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The Playwrights Forum > General > Question & Answer > Full character breakdown.

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 Posted: Thu Apr 5th, 2007 09:11 pm
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theatralite
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Mana: 
I'm finding the term "character breakdown" and sometimes "full character breakdown" frequently used in submission guidelines.
Beyond a list of characters just how much would you reckon to include? Ibsen and Shaw tended to use elaborate character descriptions but both were writing to be read as much as performed.
So how much is too much and how much too little?
Ideas please.

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 Posted: Fri Apr 6th, 2007 12:34 am
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nic
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I don't know about you but I've often found that  if I put a picture of a character... some annonymous clipping from somewhere...  over  my screen when I'm writing it helps me. Once I just couldn't get a character until I gave him a tatoo but I'd never think of  providing a character breakdown that called for a  six foot, blond, crew cut etc. I reckon some clue to the character's motivation, age and that's about it. The rest of the clues should be in the script for a director and more importantly the actor to find.

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 Posted: Fri Apr 6th, 2007 03:47 pm
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theatralite
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I actually tend to use real people. Not that they'd recognise themselves in any of my plays as they're composites (if that's the right word.) For example in a recent play I have an athletic young singer/dancer who is the entertainment manager of a Spanish holiday club-she is my mind picture but the character she plays is based a fairly ruthless editor I know. Unlike that young woman she now hobbles around on crutches, victim to some rare degenerative disease she picked during her time in the USA.
Neither could possibly see themselves in the character but working in that way gives me speech patterns, motivation, etc. I sometimes use real names in the first draft but change them later.

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 Posted: Wed Jul 4th, 2007 04:02 pm
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Corerro
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I was curious---- I'm not sure the original question was ever answered.... Perhaps people could  could post some breakdowns on here for critique.... I used to be quite detailed, but was once told that it might be to much of a chokehold on productions, so I began to pare down a tad. To get the ball rolling, I'll include what's currently in the supporting docs for Clytemnestra....

AEGISTHUS, former prince of Argos

AGAMEMNON, king of Argos

ARTEMIS, Olympian goddess of the Hunt

CALCHAS, a blind seer

CASSANDRA, Trojan princess, Agamemnon’s slave

CLYTEMNESTRA, queen of Argos

 

ELDERS, advisors of the king

 

HERALD

 

SENTINEL

 

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 Posted: Thu Jul 5th, 2007 04:39 am
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katoagogo
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theatralite wrote:
Ibsen and Shaw tended to use elaborate character descriptions but both were writing to be read as much as performed.


Also -- Ibsen and Shaw were writing a hundred years ago. That's a little like writing a pop-song by using Scott Joplin as your guide.

I take "Full Character Breakdown" to mean how many of who/what does this play call for, not nuanced character description. What you're putting on the page for them is akin to a list of ingredients that tells a theater up-front whether they can afford your cast.

This is also why on the same page they want to know the number of sets and location changes.

Paula Vogel tells a story about her early plays -- that she was convinced that her play would be picked-up by a theater only if it could fill the end-of-the-season slot (the slot with the leftover budget). So she wrote plays that required one minimal set and a maximum of three characters. The strategy worked.

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 Posted: Thu Jul 5th, 2007 04:55 am
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katoagogo
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Here's an example of a character breakdown for a new piece called ARIADNE ON THE ISLAND:

DANTE: a rugged man with a blinded eye covered by a patch, he possesses a fondness for spirits, song, and laughter.

ANA: a young woman with cropped hair, passing as a boy, she is a foreigner.

PETER: an idealistic young man, to whom good fortune often comes too easily.

VIA: a fiery woman, voluptuous, with long, wild dark hair, she is from the island.

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