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Listening and Answering

Information and advice on where to put your focus when acting.
4.7
Ok, so let’s say that acting is doing. The question then becomes, what should you do? There are a few answers to this and we will get to them in turn.
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But the first and most fundamental answer is this:– –listen– –and answer. We want to listen to our scene partner, really listen– –and respond to them as truthfully as we can. Because this, more than anything, is what puts us in the moment, in the here and now. It’s what makes us present. What this means is that most of what you do on stage– –will not and should not come primarily from you. It will come from the other actors. It will come from you listening and answering, truthfully, what they’re saying– –but even more so their behaviour, what they’re doing. Much like the football player will respond in different ways to whatever their opponent is doing. So, how do you do that?
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Well, there are many exercises that trains the actor to do this. Most acting exercises in fact, that I’ve encountered are about this in some way. Think about this if you’re taking any acting classes now or have in the past. I would bet that most, if not all of the games you play or things you do– –are really about putting your focus on the other actors– –and reacting and responding to what they do. At least this is what you do when you’re enjoying yourself. If you on the other hand are focusing on “winning” the exercise– –chances are your focus is on yourself and you’re not having fun at all.
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Putting your focus on the other actor and responding to what they’re doing– –and how you feel about that– –is what makes you come alive. Much like I would imagine it is for you in your real life. At a party, on a date, at the family dinner– –during a break-up or a difficult conversation with someone in school or at work. What makes you feel things and what brings out spontaneous behavior in you– –is really the other people in these scenarios and how you respond to what they’re doing. And it is the focus on the other person that is the key to being present in these moments– –not your own thoughts and pre-planned actions. Does that make sense?
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Again, the first and most important principle of acting– –is that you never want to be focusing on yourself and your own performance. That will only keep you away from what’s truly going on in the moment. I’ve also talked about the moment a lot in this video. In order to really listen and answer– –your focus should only be on whatever is happening right now. Don’t answer what happened five minutes ago. And don’t try to listen to what you think will happen ten seconds from now. Listen to this moment, right now. And then you answer. And then you listen to the next moment. And the next one. And on and on, one moment at a time.
In this video Johan talks about listening and answering to our scene partner as the key to truly being present. Putting our focus on the other person rather than on ourselves, and responding to their behavior, is what produces true spontaneous life in us.

In real life, you listen and respond to other peoples behavior all the time, and this in turn shapes how you behave towards them. And then they answer your behavior, and you answer theirs, and so forth.

As stated earlier in the course, nervousness often causes self-consciousness. Therefor, always remember to put your focus outside of yourself and your own performance. Focusing on yourself will do nothing but take you away from the moment, what is actually happening right now.

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Introduction to Acting

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