Perhaps one of the most important skills an actor of any medium (film or stage) can possess is the ability to properly react. While the majority of actors focus on line delivery through the means of memorization and what they “think” is appropriate for their character, very few actors allow themselves to react through scripted dialogue not as themselves, but as their character. This advanced-level acting skill requires a multi-level approach as an actor must have a solid understanding of their characters’ personality and the relationship dynamic between him and the other characters.
Reacting through your lines as your character and not yourself is a challenging feat, especially during emotionally intense moments within the script; however, this skill increases the believability of your performance.
You Are Not Yourself
I personally feel that one of the most challenging aspects of acting for any actor is understanding that you are not yourself within the realm of the script. Many acting coaches suggest relating to the character through your own personal experiences, and while this may help understand what the character is going through emotionally, your response to a situation is likely different than your characters response.
Reacting Through Your Dialogue
To become a great actor, you must learn that the most important aspect of any scene is reaction. Reacting to what is being said or done around you ensures that your dialogue delivery is not rehearsed-sounding, but rather the emotions and timing of your dialogue is directly related to the emotional intensity of what is happening around you.
Reacting through you dialogue is challenging, because it requires you to have the skill of being able to naturally and organically respond, but to respond within pre-determined words. To accomplish this goal, you must fully memorize your dialogue to the point where you do not have to “think” when it comes time to respond or speak.
In order to react through your dialogue not as yourself, but as your character, you must begin to think and digest information as your character. While you may not respond angrily to an accusation that you know is false, how would your character respond?
Basically, in order to fulfill this acting technique you must suspend your mind into a state of disbelief, and truly listen to what is being said to you as if it is the first time. It is only when you have this “moment-to-moment” reaction that you can take scripted dialogue and speak it with full-conviction.