Listening Exercise Scenes
As an acting teacher at Gary Spatz’s The Playground, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many children over the years. And the thing that I’ve noticed most often with children’s classes are that they think that memorizing is acting.
They believe that if they say their lines perfectly and in order, they’re acting. And for some children this is a great first step. But it’s also important to make the transition to being in the moment, being believable and really communicating. Easier said than done.
A simple way to get in the moment while acting is to focus all of your attention on your scene partner. The truth is that the scene is not about you. It’s always about the other person. You want something from them and you must check in with them at every moment to see if you’re getting it. Simply reciting lines in order doesn’t make an interesting scene.
What does make an interesting scene? Listening, living in the moment and going after what you want. At The Playground we use an exercise called Listening Exercise Scenes. These are a collection of scenes that we hand to the kids. They’re regular scenes between a student and a teacher. The only difference is that the script that the kids are handed has only their lines on it. All of the other actor’s lines are blacked out. And to make matters even more challenging, all of the kid’s lines are out of order.
The kids’ homework is to take this mess of a script home and memorize their lines, out of order, the best they can. The next week when they show up to class, they will take the stage and do the scene.
As scary as this may seem to be on stage alone not knowing which line will be said when, it forces the kids to really listen.
When the teacher says her line; for example “How long were you a babysitter?” the student must use the best line to answer that question, “I babysat for three months.” They can’t be in their head counting how many more lines they need to say and they can’t be mouthing the other person’s lines. They’re only weapon to survive is to really listen and respond truthfully. Much like life.
In life we know all of the answers. We know where we are, where we came from and what we had for breakfast. The listening exercise scenes can be a very useful tool to help kids live fully in the moment and to trust themselves. Happy acting and happy listening.