Christian Bevan, final year student at LAMDA writes...
It’s a phrase often said to actors. Listen. I got the note during a recent rehearsal with the head of my drama school “I don’t believe you. You’re not listening.” And it was fair, if hugely crushing. If you’re not listening to the other person, all you’re doing is waiting and responding. And how can you respond without knowing not only what the other person just said, but HOW they said it. In reality, you’re just waiting and speaking. Not acting. Not being. “I don’t believe you”
Listen to the other person. Absorb the information that’s been given to you. (This includes what they said, how they said it, where they looked, what their body is saying.) Then, you say your line back, informed by this observation, and in order to affect them in some way. This all has to happen at pace. Easy, right?
How do you get better at listening? Simple really. Listen in real life. Listen to your family and friends when they’re talking. Don’t just wait until they’ve finished talking until it’s your turn (I see you). Listen and respond accordingly.
What about in the rehearsal room? Same thing as above. One method which can help (a Meisner technique) is to repeat what the other person has said, and then say your line. You can do this slowly, which makes the longer lines easier to memorise and repeat. Then take out the repetition. Here’s how it would work in a simple duologue:
A: What are you doing here?
B: What are you doing here? I’m here for the party
A: I’m here for the party. You weren’t invited
B: You weren’t invited. Mark asked me to come
etc. etc. etc.