I have been pretty obsessed with the quality of listening in recent classes.
Stanislavski said that “the art of great acting is the art of great listening “.
Quite right. But its extraordinary how often this essential part of a transaction is missed.
During his most recent visit to ICAT, top director Mike Alfreds spent an afternoon coaching the participants through their listening problems. He consistently stopped the scenes because he could see no response in the partners as they were working.
What he wanted them to do was physically acknowledge receipt of an action in some way. Now, this could be and indeed was misconstrued as a request to ‘demonstrate’ a reaction which felt hammy to the actors. But what Mike was actually trying to inspire was an open attitude to every beat in the text. By calling out every missed response he was strengthening the message that every action has to have a reaction. Ultimately the reaction may just register in the eyes of the listener but, if they are truly listening, an internal response must happen.
Stanislavski lays it out like this:
A plays an action
B receives it and has an internal response
B then makes a decision
B plays an action back to A
A receives it and has internal response….and so on.
It is likely that if you are struggling to believe a performance, the actors may not be playing the middle part of the transaction (reaction/decision) and may just be throwing actions backwards and forwards which appear to just bounce off each other, having no lasting effect, effectively like throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall. This never rings true regardless of the energy expended.
To you, the artist.