As humans we have very sophisticated programming to be social – to interact. At the beginning of every interaction you have two choices. Keep your attention on yourself or place your focus on the other person.
If you focus on yourself, you become self-conscious and introspective. You miss the cues those other humans are sharing. And you send out cues that shout you are not paying attention to them. No way will you get the information you need to start an authentic back and forth. Instinctively, everyone knows the interaction isn’t happening. The connection isn’t deeply exciting or satisfying. It all feels incomplete, awkward or even manipulative.
If you focus on the other person, you remain open and curious. You stay sensitive to the cues they are sending and the life story they are sharing. You respond in a way that lets them know they have your attention and you are interested specifically in them. An emotional give and take is happening. It feels great.
As a performer you must make the decision to focus outside of yourself. That keeps you open and available to the people (and environment) around you. Choose to receive cues and respond in a connected, organic way.
Great. Receiving and responding to the cues people always send out is the focus of the work.
Now, one little twist… The way you as a person respond to different cues isn’t always the way the character would respond.
In your work, you must stay true to the character, to tell the character’s story, to interact as the character would. So, this is where you apply the homework you did earlier. To line you up with the story and the character, you need a guide. That guide for your character’s interactions is The Why.
Remember, discovering The Why for a character means you know specifically what drives them, what is valuable to them and how they measure success.
Imagine it like this – The Why lets you know, in every situation, if your character feels like they are getting closer to their life’s desire. In other words, you will know if a cue (or offer) from a guest:
- Pushes the character towards success in his life’s goal
- Stalls the character in moving towards his goal
- Hinders the character in achieving success
Take a moment now. Imagine how you feel when you’re succeeding or holding steady or being blocked. Imagine how you’d react. The goals will be different, but the desire to win will be the same.
Working this way keeps you on point with the character’s story – in a way that is immediate and alive. And it gives you a strong, emotional foundation – you always know how the character feels about what is going on around him.
You as the character know where you stand. Now, a world of choices opens up. You’re ready to maneuver in the situation as best befits your goals.
Just like real life.
Next Up – How This Works. Maneuvers From Real World Performances