“What bliss, when for a few minutes you enter that sphere of your art where it becomes genuine, where you feel true life in the Scene.” There before you stands your partner, I living person. You see him as someone real….You, yourself, think completely in character…..Not recognizing any obligation to the audience, you carry on with your partner, a continuous, delicate and fascinating struggle.”
– Stanislavski in Rehearsal
by Visily Osipovovich Toporkov
I know for myself, I am always looking at the scene of a play or a film to sweep me away into the story, to such an extent, that I am no longer “acting” but actually living and responding to the imaginary world.
In the last article that I wrote, we looked at how to act using the memories of our senses. Today I want to help you deal with the other person. This involves using someone from class, a fellow actor or friend that you can relate to on Zoom or Facetime.
In this exercise, I want you to turn off “self -view” and focus only on your scene partner and trying to win what you want in the scene. Here is a sample script, however, you may use any script you like for this exercise.
Why didn’t you call me?
I forgot. I was busy with school.
Yes. (Pause) I’m sorry.
No, you’re not. You always do this to me. I don’t want to be with you anymore.
I love you.
No, you don’t
OK, then. I’ll see you around.
Relaxation is the very first thing you should do before starting any rehearsal. It allows you to be responsive to the unknown. It allows you to be swept up in the moment. With tension, we monitor ourselves and try to become a certain way that isn’t organic. So, for this exercise relax your body and focus your mind completely on your partner.
Study your partner. How do they look? Are they angry, happy, agitated, sad? What is something you like about the person? What is something that you dislike. Spend 1 entire minute just looking at one another in a stare down and see what that does. Then…character one, say the first line.
Character 2, Take in what they said and how they just said it. Are you being put on the spot? Are they being playful? Are they being demanding? With that, say your next line.
Character 1, Are they lying? Is there something in their face that tells you that they no longer want to be friends? Is there anything beautiful about the other person that makes you want to hold onto the friendship? Say your next line.
Character 2: Is he/she/they belittling you? If so, defend yourself. Keep studying them. Find something in their face that signals something that may be sadness. Then say the line “I’m sorry.”
Character 1: Do you believe them? What in their face tells you that they are sorry or they aren’t? Then, say the next line. After you say the line, check in with them and see how your words affected them.
Character 2: Did they mean what they said? Do you want them to stay?
Character 1: Discover the next line in the face of your partner.
Character 2: What is your friend doing? Do you believe them? Are they bluffing? Find something good and bad in their appearance.
You will want to do this acting exercise slowly, while really examining your partner and being 100% truthful about how you are feeling in the moment. Try to do it a second time.
You will never be able to create the same performance. Each time you act with your scene partner is a “one time only” experience that will never happen again. That is what makes in priceless. The only thing an actor can do is give into what might happen and not plan the results.
Once you have done the exercise a couple times, try doing the exercise with different story lines. You are mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister, etc.
Next, try adding a circumstance, you ran away, was abandoned, fell in love, suffer from anxiety. When you add these steps make sure you deal with your partner the same way as indicated above. This will add variance and organic richness and you will enter the sphere Stanislavski talked about.