The subtext in acting refers to the underlying thoughts, feelings, and motivations of a character that are not clearly stated in the dialogue or script. It is the unspoken emotional context that the actor brings to their performance, which helps to deepen the character and make their actions and words more believable and relatable to the audience. It is also called subtextual meaning, or subtextual action.
For example, in a scene where a character says, “I’m fine,” to another character, the subtext of the line might be that the character is actually upset or frustrated. The actor would convey this subtext through nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, even though the dialogue itself doesn’t clearly state that the character is upset.
In another example, if a character is delivering a line of dialogue that is meant to be humorous, but the character is actually in a serious situation, the actor would convey that subtext through the delivery of the line, which would give a sense of irony or sarcasm to the audience, even though the dialogue itself is just a funny line.
Subtext is an important aspect of acting because it helps to give depth and complexity to a character, making them more relatable to the audience and adding layers to the story. It allows the audience to connect with the character on an emotional level and to understand what is happening in the character’s mind.
How to find subtext in the script?
There are several ways to find subtext in a script when preparing for a role as an actor:
1. Analyze the character’s actions and motivations
Look at the character’s actions and goals in the script and try to understand what drives them. What do they want and why? What are their fears, desires, and secrets? Understanding a character’s motivations can help to reveal their subtext.
2. Read between the lines
Look for the hidden meaning or subtext in the dialogue. Sometimes the words a character says may not necessarily reflect what they are truly feeling or thinking.
3. Consider the context
Look at the scene and the context in which it takes place. Think about what is happening before and after the scene, and how that might affect the character’s subtext.
4. Use your imagination
Imagine yourself in the character’s shoes and try to think about how you would feel and react in their situation. This can help to reveal the subtext of the character’s actions and words.
5. Consult with the director
If you are having trouble finding the subtext in a script, consult with the director. They can provide insight and guidance on how to interpret the character and find their subtext.
Finally, it’s important to note that different characters, different scenes and different stories can have different subtexts and it’s also important to find the right balance between subtext and text, so it doesn’t overwhelm the audience but also doesn’t make them lose interest.