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Essay: The Importance Of Listening

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If I had to answer the question, “What is the most important ability for an actor?” there would be no contest. The answer would emphatically be listening. To avoid any misunderstanding, let me define what I mean by listening. I am talk- ing about listening with all the senses. In other words, listening involves more than what you “hear” with your ears: it involves what you see; it involves the responses of all of your senses—touch, feel, sight, sound, smell; and, very importantly, it involves what you perceive intuitively and emotionally and what you have experienced and perceived in the past. The meaning of dialogue is enhanced by all the other things you “hear.” You hear the sound of someone speaking; you hear the literal meaning…show more content…
How, then, can you trust the words that are spo- ken? How, then, can anyone say that the most important thing in a play or a screen- play is the dialogue? Nonsense. The most important thing is what is under the dia- logue; it is what makes it happen. The implication of what has been said, what you hear with all your senses, is most important. Only when you hear with all of your senses can you know what the spoken words really mean, or whether it was neces- sary for them to have been spoken at all. This is not to be taken as a license to change dialogue as you see fit because
Tony Barr said, “The words are not important.” A good writer’s dialogue will be economical, articulate, and specific to the background of the role. It will have its own rhythm and its own emotional texture, and any changes could be very dam- aging. Recently we were doing a scene in class in which a woman is disturbed because the man she is living with had gone to visit his child, who is living with his former wife. Concerned that he might want to renew his relationship with his ex-wife, the woman accuses him of wanting to do just that. The man loves this woman; he
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