Listening Part 2 An Actor’s Workout

Kimberly Jentzen guides Roman Banfield and Brianne La Flair in an Actor’s Workout using the play Danny and the Deep Blue Sea by John Patrick Shanley. The focus of this session is on Listening.

Listening Part 2 – An Actor’s Workout
By Kimberly Jentzen

The exercise I present today is a way of exploring the text through the power tool, Listening. On set you may not always have the time or the opportunity to do exercises. However, to stay on top of your game as well as in your development as an actor, it is crucial for you to keep your instrument tuned to the subtext and organically connecting with your scene partner. The benefit of rehearsal is that it reminds you of the joy of the work and the discoveries that can be made.

Your work must always remain alive in the moment. And there are many kinds of exercises I will be presenting in the Listening series that can help you build this skill. In Listening Part 2, I explore the importance of not only opening your eyes to observe, but equally important, is opening your ears to listen. One of the striking truths in acting is that you will continuously be searching under the surface for the subtext. Listening involves this kind of inquiry.

You can’t underestimate the subtext…

The most important conversations you will have are the questions you ask regarding the subtext of the material. And as you ask them, don’t answer the questions too fast. It’s important to ponder and sit with the questions for a while. It’s important to explore many answers and to delve into the depth of the material.

We’ve heard the saying, “don’t read into this,” often because the words may imply a subtext that could insult or negate another. But in acting you are responsible for script analysis. You don’t want to make superficial choices… because superficiality leads to a shallow assessment of your character. And those assessments often lead to uninteresting choices and stereotypes. The exception is working a comedy. Often the stereotype is funny. This is one of the distinctions between drama and comedy, (which I will be exploring in another video series). You want to make choices inspired by the truth that lives within the writer’s intention of the material.

Everything begins with the objective…

The objective is what the character wants. It’s important to understand what your character hopes to achieve in the scene as that determines an important part of the subtext. How your character will go after their objective also determines who they are. These considerations are the basis for the choices you will make, in acting the scene. A complete and thorough examination of these tools: listening and the objective, can be found in my book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.

The most important time in acting is during your preparation…

If you’ve done a thorough preparation the acting will come naturally and easily. If you are self-conscious while you are performing you have missed something that lives within you—that organically relates to the character. Or you have distanced yourself from embodying the role. What liberates you from self-consciousness is knowing where your focus is in the scene, and making sure it is not on yourself and your acting.

The strongest focus in acting is concentrating on what you want from your scene partner. In order to achieve focus in the work, you must be committed to the homework prior to performance. Scene study is about practice in applying all of your tools so that when you are working professionally, the homework becomes easy and quickly applicable. This is why most actors continue to stay in a scene study class, because practice improves their booking average as well as their competence on the set and on the job.

Rehearsal is love in action…

Listening Part 2 delivers insight into an actor’s workout and inspires value for the acting process. It invites the actor to explore a range of tools including Listening, objective, subtext and connecting with your scene partner. You’re welcome to comment in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you and I’d be glad to answer any questions or comments you may have.

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