Chekhovian centers explained

Chekhov (Michael, not Anton) teaches that every character, every person has three centers, though they don’t all receive equal attention. The three centers are:



Body Location: Head

Personality: Intellectual, analytical

Behavior*: Chin/head rubbing, beard play, head jutting forward


Body Location: Chest

Personality: Emotional, empathetic

Behavior*: Touching of major arteries; neck, lips, wrists


Body Location: Center of mass (abdomen)

Personality: Driven, ambitious

Behavior*: Hands on hips, backward lean

*Manifestations are indicative actions of a person led by a certain center.


Look outside, watch people on the street. Analyze your favorite on­screen characters. Ask yourself some questions.

  1. What center is most forward when they walk?
  2. When they change direction, which center moves first? Which center initiates motion?
  3. Do they have an energy of being pushed or pulled as they walk?

Use your imagination to build a reality around that walk. What causes it? Are there rats biting at the heels? Is there a snake wrapped around the torso? Be creative.

As you work you’ll begin to notice the difficulty in nailing down one, primary center. Most people have a strong relation between two centers but lack a balance in the third. A heart/mind person, for example, might spend hours trying to analyze their feelings but never do anything about it because their will is underdeveloped. Mind/will characters make wonderful villains, since all they do is plan and execute. The blending of centers will cause confusion, but the walk will tell you which is strongest. The body is only a manifestation of the mind controlling it, a Chekhovian center applies to both.

The more you answer these questions for yourself the easier the answers will come.