About the Book

Mining Acting Gold

I have been an actress for all of my adult life. I have been an acting teacher for much of that time.

A few years ago, I realized that my student actors needed a clear, practical guide to help them develop a process for reading a script and mining it for clues, a chart to help them make the hundreds of individual artistic choices that come together as a full, rich performance.

I looked through all of the available literature—including classics by masters such as Stanislavski, Hagen, Meisner and Adler—and found that even the best books on acting were either written for experienced performers or focused on the experience of being available and in the moment, of connecting on stage.

Many of these books touched on text analysis—the technique for scoring or breaking down a script—but their approaches were often too abstract or too unsystematic to be helpful to actors who were just starting their journey.

And so I set out to write the book myself: The Anatomy of a Choice: An Actor’s Guide to Text Analysis.

This book offers the actor a concrete method for approaching a script. The Anatomy of a Choice details a simple process to discover and define a character’s scene and super-objective, obstacle, beats, and tactics. It includes practical information on building a character, maximizing rehearsal time, and what to do when nothing is working.

~ Maura Vaughn


While Anatomy of a Choice was initially written with young actors in mind, it is by no means exclusively for teens. The writing is crisp and clear enough that pretty much anybody can grasp it, yet rarely seems remedial…. As it breaks down, step by step, what to look for reading though a play for the first time-and the second, and the third-it’s easy to see the book being used as a checklist for professional or semiprofessional actors looking for help, adrift inside a difficult text.

Theatre Bay Area, December, 2010

An Extract from the Introduction

Acting is much like a puzzle: once all the pieces are in place, they fit easily. Leave even one piece out and the puzzle is incomplete. Force one into place and the puzzle no longer reveals a clear picture. So it is with acting. In order to be free to be creative, impulsive and daring, an actor must look at the information in the script. An artist mines the text first and then creates art.



My copies of these books are dog-eared but well-loved. I have read them over and over again. Much of my own book was inspired by the wisdom held inside these volumes. Read these books.

As wonderful as books are, they can never take the place of instruction. I have been fortunate enough to have had a number of incredible acting teachers; the teachers who influenced me and my process the most are Nikos Psacharopoulos, Michael Kahn, Michael Howard and Caymichael Patten. 


Anatomy of a Choice