21 Questions

RequirementsA person you have no relationship or history with to imbue with the memories or characteristics of someone you do
RehearsalSpend a week remembering specific events from your life that happened but instead of the actual person, recast them with your scene partner sort of like if they made a movie of your life.
CompetencyConcentration / Imagination
Skills DevelopedUsing substitution to make things personal and meaningful
Created ByKeary McCutchen

Acting Principles

  1. In order to produce an organic emotional response we must make every desire essential and take everything personal. By projecting our own meaning onto our scene partners appearance and behaivor we can affect how we are triggered emotionally.
  2. Acting is self deception. In order to craft a convincing lie we must employ depth and detail in our self-dellusion. When your mind reminds you that this isn’t real, you must have a false memory to put your attention on. This is accomplished by using a combination of imagination and sensory memories, to create a triggering “memory”. For example, you might take a night from your life that you spent with someone you care about and recast the other person to be your scene partner. Relationships are memories. When we see someone we love, we smile, because their appearence triggers a series of detailed and specific memories. In order to produce truthful, natural behaivor, we must mimic how the body actually behaives.
  3. Our imagination affects our behaivor and emotional state just as much as our actual environment. Our reality becomes what we believe it to be so we must alter our perception to fit the given circumstances of the scene.
  4. Human beings only see tools and obstacles. Mother, father, wife, husband are titles not relationships. We can have a mother who nurtures, a mother who weakens, a mother who punishes, etc. Understanding the nature of human relationships and how they affect our autonomy, security, and status is essential to our work as actors.


Answer the following questions about a real person in your life that belongs in one of these categories. Feel free to combine, embellish, or imagine qualities from one or more than one person to create an ideal person that produces the strongest emotional response. You will then choose someone from class who is as close to this person as possible and then choose someone who is the furthest from that person. For example: if you are working on an enemy, first choose someone you don’t get along with and then choose your favorite person.

Continue to practice imbuing your scene partner with different relationships until you are confident you can turn a stranger into an intimate relationship.


As actors we must make the unreal real, the impersonal personal, this exercise helps you learn to bring aspects of yourself to your work so that you can empathize with the character you’re playing. You must love what the character loves, hate what the character hates, etc. This is accomplished by leveraging what we love and what we hate.

Acting is reacting. When we see the first person we ever kissed we don’t have to think to blush, we don’t tell our heart to race with excitement or embarrassment. Acting must be effortless. We must learn to alter our perception so that the body will respond as if the imaginary circumstances were real. We must use our imaginary senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell to supersede our actual senses and so that the body will take care of itself and respond as it does naturally.

The Questions

Feel free to add more or edit questions. Acting, especially preparation, is extremely personal. You must identify what your triggers are, usually, these are the areas of greatest vulnerability i.e. if you were once hurt by a lie, any dishonesty will produce a strong emotional response. If you were once hurt by theft, any taking of something that doesn’t belong to a person will trigger a strong emotional response. How you’ve been injured the most and what you’re most afraid of happening to you are helpful in identifying in the past as good indicators of what your strongest triggers are. Humans are motivated by avoiding loss, so look to your biggest losses for clues. Make sure that your answers employ as many senses as possible so that they evoke an emotional response. Avoid being intellectual and abstract. An ineffective intellectual answer would be I want to kill them or I would hurt them as bad as they hurt me. An effective specific emotionally provocative answer would be I want to take a pair of dull garden sheers and cut off their fingers one by one, while they beg me to stop.


  1. What about them turns you on the most?
  2. What is it about them that you can’t find in others?
  3. What do they do that curls your toes in bed?
  4. Why would they or wouldn’t they make a good spouse?
  5. When you imagine them with past lovers how does it make you feel?
  6. If there was one thing you could change about them, what would it be?


  1. What do you have in common with them that separates them from others?
  2. What makes them better than other people?
  3. What makes them worse than other people?
  4. What’s the craziest thing you’ve done together?
  5. Tell me about a time they were there for you when you needed them?
  6. Tell me about a time they weren’t there for you when you needed them?


  1. What did they take from you/cause you to lose?
  2. How long did it take you to recover/heal?
  3. What virtue/weakness did they take advantage of?
  4. What won’t you ever let happen again because of what they did?
  5. How did what happened change your life forever?
  6. How are people like them contributing to the fall of society?

Someone Who Has Authority Over You

  1. What is the most unfair thing they’ve ever done to you or made you do?
  2. What do they do that makes you feel worthless?
  3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever done to you?
  4. What do they do that makes you feel important?
  5. Why do you obey them?
  6. What do you respect about them?

Someone You Have Authority Over

  1. Why do they need your leadership?
  2. What makes you superior and justifies your authority over them?
  3. Do you care about them? Why? Why Not?
  4. If you could replace them, what would your ideal replacement be like?
  5. What do you wish they would do/understand differently?
  6. What don’t they understand about how difficult it is leading?


Example of Lovers
Example of Enemies
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