Good Acting Partner vs. Good Tennis Partner

There’s a fair chance that your misunderstanding of the difference between a good acting partner and a good tennis partner is costing you a fair amount of money in your auditions.

So… what IS the difference between a good acting partner and good tennis partner? Well, what do we know about a good acting partner? What have we been taught?

A good acting partner:
Has a primary goal of sharing with their partner
Has a primary goal of serving their partner
Has a primary goal of making their partner look good
Has a primary goal of connecting with their partner
Has a primary goal of responding to their partner
Has a primary goal of affirming their acting partners choices (YES part of “yes and”)

We know that in an audition atmosphere things can tend towards the selfish pursuits- so we believe we must focus even MORE on these basic tenants of “good acting partnership” in order to keep our acting honest and respectful and respectable.

So what makes up a good tennis partner?
Above anything else – someone who’s a very good tennis player.
Has a primary goal of executing the basic fundamentals required to win a game.
Understands proper position whether playing singles or doubles.
Is able to hit the ball where they want, when they want.
Makes effective strategic choices of where to hit the ball based on the flow of the gameplay in order to win.

Does a good tennis partner
Have a primary goal of sharing with their partner?
Have a primary goal of serving their partner?
Have a primary goal of making their partner look good?
Have a primary goal of connecting with their partner?
Have a primary goal of responding to their partner?
Have a primary goal of affirming their acting partners choices?

NO. While none of those would be a BAD thing- they certainly shouldn’t be prioritized above the fundamentals needed to focus on WINNING the game. Same winds up true for acting. First and foremost a good tennis partner would be a good tennis player. And a good acting partner would be a good actor. Too often we hold the PARTNER part of acting above the STORYTELLING part of acting – and let our choices serve our partner more than our WRITER. I’m not suggesting people go out there in their auditions an be a jerk to their partners and be someone that is hard to work with. But your first allegiance is to the story. You most important partner is the writer. You can certainly find the balance to serve both your partner and the story, and that’s where magic can happen. But beware of the situation where it becomes apparent that your priorities are skewed.

In an audition you wouldn’t want to have a performance where it seems like you’re trying to shine a spotlight on your acting. Then we become too aware of your “acting,” and it feels over the top and forced.
While it may feel noble to instead put the spotlight on your acting partner- in doing this you are still shining the spotlight on someone’s “acting” – and the scene as a whole will still feel disjointed and forced. Ideally you will both work together (even if someone hits the ball far more often than the other person) to shine the spotlight on the WRITING – so we can focus on the story and be taken for a ride by your performances. So take a lesson from the tennis player- and change your understanding of what partnership may mean.

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