What is the “Unbroken Line”?
When this line is broken, Stanislavski believed, the actor gets “lost” in the role, the life of the character “stops” and the actor loses the overall thrust of the character.
(by Tonya Tannenbaum)
The term, “unbroken line”, describes the overall trajectory of the character’s life, a trajectory that the actor must sustain and maintain throughout the course of the role. The concept of the unbroken line originates from acting teacher and theorist, Konstantin Stanislavski.
Stanislavski believed that the life of a character must mirror that of a real person. And, he believed that every real person has an “unbroken line”, or trajectory, that their lives follow. While a person’s attention may move from one distraction to the next, from one area of focus to the next, a person’s life trajectory remains the same or is “unbroken”.
Consider your own life. It generally moves in an unbroken line. You have an overall set of goals and objectives that you pursue. On a day-to-day basis, you may become briefly distracted by what you see in the news, or by an upsetting personal event, or by an exciting achievement, but those events are mostly momentary. They usually don’t change the course of your life. Your life mostly continues down one main path or direction. Without a main path to follow, a person can feel “lost” in their lives.
Likewise, Konstantin Stanislavski believed an actor must discover, and sustain, a character’s unbroken line. When this line is broken, he believed, the actor gets “lost” in the role, the life of the character “stops” and the actor loses the overall thrust of the character.
Related: 7 Basic Facts About Konstantin Stanislavski