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Shurtleff’s Guideposts

At Acting Studio Chicago we teach the 12 Guideposts, based on Michael Shurtleff’s book, Audition.

As a strong, practical approach to personalizing scripts, creating importance in a scene, and making clear, unique choices, The Guideposts are the heart of what we teach in our classes.

Using the guideposts leads to a specificity of choice; mastering this method leads to dynamic work ON CAMERA, ON STAGE & ON MIC. 

The 12 Guideposts


Guidepost 1: Relationship

Find the love in the scene; for example, the presence of love, the absence of love, betrayal of love etc. Who is the other person in the scene in relation to me? Mother, daughter, son, lover, husband, etc. What’s your history with this person? Ask the question: “If you loved me you would…” What do I love about this person? What do I hate about this person? The problem in the relationship is always with other person. The “I’m Okay, You’re Screwed Up” Approach. Important to Remember: “This is a play about me in love relationship. What is the problem with my partner and what can I do/ give to my partner to solve my problem in order to get my dream today?”

Guidepost 2: Conflict

What is my dream and can I do to my partner so that this person can make my dream come true today? Your Fighting For is done in a variety of ways, which are called Actions. An Action is described as an undeniable communication that affects or changes your partner to get what you want. The best actions are physical because they are undeniable. Some examples of actions: to berate, to infuriate, to surprise, to tease etc, etc. Name the action, then play the action.

Guidepost 3: The Moment Before

Your Dream, plus your Fighting For focused into a first action seeking conflict. A strong beginning. Physicalizing the first action is recommended. Do it whenever you can. Remember, you are also carrying into the scene the personalized history you have made up for yourself, which are facts or inferences you’ve made from the script.

Guidepost 4: Humor

It’s a way of coping with the absurdities or sorrows of living. It connects you with your partner, for example, to tease, to put at ease, to share a laugh with, to deflect pain. An appreciation about the irony of life.

Guidepost 5: Opposites

In life, a fundamental truth about ourselves is that at some level we want something and at another level, we don’t want it. Whatever is true in the scene, the opposite is also true. An opposite is an action that interferes with you getting what you are fighting for. The 3 most obvious opposites–1. Action- Screw you, I hate you. 2. Action- You’re right, I’m wrong. 3. Non-Action- I give up. You give up your dream for the moment.

Guidepost 6: Discoveries

What’s new? Discovery is the moment to moment action. What is your partner saying or not saying. Be attentive, alert, sensitive, aware of what’s happening in the scene. Listen and be affected.Talk and effect change. You must make discoveries or you’ll miss the events. If you miss the events, nothing will happen. You must make discoveries or your scene will die. Action comes right on the tail of discovery; something which you may have suspected is suddenly confirmed.

Guidepost 7: Communication & Competition

Give and Take. Give and Receive. What are you sending and what is your partner receiving. Vice versa. You must send and receive both Emotionally and Physically. If you are alert and aware you will discover wins and losses in your communication and competition. Celebrate your wins and mourn your losses. Keep score. Count the wins and losses. Love to compete.

Guidepost 8: Importance

Raise the stakes. This is not everyday life, but a day of crisis. Today is the day I fight, where formerly I fled. A day when everything changes. It has to be important or the scene falls flat. Add “I” – if you don’t nobody will listen to you. You must personalize.

Guidepost 9: Find the Events

Events equal changes, especially in the relationship. You have to create the events. Be alert to what is happening. Discover it in your partner. See if your partner is aware of what’s happening between you. Otherwise, nothing will happen–the scene will be dead. Events move the story forward.

Guidepost 10: Place

Where are you? What’s around you? Are you indoors; outdoors, on your own turf, your partner’s; or neutral. What’s your emotional connection to this place? There may be a possibility of third area focus. For example, deal with the trees or flowers in the park.

Guidepost 11: Game Playing & Role Playing

It ‘s not insincere-it’s very true to life and reality. Game Playing and Role Playing is a way dealing with reality, not escaping it. For example, a teacher’s role with students in college classroom setting is different than later if they meet later at a cocktail party.

Guidepost 12: Mystery & Secret

Wonder about your partner and your situation. Have a secret – keep it a secret, but let it add drive and intensity to your scene.

Guidepost 13: Mischief

Adds humor. Lightens it up. Involves you with your partner.


Kurt Naebig gives an exciting seminar, once each session, to introduce our new students to the language and philosophy of Shurtleff’s Guideposts, our core methodology at Acting Studio Chicago. Click here for info on our upcoming Seminar!

New Student Acting Seminar at the Acting Studio Chicago

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James Mueller was recently cast in the upcoming US premiere of Lord of the Rings: A Musical Tale at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.