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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez

PUT YOUR FOCUS ON THEM: ACTING IS REACTING

Updated: Apr 20

Everything we say and do in life is a direct reaction to what someone else has said or done.

So as actors, our text is never about us, it is always and forever about our scene partners. The best performances don't feel like we are watching acting at all. It always feels like we are simply watching two people respond in the moment to one another. So if we are looking to deepen our acting process, let's start by making your scene work about the other person.


KNOWING WHAT I WANT


When I say something, I always expect there to be some kind of response from the person I’m speaking to. I speak looking for a specific reaction from this person. I hope that what I say will be received, agreed with, and lead to some kind of change in them. It’s only when that person doesn't respond the way I'd expect, that I realize that I need to try something else, to get what I want.

All day every day - this is what we do as actors. And a part of that actor process is about being able to name what exactly it is that we are looking for - what we want (Objective).

Am I trying to open them up to a deeper conversation? Am I trying to get them to agree with my stance on something that’s bugging me? Am I hoping they flirt with me? Whatever it is I am hoping for in this moment, even their lack of response is a response. If my scene partner, were to interject ANYTHING at all, the entire scene would change, and I wouldn't say any of the lines that follow.


I NEED MY PARTNER


Because all scenes have conflict, my partner doesn't react the way I hoped, or expected. And so I have to do something else. It is only because of THEM that I say the next line.


Every choice I make is sourced from the face, breath, eyes, and body language of my scene partner. Something that I see in them is telling me how I need respond next.


It is nearly impossible to work on a piece of text without another human in the room. Acting isn't a solo endeavor. It’s why it is so beneficial to self-tape your auditions with a live reader. It's why in-person classes feel so exciting and powerful. When you have a real live human being in the room with you, you can put the focus on them, and source all your reactions from them.


If I am unspecific on a section of text, or I am uncertain why I say what I say - it is likely that I have lost connection to my scene partner. If I haven’t connected deeply into who this person is - I have a created a generic relationship that isn't real for me. If have no idea how anything is landing on my partner - I am disconnected from them. Without a truthful connection, it is impossible to forcibly ‘make’ the scene go anywhere at all. Our words come out in that mechanical “the screen writer told me to pause so I pause here” – and the words hold no believable meaning.


Staying connected means we are actively tracking our partners responses from moment to moment. If we don’t know where they are, and how they are feeling, how can we possibly change them? 


FINDING FREEDOM IN KNOWING THE SCENE IS NOT ABOUT ME


Everything we do and say is a direct reaction to what the other human in the room is giving us. And truthfully, that is incredibly freeing. It is less important for me, the actor, to pre-plan every little moment - and more important to simply just be available, be affected, and respond. When we allow ourselves to live in the text, and put all our energy and focus on that other person - we have no obligation to perform at all.


When you aren’t responsible for deciding ever moment of the scene like an actor, and allow yourself to be an impulsive, reactive human—the scene becomes alive. We have permission to let go of any preconceived ideas of how the scene "should" go and we are free to discover spontaneity and truthfulness. And the result is a dynamic scene that is alive and in-the-moment because we can’t predict what will happen next. We feel free, and unfettered and admittedly a bit out of control. And that is the reality of any exchange between two people.


This is how it feels in the real world: we never know how a person will respond. And when we embrace that out-of-control sensation of not knowing what will happen next, we actually begin to align our hearts with our characters. We stop being actors-who've-read-the-scene-a-dozen-times, and become humans who just like the characters, have to live in the uncertain outcome. When we let go of control, and choose to rely on our scene partners, our responses become visceral and impulsive. We are able to grow more deeply invested and our connection to that scene partner becomes intrinsic to our scene.







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