Dee Cannon’s In-depth Acting

Notes and thoughts and bits and bobs about the book.


I want to act

“Acting is not just about learning skills it is about… preparing yourself – your mind, body and spirit. You should be fine tuning your imagination and allowing yourself to be forever curious.”

Know thy self

List on page 13: I agree but also how on earth have you refined his list and why are theses the “main ones” – Do these link to the 5 main objectives (seduce destroy celebrate educate..?)

Things to do section pg 15 v interesting

“Broaden your horizons, increase your point of reference. You don’t have to become an expert but at least become familiarized with things outside your social sphere and comfort zone.” – what’s my comfort zone / social sphere and what can i do to expand it?

“Take a leaf from american actors where confidence doesn’t mean arrogance”

Look up: Group Theatre in NYC 1931

Pg 17 = history of Lee and Alder

“Im unconvinced that by neglecting ‘action’ and ‘imaginative’ work you become more connected to the character. I’m my honest opinion, i think this promotes emotional, self absorbed, indulgent and boring actors…” – Kate William’s wanking! Make love, don’t wank!

“I strongly believe as an actor you should be working on yourself all the time.” “as an actor you need to be self aware” – what  can i do to be more self aware? Diaries, daily trackers, yoga.

Why train?

“I strongly believe that training enhances your natural instincts”

Acting training


Pg 37: outlining of themes in; elizabethan plays (1558-1603), Jacobean plays (1603-1625) and restoration comedies (1668-1710)

“Words are your tools”

On sight reading – “Bring the character to life by making some simple choices.”

Pg 41: List of things to prep professional sides pre-audition – “even if you only have 4 hours try to resist just learning the lines” (see my work with louise at conti on sight reading)

On accents: app called ooTunes has radios from all nations

You got the part, now what? Technique

Pg47-56: detailed breakdown of the 7/9/10 big acting Q’s

Using Action as what I now as Objective and the Activity as Actioning. I do like this as Activity feels more active (for want of a better word) and leaners to verbs (see Kate Williams teachings on ticking verbs).

On actioning: “At this stage you should know who your character is and your choice of active verbs should be informed by your character choice and not  your personal choice.”

[Aug.2017] Right now I feel I have completely neglected the 10th Q in this list in its entirety – make sure to look deeper into this

Pg 56: List useful research areas and start points

“You should know your character as well as you know yourself”

“ once you’re in the rehearsal stage for screen or stage, I believe you should refer to yourself as the character in the first person”

“I believe you have to use your imagination. This is the difference with so-called ‘Method’ acting where you have to live it to be it.”

Pg 68 : Interesting comparisons using Stan’s the Magic If

How to develop a character in depth

(i) outers and inners

EXERCISE: “I always think it is a goodexercise to write down your own characteristics before you tackle you character’s.” – Think I’ll find this hard, good to keep amending over time.

“Just because you broke down or got angry, it doesn’t mean that’s the type of person you are… so you have to separate circumstantial situations from the actual makeup of the character.”

Pg 71: Summary of key points when writing inner and outer lists – “Keep it objective / Don’t comment or judge / no emotions or feelings / no reactions”

“I suggest after you have a working list of inners and outer to now extract three or four that you think represent the essence of your character” – Cannon suggests to find a personalisation for this set of overriding characteristics of it far from what you are. ( this is looked into more later)

Cannon then goes on to talk about  Object exercises  to bring up that particular characteristic in you. Finding a thing that made u impatient for example and or organise by colour your wardrobe to get the essence in you of being organised.

For religious characteristic she suggests something similar to a private moment. Set up a mini altar in your room and immerse yourself in it have something in mind to pray for or about, she says “minimum 30 mins and maximum one hour”

(ii) personalisation / substitution / endowment

“Basically you need to find a person who you can base your character on”

Circles of people – you / family / friends / acquaintances / public figures

“ you don’t need to personally know the person you’re basing your character on but you always need to have an image of the person you’re playing… Personalising does not mean imitating.

EXERCISE: list people I know and outline what i see as their essence characteristics as a reference point

“If your character has a cathartic experience … that shows a completely different side to them, you’ll need to find another personalisation for them.”

“Work out what relationship you have with each character and chose a personalisation for each that fits the relationship”

“You must also personalise the situation… You need to think of a ‘what if’ situation that you can believe”

“It’s not what would i do but what could I do” – free’s up the imagination more

She also talks about personalizing the audience.

“Personalisation is not there to alienate you from the period.. Incontray it’s there to help you believe in the world even more”

Pg 88: Important reminder for personalization

On substitution – “Substitute names and places with something familiar and person” makes it more personal and connected

“This technique is used to endow an object or person with a quality so that it changes you

Pg 91: interesting suggestions of endowment

“You much commit fully otherwise it will not change you enough”

(iii) objectives / actions

“The first thing you must do after you have read the script once is to re-read the script and work out what is your objective”

Conclusion checklist: 1) Find your objective for the arc of the script 2) Find your objective for each scene or unit 3) Find your actions “i want to ___ you” 4) Find your super objective or your life objective – often ambitions

(iv) script breakdown / making choices

“It’s always better to make a choice than no choice at all” – Always bring something to the table to work with

“You need to be brave, make specific, informed character choice, take risks and play them fully” – Kate Williams is that you?

*Find notes on Dan Williams work with me on shifts and beats

GAME we made at Conti found it very useful: Get the ball from the the person to your right using a tactic the group shouts out, you have a time limit and the person holding the ball should only give ball if they feel the tactic has been fully played or they feel moved to.

(v) sense memory / effective memory / emotional memory

Use all 5 senses

Observe yourself” – keep tabs on yourself how you deal with emotion what you do when your cold in a specific type of pain, be self aware at every second of the day.

“Affective memory should transport you for one state of being to another”

She then states to relax completely (semi supine) and go through the memory of before and after the effective memory to feel each state and find where you shift.

On emotional memory – “This is more extreme than affective memory… The distance from this enormous emotional situation must not be less than 5 years in order for you to have sufficient detachment” – life experience

4 major emotions – extreme anger / laughter / tear / fear

Relax again in semi supine go through every sense and detail of that exact moment everything u can possibly remember, you’ll find something that triggers you an object word or sense etc. but the extreme emotion will now because the time gap be controllable. Repeat to secure what exactly is your trigger for this memory.

“Once You have established you trigger for your affective or emotional memory you have to test where you need to place it in the text”

Pg 108: good guide to find relaxation

Character preparation

3 categories to find trigger to springboard you before performance:

Objects – personal objects that affect you eg: letters/puzzles/jewelry find which part triggers you rehearse this to pin point it after barely need the object just think of the trigger.

Music – “I encourage this the most” I find this extremely effective, tried and tested. Find the trigger of the song (eg: chorus of bee’s in the trap nicki M and toy soldier chorus eminem used for Dinah Massie Beautiful Burnout) “I highly recommend testing out riggers out if context that why you can’t really test if they are foolproof”

Physical – Pressing on wall, running etc “a lot can manifest out of exhaustion” “Physical perp in rehearsal to free you up and make you more spontaneous” Animal “you are not trying to represent you are trying to be … lose yourself in the animal” have an objective eat, have fun, cause havoc etc. for at least 20 mins “you should be feeling extremely exhausted” all to find a different physical centre or use animal study for physical transformation find the essence of the animals physicality or use only for essance find a trait of the animal only to find another quality rather than different centre of being.

How to rehearse

“You should learn your script beat by beat”

“Therefore you have not just learnt the line but also the intention underneath it”

Marry your physicality to your action – “actions speak louder than words”

“Take a risk”

“Once you have made all your choices you should have the confidence to play them fully otherwise they will remain on paper”

Learns lines by making sure you are playing your action to its fullest.

On a long running performance: “I believe this is the golden opportunity to perfect your craft” – make sure u keep listening play the game serve that tennis ball and recive it

Thing to avoid: rehearsing in front of  a mirror / record other characters lines and insert yours vocally never just your lines / NEVER critic others acting alongside you or micro-direct / NEVER ask for a line reading ever. / DO NOT you tube your scenes / never only act on the lines “You should act in between lines as well as on the line”

Having an extremely aware 3rd eye can be very “destructive” but 10% should always be there to allow self control “know the limits. Submerge yourself consciously!”

Finding different truths

“Theatre presents a heightened truthful reality and film a more intimate one”

Naturalism – “acting that mirrors life” – more TV and film

Realist – “a heightened reality style of acting, real and truthfully but heighted at the same time because it’s on stage”

Pg 129: concise list of technique steps to try

Final curtain

Pg 133: influential Stanislav quotes


SUPER USEFUL list of actions / characteristicas / character Q’s


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s