Have each actor explain her role AS SHE UNDERSTANDS IT to all others in the cast. The “person” is her character and not herself, so “get in character” and stay there, ignore how that question might be answered by you personally and only deal with your character. Where necessary “invent” parts of your character to “fill you out.” The more you “know” your character the better you will handle the character, the more confident and convincing you will be.
Who are you?
Have each actor stand in front of the group, introduce (your character) in minute detail. Cover all aspects: how old, marital status, information about spouse, family, education, interests, jobs you have had/have, height, weight, (feel free to bend the truth about this or anything else, but keep it consistent throughout). EVERYTHING that would help beef out your character IN YOUR OWN MIND.
Start off, “Hello, I am (name of character) and I . . .”
Things I like / dislike about my character.
Next describe one of the other characters in this play. Stay in character while making these statements.
This exercise also helps the person that is being described to see how her character actually appears to others in the drama.
Things that bug me / please me.
Tell some things that you (as the character) really notice in the situation which you really feel ticked about, and feel good about in another character. Now these are real things, spoken as that character sees the situation develop relative to their character.
Here the director might get insights into whether the character is being played correctly.
Next have other characters react (in character) to how the person perceives herself. This might point out that the character is coming across in a manner inconsistent with how the drama was written or planned by the director.
This exercise helps all characters, (including the one who is speaking), to understand more of how her character “is” and how the character is perceived by others.
In the course of the drama does your character change, and if so how and at what point?
Often a basic change happens in actions and attitudes. Example a person may start out very angry and gradually (or suddenly) switch to a softer, more pliable character. It is important that this change (and the timing) be understood by the character and that at every point through the drama the character be acting appropriately for the current and intended feelings. It is hard on the audience, (and fellow actors), to follow along if the character slips back and forth from happy to sad when this is not the intent.
How do I feel my character fits into the overall scheme of the drama as a whole. How does my character dovetail with other characters?
It is important to know what is expected of “my” character, and how I am to act and react with others. In order to do so I must first know who I am and all the concepts listed earlier. And this exercise is actually meant to even bring out the pecking order and the relationship between characters.
Example, a character may be unsure of herself, worried about acceptance. This impacts on how she speaks, how she moves about other characters, her facial reactions, etc. She needs to be looking for approval, watching for signs of disapproval, always on guard.
Small ideas, could bring big results.