While we’re on the topic of looking as acting, and acting as looking:
A bonafide star changes yesterday’s calculus of how non-speaking stage partners can guide the audience’s attention towards the actual subject(s) of the scene. Audience’s eyes will naturally gravitate towards superstars, for a variety of reasons (charismatic presence, curiosity, command of the stage, etc). And unless it’s a one-person show, these luminaries take on the task of wordlessly channeling their star wattage towards spotlighting the rest of the ensemble’s work.
This fall, both Jim Parsons and Sam Jackson offered masterclasses in this art of sharing the stage.
Jim is undeniably the lead of Classic Stage Company’s A Man of No Importance. Though he’s in most scenes, the musical often casts him as the listener to the songs of others. Sam Jackson, on the other hand, is decidedly not The Piano Lesson’s main character (now on Broadway); he’s a part of the play’s firmament more than one of its shining lights.
But he’s still Sam Jackson, which means our pupils are prone to meander over to his visage, repeatedly, even when there’s no obvious cue to do so. And if your irises avoid this predilection of mine, then I urge them to don my habit, because he — like Jim — never stop acting, even when not talking.
They showcase the art of listening and silently responding to the action. Their reactions don’t pull focus — it’s not a BEHOLD MY THESPIANISM situation — but they always reside in the truth of the moment, contributing to not only creating, but also deepening-through-expanding the breadth of observable truth and specificity on that stage. Not to mention: it’s a bounty of interpretable material to engage with, bricks in the foundation upon which their characters are built on and fleshed out into their fullest form.