Character and Interplay

Physical Theatre, Interplay. Paris 2012

Photo by Kasia Kozinski


There are many different forms of characterization practiced by actors around the world. In our method, we discover the true essence of the character’s emotional core and extend that feeling into the line of the body to project a powerful sense of visual and emotional recognition. The actor works to create identification, believability, and most importantly, empathy.  As audience members, once we have identified who the character is, we must believe the character, and finally, we must care about the character. Our ultimate challenge then as performers is to make the audience empathize with our characters rather than merely watch them.

We will also learn to build characters that are in the realm of the imaginary. These may include characters that are alien beings, animated personas, inanimate objects, or mechanical people. Though these characters are not in themselves human, we discover the very real emotional qualities within them.


Interplay is the heartbeat of physical Theatre and one of our most challenging tasks as performers. To witness characters communicating truthfully with one another or the audience, using their faces, body position, gesture, movement, but without words, can be an unusually powerful experience on stage. Keith Berger has developed and evolved the work of Paul J. Curtis, the late brilliant director of The American Mime Theatre in New York City, who’s Interplay exercise teaches actors to relate to each other and to the audience in a way that brings us uncommonly close to the moment. This process of interplay engenders an exchange between actors that is deeply personal. Performed at its highest level, the audience experiences a sense of empathy and is left with the feeling that they have witnessed something emotionally intriguing. The interplay might be heartbreaking, humorous, or even mundane, but it is nonetheless real and felt.


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