1st Edition

Using Open Scenes to Act Successfully on Stage and Screen

By Dan Carter, Brant L. Pope Copyright 2022
    122 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Using Open Scenes as a "way in" to scripted material, this book establishes a foundational actor training methodology that can be applied to the performance of film or television acting, commercials, and theatrical realism.

    Unlike other methodologies, this unique approach is devoid of casting considerations or imposed identity, providing actors opportunities that do not rely on nor are restricted by age, gender, race, ethnicity, regional accent, body type, identity, or other defining or delimiting aspects that come into play during the casting process. This allows the actor to focus on personal authenticity as they develop their skills.

    This book will appeal to undergraduate students, acting teachers, and the contemporary actor seeking a career in film, television, or other electronic media.

    Visit the companion website www.usingopenscenestoactsuccessful.godaddysites.com for additional Open Scenes and more.

    Introduction: You’re On, and It’s All On You 1. Acting and Performing 2. Open Scenes (Without Context) 3. Investigating the Script 4. Open Scenes Applied to Commercial Copy 5. Open Scenes and the Day Player 6. Problem Solving Using Open Scenes 7. Compendium: Open Scenes 8. Appendix: Additional Resources


    Dan Carter was Director of the Penn State School of Theatre for 22 years. Previously he was Associate Dean of Theatre at Florida State and Chair of Theatre at Illinois State, where he also served as Producing Director of Illinois Shakespeare Festival. He served as president of both the National Association of Schools of Theatre and the National Theatre Conference and Dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. Acting credits include Smokey and the Bandit II, Cannonball Run, Mister Roberts (Martin Sheen), Butterflies Are Free (Farrah Fawcett), and Richard III (Al Pacino).

    Brant L. Pope is a professional actor and director. His work has been seen Off-Broadway, in regional theatre, and in film and television. For 11 years, he served as Director of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory and Associate Artistic Director of the Asolo Theatre Company in Sarasota, Florida. He later served as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin from 2010 to 2019. He has been the President of the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) and is member of Actors Equity Association (AEA) and Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC).

    Praise for Using Open Scenes to Act Successfully on Stage and Screen


    "Using Open Scenes is a unique and practical approach to scene work. As an acting teacher, I am a huge fan of assigning open scenes to my students prior to work with regular scripted scenes. This book is a guide that clearly and concisely simplifies scene work. I wish I had this book when I was an acting student. It is a must for acting students, actors, and acting teachers."

    Malena Ramírez, Actress/Acting Teacher


    "What you’re being provided with is the blueprint for spontaneity. As ironic as that sounds, it is the most necessary ingredient in your recipe for becoming a good actor. Imagination, intent, and then the bravery to live on stage and on screen as you do in real life…not knowing what’s going to happen from one moment to the next."

    Gonzalo Menendez, Actor


    "The unique and wonderful thing about Using Open Scenes as an acting tool is that it’s literally a step-by-step training manual on how to successfully begin working with text. Be it scene work, or audition sides and copy, the book explains how to approach your character, without losing the emotional investment and free form curiosity that often happens to actors when we pick up a script. It’s hard to learn any performing art form from a book, yet this guide not only explains the foundation of acting and how to practice it, but it skillfully articulates how to be a better actor, rather than focusing on ‘getting the scene right.’ Giving many examples of how to approach your text with preparation and improvisation, the book offers practical applications to your craft without getting bogged down in wandering hypotheticals. You’ll learn the important difference between ‘exploring’ text versus ‘playing’ text and how it’s the audience’s job (not the actor’s) to figure out the story. As an actor and a teacher, myself, I am always looking for clear and concise ways to define what it is ‘to be an actor,’ Using Open Scenes, not only gives this definition but presents you with countless opportunities to try it out for yourself. I’m excited to use these valuable tools with my students and in my classes going forward."

    - Erin Roberts, Actor, Teacher, Coach 

    "I have often used Open Scenes in my acting courses for the specific purpose of allowing actors to bring their foundational exercises to scripted work. It simplifies the process of finding the ‘right scene’ for everyone and allows the acting classroom to remain an equitable space where each actor’s identity is welcomed and valued. I have often wished for a complete book of open scenes, crafted to allow a myriad of dramatic possibilities. And suddenly–here it is!

    The magic of an open scene is the many ways it can be interpreted, so that actors have freedom to bring themselves to the work, exploring subtext, conflict, relationships, and their objectives in ways that allow them to interact truthfully.

    Using Open Scenes not only clearly and concisely gives actors tools for applying their training to text, it also immediately applies these tools to the actor’s daily job–the audition. Then it takes them one step further and applies them to personalizing roles in "great plays". Instead of being trapped by ‘the way it’s always played’, actors are liberated to live truthfully inside the world of given circumstances. 

    The book is easy to read and digest. It doesn’t ramble on, but instead immediately offers up activities for application. I love that, because the best learning comes from DOING. In an age where access is increasingly important, Using Open Scenes is accessible. I’ll be using it in class as soon as it’s available!"

    Erin Farrell Speer, Director/Choreographer, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre, UNC Greensboro


    "The examples of Open Scenes both within the chapters and index are many and varied; running the gamut from short, simple, and direct, to longer and more complex. Their purposeful lack of context will challenge the student to exercise their imagination."

    Lisa Gaye Dixon, Actor/Professor, University of Illinois


    "The best meets the best–two incredible acting instructors come together in one book. I use this technique in my classroom on a daily basis and believe it to be the modern and only solid approach to Acting. Their wisdom will trickle down for generations of artists to come."

    - Brianne Beatrice, Actress/Acting Teacher, Northern Essex Community College


    "If you are reading this first, you must be asking yourself the same question I asked: ‘Why an acting book based on using open scenes?’ If you are aware of the authors, you must also be asking my second question: ‘Why would two master acting teachers and directors choose to focus their collaboration on work that is usually relegated to the first level of acting classes?’ READ THE BOOK. Early in the text, you will find ‘You must learn to pay attention to the twinge you feel when something doesn’t make sense to you.’ These acting masters are paying attention to their own decades-long twinge, when they witnessed their students and colleagues struggle to activate scripted work, notes from directors, and commercial sides. On the surface, this book is about using open scenes to prevent ineffective acting work––‘playing the words,’ ‘playing the emotion,’ etc. But right below the surface of the text, similar to what a trained actor discovers when examining a scene's conflict, given circumstances, and points of view of characters, is the real objective: This book is actually a compact, complete, and current treatise on how actors can bring themselves to every role, every script, every line of dialogue. It uses the open scene to make practical the common elements for all effective other-based acting approaches. As an actor, I was reenergized by the reminders of what is essential for acting. As an acting instructor, I plan on using the book immediately. I can give no higher recommendation."

    Scott Hayes, Dean, School of Communication & the Arts, Liberty University


    "Using Open Scenes will become the most dog-eared text in my professional and personal library. As a working professional actor and an acting instructor for university non-major acting students, the book provides extremely succinct and incisive and actionable instruction that is practical for both of my careers. The magic of the book is a lot like the magic of alive and electrifying acting: it's easy to grasp and rare to achieve. 

    As both a teaching tool and professional touchstone, successful stage and screen acting is easily explained in practical language and with specific examples that are accessible and understandable to novice and experienced actors. The increasingly complex open scenes are revelatory to the novice and bolster the essence of the art to more experienced, proving extremely valuable to both groups. 

    The mastery of the action-based acting laid out in this book is part of the lifelong learning of long-standing and working actors, and two masters of the art provide this brilliantly simple and infinitely precise and accessible road map. I'll need two copies: one for my home office and one for my faculty office."

    - Barbara Chisholm, Actor/Producer/Lecturer


    "Using Open Scenes is a gift to the actor, and to the teacher of acting. Every page not only defines the work of the actor, but how that work specifically and crucially differs from the work of the director, reader, and audience member. All of the classic ingredients in the acting "soup" are thoroughly covered: given circumstances, conflict, point of view, objective, and action. But the difference is that Using Open Scenes emphasizes for the actor the transformative importance of looking at the words of the script and not making any assumptions, not one, about how those words must or should come out of you. In fact, musts and shoulds are thrown out utterly, in favor of the possible. The possible is what naturally emerges when the actor realizes it’s not about themselves ‘performing a story’, it’s about uncovering all the things you never thought of (because they’re not in that pesky script) that you could be doing to that person you’re talking to, in order to change them, and that is freeing and thrilling."

    Dan Matisa, Bradley University


    "Using Open Scenes is an invaluable contribution to the literature of acting pedagogy. Carter and Pope offer a fresh approach to action and scene work that invigorates and empowers the actor. Using open scenes of increasing complexity, this book gives the actor and the teacher of actors a fresh toolbox of powerful aliveness and presence. Beginning with a persuasive case for truly living in the moment and then providing thorough explanations for deploying the technique, the actor is able to unlock their authentic self and bring greater creativity to everything from auditions, commercials, day player, to major roles. I am excited to bring this to my students!

    - Heidi Winters Vogel, BKT Associate Professor of Theater, Acting, Improvisation, Applied Theater, Wabash College