“Harold Dobs Character Analysis”
By: Ryan Berman
October 4, 2007
Acting I- Mon/Wed 11:30
Instructor: Kathryn Rossetter
October 4, 2007
Acting 1- Mon/Wed 11:30
Instructor: Kathryn Rossetter
“Harold Dobb’s Character Analysis
PROOF Plot Analysis
Proof, one of the best known contemporary plays in…well, American literature…is a family drama that follows the discovery of a mathematical formula and its effect on its three central characters: Hal, Claire, and Catherine. The play’s fourth character, the writer of the proof, comes in and out of the piece through Catherine’s mind.
“WHY I CHOSE HAL”
I chose to analyze Harold- lets call him “Hal”, he seems to like that name better- not just because I could relate to him or he definitely fits the “character I’m shoe-fitted into” but mainly due to the plain old fact that his dialogue just spoke to me differently then the other characters. His words are filled with this nervous energy and life, even though a great deal of them might be dull or low key. I could find out so many things about Hal just by reading the first scene-within his first few lines I got more then that corky nervous guy, I saw this warmth behind a very open but conservative guy—he was very much an adult, but with this sense of “kid” built into him. As the play moved on and we found out more about Hal, I really wanted to get to know him, like he was a good friend, just an open real friend, and I don’t know if that’s how the character was written and that’s the effect most people get when they read the play and analyze Hal, but its definitely what pulled me into the character, and…well, the play.
WHO AM I?
NAME: Harold Dobbs
EDUCATION: Teacher, Working on Doctorate- Math
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Single
PETS: 1 Dog- Yellow lab, found on the road, took home---his best friend!
HOMETOWN: Boston, MA
HOBBIES: Math plays a huge deal in his life, he devotes a great chunk of his life to it (he is on his way to studying it for 8 years in college, and let’s not even mention high school- he is also teaching it!), he obviously has a huge passion for it. But unlike Robert, Hal’s life isn’t controlled by it. Hal has many other hobbies and wants to get the best out of life: he is in a band, he runs every morning, enjoys being healthy…all that good stuff.
CLOTHES: Hal doesn’t really put fashion to the for-front of his life, he wears the same clothes he’s had since high school, and if a shirts a little wrinkly-so what! When it’s time for work and special occasions, or maybe he’s trying to impress someone, he knows how to clean up well, but his fashion status has a real layed back feeling- you would never see him in a jacket that looks like he would be “trying to hard” or 500 dollar jeans, its not really his style.
RELATIONSHIP LIFE/LIFE PHILOSOPHY: Harold’s first girlfriend, Jessica (an eccentric blonde that basically ruled the school), was as a sophomore in high school, they dated on and off throughout. Before he dated Jessica he had a really reserved personality, he had basically no friends in middle school, he was a loner- and definitely not by choice. By his junior year of high school he had begun to make some really great friends, had a few hot girls, and his confidence was sky rocketing. He had always taken academics incredibly seriously, and became close to those who also did, even if they weren’t the…well, lets just say “Coolest kids” in the class. He earned the respect of most of the jocks and really was cool with almost everyone in the school, even though he had the dorky math geek thing going with him. Hal’s ideal life and great fortune came to a halt when Jessica died in a car crash in the middle of his Sophomore year of college. The death impacted Hal a great deal, it changed tons of his beliefs and how he dealt with life problems and relationship. As the incident got farther and farther away, he made a choice to really get the most out of his life-when you see something in someone, to go for it (which explains his relationship with Catherine), to do whatever makes you happy and to stick to what you believe in and never stop trying until you solve the problem, which helped greatly with his mathematical work and his life.
BEHAVIORS AND ACTIONS: Hal is one of the few “math geeks” as he calls himself that has a great deal of confidence, I mean he is a little awkward and has his shy side like everybody does, but he doesn’t say to many things he doesn’t believe, which brings a great contrast to his meek scrubby physical demeanor. He has a bad habit of chewing his pencils and biting his nails, which comes from his habit of locking himself in his room on occasion to finish and dedicate himself to his work. He has a natural skinny build, but he stays healthy: he runs and works out when he has time…so he has a nice basic build, but he definitely picks up a little slouch and awkward hand movements from the crowd he hangs out with. And although he does have a strong sense of self, he still has had a few run ins with bigger and more confident guys, and his middle school experience definitely was not the best- which hurt his self esteem, giving him a few nervous habits when he is intimidated.
WHERE AM I?
Play Setting: Catherine and Robert’s Porch- Chicago, Fall.
All of Hal’s appearances in the play take place in an environment that isn’t his element, which of course effects him. He isn’t at his house, or a place he is at every day…he is in the house of a woman he has a crush on and eventually has feelings for- so we will never get to see tons of Harold’s really comfortable sides…I mean a few come out when he gets more comfortable with Catherine and as he gets really into a moment and etc…but the normal every day Harold at his house is not fully shown. He first enters the dusty open porch, which belonged to someone who recently died- the porch kinda has Robert’s stamp on it…which is always in Hal’s subconscious. The brown, wooden, well-made porch is surrounded by leaves that haven’t been shoveled in forever and a messy futon looking thing and a dirty table, it’s definitely not intimidating, but a little sad. The biggest feature of the porch is it’s intimate feeling, its one of those places that makes you uncomfortable but comfortable at the same time. If his interactions were at school or in a park or in the attic of the house, or even the kitchen- Hal’s actions would differ quite a bit. The morning after he sleeps with Catherine we see Hal warm up to the dusty porch knowing it has helped facilitate something he has really wanted, his actions and choices definitely change when his comfort level is raised.
WHAT DO I WANT? WHY DO I WANT? HOW DO I GET WHAT I WANT?
The obvious want, that is basically a given, is that Hal wants to find a great proof or some mathematical work of genius written in Robert’s journals. I think it’s an important want, and it really shows a lot about his personality, but I don’t think it’s the overall basis that keeps him slaving away in Robert’s attic. This want proves Hal is a loyal friend and has strong ambitions and might be attracted a little to praise (but then again, really…who isn’t), and it definitely continues the story, but Hal definitely has a much deeper want. This “deeper want” is a relationship with Catherine. The whole play he is trying to get her to communicate with him, to be closer with him, to work and help him…he finds something really special and he sees so many great things in this girl, and he want to get closer with her. I think that’s the want that really pulls his part of the story together. Even though he wants that proof, he definitely wants Catherine more. So if we take that into account to all the scenes and what he is willing to do and how far he is willing to go to get that want, the risks are so much higher in every moment of the play. How far is he willing to go to be with Catherine. This want never changes and goes on until the end of the play.
Now, why does Hal want this relationship with Catherine….If we are basing Hal’s views and wants on facts, the answer might not make much sense. Hal obviously doesn’t have trouble getting girls (as he states in the first scene) and, in the overall picture, she isn’t the best catch. Catherine is dealing with incredible problems, all surrounded by depression and is extremely defensive and not open, yet Hal is kind of infatuated with her. Hal’s attraction to her is very spontaneous and he sees something n Catherine that he cant explain, something that he can relate to, what that is…Hal is not sure, but he has an impulse that he can have something great with this girl and there is obviously a strong connection between them, despite Catherine’s defensive attitude- there really is no explanation that Hal knows that can answer this “why”.
Approaching the Character
OOF! Hal is such a deep character, I would have to start about a month before rehearsals started for the production…it’s just how I work. My philosophy on acting, well at least right now anyway, is taken from an old acting teacher, Jeff Maynard: “Acting is living honestly in imaginary circumstances”, so to live the character honestly I would have to really find events in my life that relate to events in Hal’s life—ideally what is going on during the show, but definitely making a list and keeping in mind stuff that happened to Hal before the action of the play begins. I would just gather tons of memories and see which ones can relate and where I could use them in the play and how I can, how they will be able to be sparked and put in the situation that’s in the script, and then practice throwing them in and using the actual situation and focusing on the words…so I have a completely honest interpretation of Hal’s actions and how he deal with the problems in the show, basically how he emotes throughout the play. Once scene work began I would throw away Ideas and put knew ones in, I might have to make up a few situations and put myself in them…just trying to get a sense of how to mix my emotions into the scene by being affected by the words and the situation. I would then work on my affectations- the traits and features of Harold. I’d start by making my little lists and really digging deep into how he moves and talks, then adding them in slowly into the scene. The rest of the work is really with the words and just clicking. I love just spending time getting into the moment by trying the scenes new ways. Eventually I would like to find a porch that reminds me of the actual place the play takes place in, maybe put on something I think Hal would wear and rehearse with my partner there, a lot of things just click there and the work is a lot more detailed and intense just by performing the scene once, so many more things make sense.
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