Working Papers



The Actor's Unit Breakdown

An actor-unit breakdown shows which actors are in which scenes and what motivates the characters they play.


Download it here (pdf)

Directors and actors use units—that is, sequences of lines within scenes—to break scripts into manageable chunks. Each unit is governed by a specific motivation and a specific action.

As actors do their preparatory research, they use the units in which they will appear to discover the intentions of the characters they play. Typically, actors ask the following questions:

In this fashion, actors and directors build the skeleton of what later becomes a more nuanced body of performance. Of course, actors and directors use units differently, and units often change as a result of discoveries made during rehearsal.

Units are also important in scheduling rehearsals. They allow directors, designers, and crews to focus only on those actors who are needed for specific units.

This Actor-Unit Breakdown is current as of September, 2008. We'll post significant changes to it on this page.