We made a marvelous discovery this week while rehearsing Frankie's monologue from 'Private Peaceful'.
The next time you watch someone (a non-actor) tell a story, watch them closely. Where do they look? As they remember the events, they'll spend 90% of the time looking around, as if resurrecting the events in their mind. We could call these Imaginary Objects, so named by American teacher Uta Hagen, whose exercises we use at American School of Acting.
Getting back to staring (and enjoy another look at Stan Laurel above), isn't it true that only we actors have this habit of staring into people's faces when we're working? We think that's what intense characters are supposed to do. However, do that with your friends or teachers and they'll think you're daft.
So: just as we do in real life, try looking at your scene partner only 10% of the time, and 90% of the time look at your imaginary objects, again just like we do in real life. It will feel momentarily strange at first, but try it and you'll find your acting more relaxing, more real, and you'll come up with some stunning stuff like Frankie Bounds did. It works.
Bryan Bounds is a US-born and UK-based professional actor, voice-over artist, director, teacher and founder of the American School of Acting.