ON ACTING: Really Listening and Looking
Eyes are called the “windows to the soul” for good reason. They are an infinitely complex and startling composite of millions of cells. When they engage in specific visual perception, there occurs real and discernible changes in eye composition. And these cellular changes in composition cannot be controlled by an actor’s voluntary nervous system; an actor cannot pretend to be looking; he cannot choose to make them appear like he is seeing when he is not.
Therefore, a good actor, to ensure audience belief through enacted reality, must really look and listen to the other actors, must really read the newspaper on the table, truly scan photograph in their hands. When an actor does not, the actor’s eyes will have that glazed look, that ‘inner focus’ look; and the voice that comes from an actor not really listening and looking and therefore not emotionally stimulated by reality; it will lack complexity and resonance.
The audience may not have the courage to live life on stage according to the precise demands of acting, but they know life. They live it every day, and can recognize real life when it happens. And will be only fully stimulated and moved when that real life occurs.