From a character point of view, a super objective is the character’s goal throughout the play. Let’s say the play has three acts. Each act has a goal, another word for objective. This goal helps the character move closer to the super objective. Each act has scenes that have objectives that allow the character to progress towards his/her super objective. Each scene has a beginning, middle and end. Each segment has an objective that helps the character move closer to the super objective. Within each segment are small objectives that enable the character to progress forward. In other words, a play is a series of objectives that move towards the achieving of a super objective. Quite the mouthful, right?
Now, along the way to achieving the super objective, the character faces a series of obstacles that it must navigate as it pursues the objectives. It is the obstacles that create the drama in any theatrical venture. If the character were able to effortlessly achieve all of the goals, would that be any fun to watch?
If it’s True in Theatre, It’s True in Life...
Now let’s take a peek at our own lives. From the moment we wake up, we begin living in our personal world of objectives. Even if it’s to get out of bed when we wake up in the morning or to sneak in a few more minutes in our beds before we have to face the world. For many of us, the awaiting world is our first obstacle of the day. Many of us would love to spend a little more time under the blankets—especially on a cold day. Thus begins the drama of our lives. Our first objective clashes with our first obstacle.
Make a list of everything you do from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you fall asleep at night. You will see everything you’ve done is the result of a want or connected to a want. Take the 10-year old boy who definitely doesn’t want to go to school, yet he goes. Why? Because the consequences are worse than going to school. So what does he want? To protect himself from the consequences of truancy.
Many young people want to have a career in show business. Those of you who have been following my column will recognize the following statement: “Are you willing to take responsibility and do what is necessary to have a career?” Most young people are sick of hearing a parent or teacher preaching at them. “Do you have a plan? Do you have goals?” I suggest you listen to them.
Years ago, when she was first starting out in show business, Bette Midler and I had dinner in my apartment. We talked about the business throughout the meal. At one point in our conversation she pulled from her gigantic bag a notepad. It was about eight inches long, four inches in width, and one-half inch thick. When I asked her what it was she showed me with great pride her list of things she needed to accomplish in order to become a star. It also included a wish list of things she would like to see happen.
The list was very specific and clearly written. A few items had checks next to them. “Those are things I’ve already accomplished.” She jokingly referred to her list as her Chekov list, referring to the great Russian playwright, Anton Chekov. (A few years later in a gift store I saw Chekov List pads being sold. Bette should receive compensation.)
Just as you cannot live the life of a character in a play if you aren’t specific about their objectives, you can’t successfully advance towards your life goals if you aren’t clear about what they are.
...If it’s True in Life, It’s True in Theatre
Many of us choose to live our lives haphazardly. Do you begin each day with the conviction you will do something that day that will ensure your success in your chosen profession. If not, why? If you don’t know what you should do that day it is because you haven’t created a list of objectives and a second list of things you need to do to accomplish the things on your list.
If your super objective is to star in a musical on Broadway, are you doing what’s necessary to make that happen? Are you currently taking singing, acting, and dance lessons? Have you sought out the best teachers in your area? Do you work every day perfecting your talents even when not in class? Are you performing at every opportunity that presents itself? Or are you waiting to be discovered?
If your super objective is to be a movie star... again, are you in a class? Have you contacted every school that has a film program and submitted your resumes and pictures requesting the opportunity to audition for their student films? Have you thought of gathering a few friends to make your own short films? The list goes on and on with all of the things you should be doing to make your dream happen.
Passion - Passion - Passion!
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite word is passion. Passion is the fuel that makes the objectives powerful. In every theatrical performance the characters must be passionate about what they want.
Without passion, theatre would be boring. Passion igniting what our characters want enables them to achieve their goals. Larry Moss, the wonderful acting coach who wrote one of my favorite books on acting, “The Intent to Live,” states in a simple sentence what a super objective should be. “The super objective is so emotionally powerful to your character that it will try to make you obliterate any obstacle in your path.” Not simply overcome any obstacle, but obliterate them. Now look at yourself and the trip you are on to achieve your dreams. Are you living with this level of passion?
This level of passion means that we are able to maintain our focus despite any distractions we may perceive. When living the life of your character you must be focused on your character goals. Anyone who has ever performed live theatre knows the distraction of an audience member who continuously coughs throughout a performance. It is annoying, but you can’t let it distract you. You have an obligation to the play, your character, and the audience that paid to see you.
And of course, the same is true in life. We cannot allow the distractions of life to sidetrack us from our goals. There will be some major distractions along the way. That’s life happening. However, if we are passionate about our dreams—our super objectives in life—we can access the emotional power to obliterate any obstacle.