Kate Neuman: How It Should Be

Doug GoldringCommunity

Your idea of a character is necessarily less interesting than you are, because it’s only a part of you. – Seth Barrish, many years ago.

I’ve been an actor for a long time; I became a writer more recently. I’ve found that, for both, releasing my ideas of “how it should be” renders innumerable gifts.

As a writer, my best work happens when I’m struck by a thought or a moment or an image and I just start writing as an exploration of that response. I don’t know where I’m going to end up or what I’m going to discover; the story of the piece unfolds itself as I write, surprising me, maybe moving in directions I never thought of, becoming much more resonant than I imagined it would be when I began.

If I’ve decided in advance what the piece is going to say, though, I tend to over-explain my points and avoid contradictions that might undermine my argument; there are no surprises, no discoveries. When I read it over, I’m just plain bored.

Of course, it’s just the same in acting. If I read a play and get some idea of what the character is like in my head and then decide that I should be that thing when I’m onstage saying my lines, my performance will probably feel stilted, predictable, and overdone.

But if I don’t decide that I should be that thing – or like any particular thing at all – if, instead, I allow the story to unfold itself while I ride along, discovering as I go – then I get to have that exhilaration, that thrill of not knowing what’s coming next. And the performance is likely to be fuller, richer, and filled with surprises.

You might say, OK, Kate, you can do that in writing, but on stage we do know what is coming next; we know what the lines and blocking are, what the ending is.


But we don’t know how the experience of all of those will unfold for us on that day, in that moment – and embracing the not-knowing allows each performance to be a new adventure.

How lucky are we?

– Kate

Upcoming classes with Kate include Beginner Acting Class I: The Basics starting 7/2 and Professional Scene Study Intensive II: Self-Adjustment starting 7/2

Check out TBG’s full schedule of classes, including Youth classes, camps, and intensives!