The examples I’ve given you for justifying the text are the obvious ones. If I start to cry, it’s not that hard to figure out that it’s because you slapped me, or humiliated me, or told me you’re leaving me for another woman.
What about the less dramatic moments in a scene? Do I need to pay too much attention to your response to me then? Or should I just worry about my own responses?
Many actors do just that, while simultaneously acknowledging the importance of their scene partner in their choices. “So-and-so made me mad when she said that, and that’s why I . . .” “But I think my character wouldn’t respond that way. I mean, she said such-and-such to me . . .”
Clearly, we think the choices we make about our own lines are at least partly driven by what we’re getting from others, and yet we forget that they feel the same way. That to really close all the loops in a play, we need to look at our role from the other characters’ viewpoints. To make sure that everything works together flawlessly. If there is a puzzle piece that you can’t fit into the picture, you’ve missed the boat somewhere and need to start over.
A play is a large mystery for the actor to solve. In a well-written play, all of the clues you need to solve the mystery are provided by the playwright. They might be hidden from view, but they are there to be discovered. Playwrights do not provide red herrings, nor do they spring new information on you in the last scene before Jessica Fletcher identifies the murderer, without which you could not have figured out whodunit.
Many of those clues about your character are in the other characters’ lines.
Here’s the golf analogy. An amateur plays a hole from tee to green. How do I land the ball safely in the fairway? How do I get the ball on the green from the fairway? How do I get the ball in the hole once it’s on the green?
A professional golfer plays the hole backwards, from green to tee. Where do I want to land the ball on the green to have the easiest putt? Where do I want to hit the ball from the fairway to give myself the best chance of putting the ball on that spot on the green? What club do I need to hit, and how do I shape my shot, to get the ball to that spot on the fairway?
So yes, you should read each scene from your character’s point of view. But you should also read each scene from the other character’s point of view. How are they responding to your character, and what does that tell you about the kind of person your character is and about what is emotionally going on for your character right now?