Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Relationship between Knowledge and Action in the Analysis of Dramatic Character

Dr Rod Umlas.

This paper first outlines the analytical process by which a play script is analyzed to identify the component units of action through which the playwright creates the illusion of human behavior and a story is told. It begins by applying a mode of identification based on real life experience. What does it mean to say we know someone? This is explored to demonstrate that a person's actions are the principal means by which another acquires knowledge of him. This is equally true of the artificial construct we refer to as character. It is only after we can determine precisely what a figure does in a specific circumstance that we can begin to hypothesize on the motivation or attempt to access and understand that particular act. An archetypal structure of action is identified, decoded, and interpreted. This communicates the playwright's intention for exactly what is supposed to happen. Through the instrumentation of his physical being the actor executes the character's actions and in the process gives physical presence to the imaginary. For the person who reads the script, action analysis allows him or her to accurately imagine the sequence of action intended by the playwright, whereas the audience in attendance at a performance is afforded a real living experience of the character through the physicalization of his actions. The paper demonstrates that in a play it is through dramatic action that a character, its intentions and tactics are conveyed, and universal truths about interrelationships and the human condition are revealed.


Dr Rod Umlas  (United States)
Chair, Department of Theatre Arts
Department of Theatre Arts
Beloit College

Rod Umlas holds an M.F.A. in directing and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has directed nearly 100 productions in both educational and professional theatre since beginning his professional career in New York City. He was Director of University Theatre at Central Michigan University Executive/Artistic director of the Ensemble Theatre Company, a professional summer theatre in central New York State, and Artistic Director of Wisconsin’s Festival Theatre. He has translated a number of Italian plays an d is the co-author of the recently published Italian Theater of the Grotesque. ô›

  • Script Analysis
  • Dramatic Character
  • Virtual Action
  • Human Activity

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)