Actions, Objectives and Super-Objectives

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by Jason Blackwater

This is not an improv blog as such. It’s about people. What people want and how they go about getting it.
The Stanislavski system of Objectives refers to a character’s wants within a play. He theorised that the character will always want to achieve something by the end of the play and that every decision they make should lead them towards that goal in some way.
So how does this apply to us? We probably don’t go through life carefully considering every action and it’s role within our life plan but what if we did?
To explain what I mean, I suppose I should go into a bit of detail about what each of these terms refer to. I shall be calling on the help of Wikipedia for this bit…it’s been 6 years!

Objectives

The objective is a goal that a character wants to achieve. This is often worded in a question form as “What do I want?” An objective should be action-oriented, as opposed to an internal goal, in order to encourage character interaction onstage. The objective does not necessarily have to be achieved by the character and can be as simple as the script permits. For example, an objective for a particular character may simply be ‘to pour a mug of tea.’ For each scene, the actor must discover the character’s objective. Every objective is different for each actor involved because they are based on the characters of the script.

If we apply this to our daily lives, this is what we want to do right now. My objective, right now is to write this blog. It’s quite a simple objective but an objective it is, nonetheless. My objective for the day is to have a productive day despite being really quite tired.

Super-Objectives

A super-objective, in contrast, focuses on the entire play as a whole. A super-objective can direct and connect an actor’s choice of objectives from scene to scene. The super-objective serves as the final goal that a character wishes to achieve within the script.

In our daily life this is the big goal, the “where do I wanna be in…” question. Mine is to earn a decent living from just things I enjoy doing; Improv, acting and design.

Obstacles

Obstacles are the aspects that will stop or hinder a character from achieving his or her individual objective. For example, while the character searches for tea bags to make the mug of tea, they find that there are no teabags in the tin.

Tiredness would be an obstacle to both my objective for the moment and for the day. If I’m feeling tired I may want to just sack them both off, order a pizza and watch Jonathan Creek on Netflix until nightfall
The obstacle to my super-objective of being a full time fun merchant is availability of work and the UK improv scene being fledgling. These are harder obstacles to overcome but I have more time to overcome them.

Tools or Methods

Tools or methods are the different techniques that a character uses to surpass obstacles and achieve their objective. For example, the character searches around the kitchen, they walk to the shops, or they call on the neighbour to be able to make the tea to pour.

My tool or method for overcoming my tiredness and writing this blog is connected to my super-objective. This is where it gets interesting. I shall come to the specifics of that in a minute but will-power and desire are my methods for achieving my objective of writing this blog,

Actions

Actions are referred to as how the character is going to say or do something. More specifically, it as an objective for each line. Actions are how a character is going to achieve their objective. For example, a line in the script may read, ‘(whilst on the phone) “Hello, Sally. It’s Bill from next door. You wouldn’t happen to have any spare tea bags, would you? I know how well-organized you are.” The Action for this line may be ‘to flatter’ in order to achieve the Objective of collecting the tea bags. Actions will be different for every single actor based on their character choices.

Part of my plan for having a productive day is meeting up with a friend for a roast. She’s helping me plan for the Brighton Improv Festival next year and we may discuss it over beef and yorkshire puddings. My action was to remind. Remind her she hasn’t seen me for a while and remind her that I require her help.
So, the interesting bit, the whole reason I’m writing this blog, the whole reason I got out of bed at the exact moment I did, all boils down to that super-objective of wanting to be a full-time performer. Here’s how it goes.
Super-Objective:
Obstacle:
Objective:
Obstacle:
Objective:
Method:
Obstacle:
Objective
Method:
Obstacle
Action:
Action:
Action:
Action
Action:
Method:

I want to be a full time performer
Availability of work
Create more work
Relatively low profile of The Maydays
Raise the profile of The Maydays
annual trips to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Money
Raise some money
Kickstarter campaign
People are quite understandably, given the economic climate, reluctant to give up their hard-earned cash
Convince
Plead
Request
Inform
Entertain
Write a blog about Stanislvski that is entertaining and informative to convince you that I care deeply about my craft and humbly request, nay plead with you to go to our kickstarter project page by clicking here and giving whatever you can because I want to do this full time and the first step is in my grasp.
Every journey starts with a single step but you’ve got to be moving the right direction.
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