The Triangle Theory

Which side are you really on ? Make a choice.

One of the first things I discovered when I started directing was the power of the triangle of actors when blocking a scene. The sightline gives the audience the opportunity to see the actors even when the actors are not always able to see themselves being seen. Each angle represents a unique perspective of how a person might perceive the world. In life each situation we face presents only one perspective as seen by that individual. The omnipotent vantage point of understanding the world around us by witnessing all three sides is what I like to call the “angles from heaven”. It allows the audience to see an almost spiritual encounter with the play.

The Triangle Theory mimics this blocking technique in relation to acting out a scene. When the actor approaches another character in the scene, they confront the situation as one side of a triangle, independent yet connected by an angle. A throwback to an old saying, “what’s your angle brother?” We want to know what you want, or where you’re going with the conversation. Then there is the opposite character with their side of the story. Connected by another angle. Then there is the last side that is unclear to them both but clear to the audience. They see the possible misunderstandings or mischievous interests of the antagonist in the scene, or maybe it’s hidden from everyone and revealed later. Sometimes it set us up for the twist or the fall of the scene. Whatever it becomes, it is exciting if done correctly. The moment the third side is revealed to the audience, the
audience has a sense of awareness to the story and its intentions. The actor’s job is to guide the audience along this journey through the life of the character.

As you travel along your own life’s journey, you understand how difficult situations you have experienced can be. Begin to gather those emotions and feelings you encounter. Write them down in a journal or share them on a recording device. Reexamine them from time to time to see how those emotions react to you. How does it land in your body? Does it impact your physical life, or your voice, or alter your movement, or speech patterns? All of these behaviors are useful when making choices about how you want to inform the audience. The behavior may begin internally but as an actor it must be represented in the form of an action. This action sometimes can be a common responsive behavior we may see used often by other more notable or famous actors. You may feel that choosing to use this common behavior will give you an advantage as the character as on your life’s journey. But I encourage you to avoid this temptation. Try to discover your own way of announcing your expression as the character to the world. Your willingness to search your own natural reactions to the emotions will keep you alive and in the scene. The idea of borrowing another actor’s choice is not always a poor decision. But choose with caution.

The third side of the triangle is often hidden from the character as is in life the actor from the world. In doing so, the discovery of the character is connected like the angles of the triangle. How we as human beings choose to view the world around us. As the third side of the scene represents the side of life we as human beings are always searching to find. Even for just a moment if we can catch a glimpse of the third side we like to believe it will reveal to us the answers to life’s mysteries.

Using the Triangle Theory

As the actor try to approach a scene with a strong awareness of your vulnerability as the character operating in a world where there are powerful uncertainties that keep us alive. We constantly seek to satisfy these inescapable desires to want to know something. As you study your lines in preparation for the scene, there will be moments you feel very vulnerable about remembering the lines. Use that natural instinct and emotion to shape your character’s life on the stage. It may or may not serve you in the end but be willing to give it a try. Remember that vulnerability is not being a victim. You are in charge and you must own your purpose, your personal power. Try to go back to the beginning and remember the very moment you made the commitment to become an actor. You made a distinct choice that has thrust you to the place where you stand. Now go the
distance. As the actor, you no longer are denying your humanness but you are acknowledging your vulnerabilities which keep you alive in the world searching for something that satisfies your purpose. You are always investing in the process of self-discovery and all the energy it takes to not only travel along your journey, but you must also maintain, train and cultivate your skills in life as well as the stage. It is more than
just how you want to be seen but rather how truly exposed you are willing to allow yourself to be in front of complete strangers.

We have a tendency to want to be seen in the perfections of life rather than accepting the reality that we are human beings who are flawed but be courageously in pursuit of excellence. The third side of the triangle often exposes the hidden pieces in life that we as human beings seldom see. As the actor, learn to trust and accept your limitations and imperfections. We inherited that truth about the character and understand that vulnerability springs from the true and authentic self. When you begin to trust you will understand your own truths as well as the truths of the character. If the actor does not put in the work to discover the authenticity of self, her or him will find it very difficult to trust and learn and listen to the character they are trying to portray.

-Phillip Bernard Smith

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Phillip Bernard Smith

Actor, Writer, Producer

The ability to influence others to achieve their dreams is the greatest quality an actor can ever have

-Phillip Bernard Smith

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