It has almost become a cliché to talk about the importance of listening in acting, hasn’t it? You’ve probably bought into the idea that listening is super important — but even though you know you should, it’s kinda easier said than done. You have a lot of balls in the air when you’re acting.
Listening is vital in acting because it allows you to react authentically. If your scene partner delivers a line in a way they’ve never said it before, and you react as you always do, you’re not really and truly listening which means you are telling a lie and killing the story.
Truly listening allows you to let go of your work and react with truth, and it’s really the only way to know if the actions you’re sending to your partner are working.
This clip will give you a tool to help keep you glued on your partner instead of watching yourself. Give it a listen and comment below to tell us what you think!
CLASS CLIP TRANSCRIPTION
Sarah: Why is listening important? What does that actually mean?
Student: Listening is important because you can kind of understand the character more and you can pick up things that you didn’t pick up before, just by reading.
Sarah: So what I mean is, listening as your character. So you’re Gwen, you’re coming into the scene. You’ve been working on Gwen, right, you know, let’s say, you’re gonna go and you’re gonna do this as an audition. Or you’re gonna go and film this, you’ve gotten the job and you’re on set. Listening is important, you’re gonna know the lines, you’re gonna have rehearsed with some choices and some actions, you’re gonna know what the stakes are, why it’s so important to you. You’re gonna have done all that work. And once you’ve done all that work, you kind of have to forget that you did the work. It’s not gonna go away, you’re not gonna forget it. But you are going to let it go. You’re not gonna try to hold onto the work.
Then your job is to listen. You’re listening so that you can react with truth as Gwen. If you don’t’ listen, you will be performing the scene and it won’t look like life because you won’t’ be able to take anything off your partner. You may not, you may get a Destiny who gives you a line in a way you never expected, and if you don’t truly truly listen, it won’t be authentic, your response. That’s why we “forget,” it’s not really forgetting, that’s why you let go of your work, so you’re not rigidly trying to hold onto choices. You’re available to the other person who’s acting the scene with you. If you’re auditioning, if you’re reading a self tape, you still have to listen so that you make sure that you’re really responding to what you heard.
This is one of the biggest biggest keys that gets the most left out, because actors are so worried about their lines and how they’re going to sound. They get so focused on that. How am I going to say this line? Versus, okay I’ve done the work and now I’m gonna let it go, I’m going to listen and respond with truth, with authenticity. The other thing that’s important about listening is that one of the things you’re doing when you send an action, right, I’m hugging, let’s say I’m hugging her with my “thank you so much.” I’m listening while I send that action to see if she feels my hug and if it worked. I’m constantly listening to see how it affects them. It keeps my attention off of me and what I’m doing and am I good and do they like me and did I get the part? Versus, oh I’m just hugging her and I wanna find out if it worked, oh she loves me! You know?
That’s the other kind of listening. So there’s the listening to the actual thing they say to you, but there’s the listening to find out if the little darts I’m sending out with my actions, my squeezing, my hugging, my charming, my snuggling, does she feel snuggled? Oh, she did feel snuggled, oh good! Oh, she’s freaked out by me, I better try something else. Right? Cause that’s the other thing, is like, you might have to decide, oh in that moment, I think she’s weirded out by me, and I heard how she responded. That’s what you’re listening for, right? You’re listening for behind the lines. It might be like, oh she thinks I’m a weirdo, I better try harder. That’s also part of what you’re listening for. Does that make sense? So that’s what I’m talking about with listening. It’s one of the most important things to learn in acting.