"The Key to Everything"
Listening, is generally acknowledged as being the most fundamental of acting skills. The character needs to be listening to exactly what is being said to them so they can respond to the complexities of the interaction.
learn what they are listening for, when they learn their lines. This guarantees
that during the scene they never have to really listen because they already
know what they need to hear. It also guarantees that they never have to
actually make a decision or choice during a scene because those choices
are already made. The consequence of this is that they will always appear
to be ‘acting’ for their performance process does not in any
way parallel the way we behave in life. Actors who work this way will
often ‘pretend’ they have heard the conversation in a particular
way, even though it has not being delivered to them that way.
Rehearsal Room workshops sometimes have lengthy discussions about the ingredients of listening. These converstations are often very moving as actors explore not only the way they listen on stage or on the set but also the way they listen in life. The revelations are often quite profound – for many habits, idiosyncracies and fears affect our listening in the real world. These same elements will also make our characters listen in complex and indvidual ways. Listening is a complex topic.
However, the following list that emerged from one of these conversations merely reflects, that like all the essential ingedients of acting, the most important ones are basic commonsense. Actors ignore commonsense fundamentals at their peril.
This is not a list of the wide range of diverse elements that influence our listening but rather an attempt to clarify the actual things we do when we are listening. The following items are what one particular group decided were the specific functions of listening. See what you think.
The group decided that in a real world we listen to ourselves to monitor -
And we are also listening to the other person to see
All these elements will affect our next choice.
conversation we keep all these elements in balance OR rather the balance
that all these ingredients naturally have, effects the nature of our choices
and the outcome of the conversation. When we are acting the same needs
to be true. We listen to all these elements so that we can understand
the balance they have in our character's world and therefore be able to
make the next decision for them. Sometimes this is quite complicated and
we need to take a moment to assess or re-assess their balance so we can
be sure about the choice. Those moments of assessment will provide strong
drama and a very complex, truthful reality for our character. They provide
moments to be savoured by the actor. The audience will thoroughly enjoy
the realization that struck a number of the actors in this group was that
when they acted they tended to operate in reverse. They pushed their unconscious
thoughts to reveal them and they suddenly realized this was the most important
element that made their performance unbelievable. One actor rejoiced in
this discovery, “This is a huge relief. I find pushing my emotional
connection really hard. It’s uncomfortable and it never did make
a lot of sense to me as people generally hide their feelings and desires.”
There was an instant and noticeable improvement in acting outcomes for
this actor from this simple revelation.
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