Having been away from Acting for more than a year (or rather Acting having been away from me for a year,) I have attended courses and night classes essentially made a living in other areas, namely the British Civil Service. The greatest skill an actor has in their toolbox is the ‘Art of Living’. Nothing rocket science about living a life, you just get on with it and hope for the best. I have always seen myself as an ‘Actor who does different things.’ And that is what I am doing right now… Living.
By ‘living’ I mean I am doing what millions of people do each day. I get up in the morning, wash, dress, have breakfast, commute into the office, do a day’s work, behave and act professionally and at the end of the day, I leave and go home. Depending on how I feel, I will go the gym, pump iron and give my body a good workout. After that, go back home, have dinner, read, watch a little TV, then off to bed, sleep, morning raises its head at dawn and the cycle begins once more.
The above is the life of the masses. In some ways as much as I want my acting career to be a full-time occupation, I am thankful that I am not in some ivory tower, caught up in my own self-importance because I am on a roll, the roles are coming my way, so feel no need to talk to people less successful than myself. To be honest, the day I become like that, is the day I quit Acting altogether. Yes really!
I was reminded of that key ingredient any actor requires – listening. While working with a personal trainer or partnered with someone in a gym boxing class, the ability to listen and follow instructions (or in the actor’s case, take direction,) is key to everything. Listening was never a problem when on stage or in front of a camera. Never an issue but in my personal life it was a problem. Only found out I was slightly deaf, when working in a Government department. I could never hear my line manager words and she worked less than three feet behind me. When I arranged an audio/hearing test, I was told I could not hear low voices or low high pitched sounds.
Explains why I could never hear my personal trainer’s instructions over the blaring noise of the DJ’s music. Probably why I no longer go to live music venues nor clubs. I digress however.
What I have learned to is to stop saying ‘pardon’ and ask people to repeat themselves. But more important, I focus on people I am talking to more intently and listen more closely to what they are saying.
What I am doing is using the skills I have learned via my work on stage and screen, applying it to my private, social and working life elsewhere.
Whether it be Gym Boxing, working out in a gym or performing, the ‘Art of Listening’ is just as important (if not more so, ) than mere observation.