Three-handers are strange beasts. There’s something unusual about the energy—the dynamic between three characters when all you really need for good drama are two. Writers have to work harder to justify that pesky third person, who tends to be cast as either a moderator between the first two figures … or as a destroyer of the dynamic between them. Perhaps for this reason, as we’ve found in previous articles about plays for three performers, scenes for three actors are rarer than you might think. It’s a shame, though: because a good three-hander is ripe for drama and conflict!
This article contains a collection of original, copyright-free scenes for three actors. Each scene was developed in-house by staff at StageMilk. There is a mix of dramatic and comedic scenes of different lengths and styles. These scenes may be used for acting classes, showcases or scene study between actors.
Just like our practice scenes for actors and practice monologues for actors articles, we tend to update update these pages regularly. So feel free to give this page a bookmark and check in for new original material. You never know what might jump off the page and capture your imagination.
Before we get into the good stuff, let’s talk briefly about copyright-free material. It’s fairly easy to find acting resources online you don’t need to pay for. That’s kinda how a lot of the internet works.
And while we’re offering this material up to you at no cost, it’s worth thinking about where your scenes and monologues come from: who writes them and how they pay their bills when so much of their output is available at the click of a button.
Have a think about where your scripts come from. If you can, find ways to pay it forward to the artists who write them. Did you use a great scene by a playwright for that audition you nailed? Consider buying the play online! Have a favourite book of monologues you swear by? Get it as a gift for an actor friend! (Oh, and before you spiral into guilt, let us assure you we paid the writer of these scenes.)
From the Writer:
Hello! My name is Alexander Lee-Rekers; I’m a professional playwright and screenwriter. I hereby give my permission for you to use the scenes on this page for personal practice, as well as showreels. showcases and auditions. All I ask is that you credit my work—especially if you post it on social media. (If you’re feeling brave, you can tag me via @alexnobodyfamous so I can see what you do with it!)
None of these scenes are to be recorded, filmed, staged, re-written, developed or adapted for professional purposes. Legal stuff aside: go for it! Make bold choices! Pull ’em apart and give ’em a go!
Scenes for Three Actors
These scenes utilise an in-house formatting style we use for our StageMilk Scene Club, which is closer to a playscript than a screenplay. There’s less visual information to go on, fewer stage directions. But use this as an opportunity to experiment with staging rather than feeling listless. How can you interpret it? What can your script analysis tell you about how the scene might unfold?
Last thing: in the context of a class, study or showcase, don’t let yourself be bound to the age or gender of characters as written on the page. Who do you sympathise with, who do you vibe with? Is there a particular theme or emotion you’re looking to capture? If so, consider modifying the name or pronoun to fit you best.
Length: 3 mins
Synopsis: While prepping a fortieth wedding anniversary party for their parents, two siblings are surprised by the unexpected appearance of their estranged older brother.
Performance Notes: A lot goes unsaid in this piece about the history of each character—as well as their shared relationships. Delve into your character and find what distinguishes them: their voice, their mannerisms, the rhythm of their speech. While there is humour in this piece, don’t be afraid to sit in the drama as well; the situation may be somewhat absurd for those involved, but they are still real people dealing with events unfolding.
Length: 3 mins
Synopsis: Three friends have started a business doing crime scene clean-up. Covered in blood and viscera, they interrogate their reasons for choosing such distasteful work.
Performance Notes: While this piece sits firmly in the comedy genre, don’t be afraid to work on the circumstances of the scene so it feels totally real. Polly, in particular, is a character who threatens to become very over-the-top. Work to find out why she is this way, and what she sees in the other characters (whom she clearly feels affection for even if she can’t convey it.)
Length: 5 mins
Synopsis: A sales team visit a divisive client in order to make a sale.
Performance Notes: It’s very easy to look for the comedy in this scene and find it. The language is sharp, snappy—almost stylised. However, resist the temptation to send the scene up: play it with total sincerity and let the tragedy of the situation trickle through. As for the characters, ask yourself how they present to the others in the scene. Who is posturing, masking, performing and to what end? And where might the performances begin and end?
Length: 2 – 3 mins
Synopsis: Lucy is called into a strange mediation at work following her boss’s discovery about her personal life.
Performance Notes: Look to strike the balance between “mundane” and “absurd” in this piece. Some characters are over the top, some things they say are utterly ridiculous. And yet, there has to be no doubt in their minds that they are reasonable, intelligent people. The comedy of this scene comes from the sincerity of Cliff and Derek, and the indignation of Lucy as she is ambushed. Find the truth and the humour will follow!
Length: 2 -3 mins
Synopsis: Two friends farewell the third of their trio, who is leaving behind their small town for new opportunities.
Performance Notes: This one is all about the chemistry between its characters. Spend time on their shared backstory, building out that rapport, that will make them seem like they’ve known each other for three lifetimes—not three minutes. Furthermore, think about what’s ahead. Ren seems to have it all figured out, the whole world ahead of them! What’s it like for Sarah and Albert, who don’t have the same path in front. How is this scene a turning point in not just Ren’s life, but everybody’s?
So there you have it: fresh, original scripts for three actors! As you browse through the selection and start reading, take care to note any recurring advice in the performance notes. Be wary of given circumstances and character relationships. Look to distinguishing your character from the others by anchoring them with a strong objective, as well as actions that suit their character’s personality and motivations.
Above all, play close attention to the world of the script. The more you can build this out, informed by script analysis, the more successful you will be in realising the scene as a complete, standalone work. These scripts aren’t excerpts, but that’s not to say they don’t suggest a larger narrative, or arc for the characters with subtext to match. Approach these scenes with the same rigour you would a Shakespeare play or a ten-part series. Your acting will be stronger for it.