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Acting is Listening

February 17, 2008

Takes and Double Takes

Stephen Stearns: thoughts about theatre, youth and otherwise.

Acting Is Listening

Last year I went to see a performance of the play “Prelude to a Kiss” at the Roundabout/American Airlines Theatre.  It was just my luck that at that single performance the actors decided to come back out on stage to speak with the audience.  I waited for my chance to ask my big question.  When my time came I said, “if each one of you had only one chance to say only one thing to a youth actor that would most help them deliver a powerful and truthful performance, what would that one thing be?”  Lo and behold, each member of the cast said the same thing, though using different words.  Here is their advice to a youth actor, and I definitely agree with them.

Listen!   Listen to and trust your colleagues, your fellow actors.  Listen from the inside, with your eyes and ears and skin to information coming to you right now, in the moment; be open to and affected by what you are hearing; listen to what you are feeling.  Listen to your instincts, to what feels honest and right and true about the situation you are in as the character in the scene.

Don’t listen to negative criticism or to the voices of self-doubt in your head.  Turn those voices off.  Instead, listen to the voices of love and striving that you create in your mind.  You must learn to be vulnerable on stage; vulnerability is crucial!  Let yourself go, to feel and think and react in the moment.  You must trust each of the other actors in your team; embrace each other.

Acting is living, so be alive, fully.  Be aware of what is happening now and how it is affecting your fellow actors.  Their acting and your own will be influenced by what mood they and you are in on any given day, in any given performance; be aware of that and listen to it and use it.  Never shut off your feelings.

Let your thoughts and feelings and actions always connect back to your breathing, your breath.  New discoveries connect to in-breath, decisions that lead to decisive actions are connected to out- breath.  Tension, indecision, problems connect to in-breath.  Resolution and comfort equate with out- breath.

Always refocus your acting by going back to the playwright’s script: everything is there.  Read it over and over, word by word and discover the thought process that is behind it.  And remember, acting is action, so DO!  Both words and physical actions are actions; use both verbal and body movement as actions toward getting what you want in the scene.  And be sure to love what happens in the play and love your characters, whether they are primarily good or primarily bad.  See the part from their point of view.  Trust in the power of the story, the power of theatre, it is magical!

Hugs and Fishes,
Uncle Stevie

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