Skip to main content

One of the most common pieces of advice aspiring actors are given is ‘acting is reacting’. This can be a novel concept for those who believe that acting is all about using their voice and body language to portray character and emotion. However, the best actors do not put themselves first, but are actually great listeners.

Here’s a look at how to put the concept of reacting into practice. 

What is a listening actor?

A listening actor has the elusive ability to be spontaneous with their thoughts and emotions, rather than draw on stock responses or a pre-planned reaction. This allows for an authentic response to the other actor or the events in the play, and even if the other actor’s output is unexpected, they can take it in their stride. 

How can you become a better listener?

Listening is not just something that you do with your ears; it also encompasses your body language and all of your senses. You are not reacting to just speech, but also sights, smells, touch, or even the near-silence of breathing. Learn how to be aware of and respond to all the stimuli that surround you. 

Warm up beforehand

Actors physically warm up to ensure that their bodies are loose and relaxed and their voices are rich and resonant. However, it is not just a physical process but also an emotional and intellectual process of being mentally alert and open to the world, rather than inside your own head.

Some actors choose to listen to music that provokes an emotional response in them before they go on stage. This can help to put them in touch with their feelings and be better prepared for conveying them to an audience. 

Another popular way to warm up spiritually and emotionally is to practice some form of meditation, such as mindfulness. This is about focusing on the bodily senses, and training the mind to focus on the present moment rather than jump from thought to thought as it naturally tends to do. 

A simple way to begin with mindfulness is to name five things you can see; four things that you can hear; three things that you can feel; two things that you can smell; and one thing that you can taste. 

Study the whole script

When you act you should not just learn your own lines, or you will be simply waiting for your turn to speak and your performance will be unconvincing, no matter how much emotion you invest in your own words. Study your partner’s lines, and read in between them to work out what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.

Ultimately, good actors listen intensely and interpret what they hear accurately. This enables them to be carried in the moment and respond in a bold and creative manner that truly brings the whole experience to life. 

There is no one particular rule or method that will work for everyone, but listening is something that you can practise in everyday life and bring to your next role. 


If you are looking for acting schools in Manchester, please get in touch with us today.

Leave a Reply