buttons, what matters to you. I include negative and positive stakes as I know humans get driven by different things – try and see.
And remember when we are trying to get someone to calm down we ourselves don’t necessarily need to be calm. In fact we might even slap them across the face – so all tactics are possible – just risk and try (though I’m not saying we should slap anyone without prior consent)! If you change tactic and make the situation worse, that is a ”good” thing for the drama and for comedy as you just have to try harder. The audience are enjoying watching the struggle. Once you get your objective I believe there’s nothing to do and you can’t act. So choose something that you are unlikely to get but is not impossible. Directors can manipulate objectives in a scene creating tension, as they know they will be hard to achieve in combination with each other
G Method exercise: Two actors stand 10 ft away from each other one faces away. Actor A calling ONLY Actor Bs name. He/she calls him and tries to get him to come and take his hands. Hopefully Actor A will be compelled to turn around and walk towards him. Actor B must change tactic to get Actor A to come. This is not about just trying different voices and ways of saying their name. The Gonsalves Method is about really connecting, being affectable, needing them to come over (stakes) and responding moment to moment really. Really talk to them and see if it’s working or not as they go back and forward. Respond to every change in weight, every footstep nearer or farther. The swap over. Actors are very generous and invariably come too soon! So suggest to your Actor As that Actor B has been overheard being mean about a friend, or worse you heard them slagging off your acting!! Now Actor B will have to work much harder!!
G Method Tip: NEVER discuss objectives openly. I strongly suggest you do not share objectives. It is so much fun to not know what the other character is trying to get you to do.No one should be wasting their time guessing – if it’s important enough (stakes that matter) you only care about what you’re trying to get them to do and checking if it’s working. There’s a lot of whispering and blocking of ears that go in Butterfly rehearsal rooms!
G Method Tip: Directors set up the scene and occasionally shout “is it working?” your actors will react accordingly. They should keep going and building on their current tactic if they see it’s going well and changing tactic if going badly. You’ll find Shakespeare’s genius allows any tactic change with any line. But it might surprise you how much interpretive choice is possible when you work in this way….underneath our preconceived appropriate way of playing lines there are new possibilities for this moment, these actors this production – now. Try it, risk it and put discovery first! Enjoy the moments….
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Ed: Aileen is keen to run workshops for Community / Amateur Theatre Groups. She only asks that the group pay her travel (from London) and accommodation costs (she’s happy to stay with Group members). If you’re interested in having a full-day workshop with Aileen then fill in the following form, and press submit.
In the immediate future Aileen is available on the following dates:
US (New York or nearby):
Saturday, April 21st