Anyone who has ever seen a show that is just monologues will know that while these characters are great in their own right, the scene work and interaction between the characters make the show truly magical. This means that you will have times in your career when you are not the centre of attention. Yes, I do. Wild. Being a great scene partner is crucial to being a great storyteller. That is the essence of acting. StageMilk has a guide for being a great scene partner and storyteller.
This is crucial for actors in all formats, not just as scene partners. Listening is key. It would be best to actively listen to your scene partner’s words and body language. Scene partners who don’t pay attention to the scene or are actively disinterested are the worst things in the world. One person acting out their hearts is the best way to end a scene. The other is completely disinterested.
It’s not about you.
Yes, it was shocking. But it’s not about you. Sometimes, you’re just there to talk to a larger character at that time in the story. However, this does not make you insignificant. The story is always the most important thing. How does your character fit into this grand landscape? How can you help the storyteller? Sometimes, that means taking a backseat to listen to the characters as attentively and actively as possible.
Be generous and surprised!
Even if your role is not very prominent in dialogue, it’s still possible to be generous and surprising to your scene partners. Is it possible to be both surprising and generous? Yes, I mean that you should stick to your blocking and hit all your marks. However, I also recommend offering different actions to your partners and giving them opportunities to bounce off. Be open to change and vulnerable. This will allow your emotions to react to changing circumstances. You can’t be so rigid in your decisions, inflexible or predictable, as to destroy any energy or life you have. While this must be balanced with the directors’ visions of the scene, it is important to find life and spontaneity in these moments to elevate your scene and make you a great scene partner.
This applies to all, but I am specifically interested in being a scene partner for someone who shoots a showreel scene. Showreel days are stressful. Sometimes, the actor in the lead may have paid thousands of dollars. A scene partner who is rude or unkind is not what they want. Even if the other person’s performance is poor, it is not their problem – unless they are the director. If they ask for your advice, you can give them a compliment sandwich. It should be something positive, something that needs improvement, and then something else. It’s not a good idea to be harsh on your partner in the scene. We are all in this together. Let’s get along!
Follow the instructions
For the love of all that is holy, please give direction. Actually. Really. Take the direction of the director seriously. You are there to improve the show. It can sometimes be hard to comprehend what a director wants. Language barriers, stress, terminology differences, poor communication, and language barriers can be difficult. You have the power to overcome these difficulties. Ask questions and discuss what the director needs from you. This is an essential skill for actors and is something you must learn to do.