A picture of Kimberly Jentzen with brown hair falling over her shoulders, smiling at the camera. Her blue blouse picks up the green in her hazel eyes.

Be a Better Actor and Listen! – Part 3

Acting coach Kimberly Jenzen talks about raising the stakes, and give and take in a scene.  She has some unique ways of teaching these important acting techniques.  In this scene taken from John Patrick Shanley’s play, “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea”, the two actors play with deepening their understanding of the characters.  They first do this by the give and take, literally of a tennis ball and later, a pillow.

Here’s What’s Wrong with This

Teacher Kimberly Jenzen takes a scene from a play set in Queens, NY and tries to set it as a film or television scene with two actors from Los Angeles.  Why is that so wrong?  Because anyone who’s ever seen John Patrick Shanley’s work knows that his dialogue is very accent and location specific.  The flow and the syntax of the dialogue is very specific to New York.  And not just to New York, but to the Bronx, in this play.  You might think that I’m exaggerating the importance of the language, but Shanley’s work is very dialogue heavy, and multilayered.  It’s layers are not only the sub-text of the character’s inner thoughts and desires, but the sub-text of where they’ve lived their lives, and how it has molded them.   You may have seen a British Farce done badly by American actors, and wondered what exactly went wrong.  Chances are that the jokes fall flat with an American accent and/or the rhythm of the dialogue was out of sync with how the lines should sound.  That is what’s happening here.

They’ve Completely Missed the Point

Another infuriating part of these exercises, is that both actors become more focused on the “thing” that they’re doing rather than on each other.  The tennis ball and pillow take them out of the characters rather than deeper into them.  The script screams for them to go deeper, but instead they become playful and freer.  The actors and their coach both misunderstand the point of the scene.  The characters are not meant to fly to the sky, but to dig deep into the ground.  As the saying goes, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”  But these two have plenty to lose, and they know it.

Melody Stewart

Melody Stewart is the founder of act.land and President of iactingstudioskc.com. She is a filmmaker in Kansas City.

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