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Still of Joaquin Phoenix in “Her.”

We say them, hear them — sometimes at a mile a minute — sometimes we can’t even piece them together to form a coherent sentence. But do we actually hear them? Or sure we hear them, but do we actually listen to them? How often do we not even pay attention to what we’re saying? Are we understanding what is being given to us from our everyday discourse to those passionate moments?

Not only do I question if we actually hear or listen to others, but as to whether we do so with ourselves. Preoccupied, (insert “smart”-object), or caught up in preconceived ideas of what we’re supposed to say versus the response needed to create meaningful dialogue. Language. Meaningful conversation. It’s too vulnerable for us these days. We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re forced to communicate face to face in physical real time.
“Where’s my smart phone? This’ll be funnier as a status.”
When you’re an actor, that’s just not going to cut it.

Our main medium needs language. We need to enjoy it, play with it, expand our vocabularies, challenge our lexicons and perspectives. You’d be surprised at how easily they change without you realizing it.

Babe? Nah its “bae”. NO it’s a multitude of other adjectives to describe a girl!

At first you’ll be judged by it, but as Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner say, “Think Like a Freak”. They encourage it. They also wrote a book on it.

Language is meant to communicate thoughts, ideas, emotions, tell stories… It’s “delicious, and a privilege,” as one of my acting teachers describes it. And it’s the truth.

What, WHAT, are you saying? What does it mean? What are you READING? What is the writer trying to communicate? To allude, what allegory, what metaphor, what intention do they need you to use, what tactic – action, to get what you need from the other person? All necessary questions. We are detectives at our craft, and we need to be the best damn ones. Writers need us to do what we unconsciously and/or consciously do in our everyday lives, but we all too often forget to… To live. To just breathe life into a character, whom we forget is a person. No premeditated answers (in the sense that one just answers because of memorized lines), but just listening and reacting. Sometimes we know what we’re going to say right after (or rudely interrupting) to a person, but that’s when you know you’re not actually listening to what they’re saying and instead just thinking about what you need heard. Funny hey?

As weird as it is, pay attention to your everyday conversations while you’re having them. Are you actually listening to what the other person is saying? Do you care? Why are you staying there? Either you walk away or stay. What are the reasons? When do you find you are truly listening and fulfilling your ideas to the last word, versus when you’re half there and half somewhere else? Observe other people’s conversations. Eavesdrop, blatantly stare. Hide and stare.

Hey, you know you do it most of the time anyways.

What do you feel? How is one person’s words affecting the other person? Are they changing? Why do they stay or go?

As many of my acting teachers and Michael Shurtleff, author of “Audition,” wring their hands and say too many actors choose that the character doesn’t care. If they didn’t care, there would be no scene. So why do they stay? What is in the language? The conversation? One of my teachers so intelligently outlined for us that it’s not just in the words themselves, but also in the punctuation. Respect and honor the punctuation. They are behavior. Inner monologues. Thoughts, tangents, connecting thoughts. Emotions.

One writer: Shakespeare.
Its a ladder, and you can’t miss a rung.
This was the wake up call we all needed in class.

A reflection and connection for me was music, as wonderfully and perfectly a random song can beautifully embody a scene, I refer more specifically to the lyrics. Why do we find so much meaning, connect so deeply, and become overcome with different or many emotions to song lyrics?
And pardon me, but actual song lyrics, ones that aren’t just repeating the female and male anatomy in derogatory terms.
I accredit songs that are eternal, their lyrics imprinted upon souls. From Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley, to the movement-like connection that Nirvana created with Generation-X. Why were their lyrics so powerful?

Go back to your song list, your playlists. Reflect over songs that you play over again- can’t get sick of. What memories are triggered? What memories are associated with the time you first heard the song, or when you used to play it? Are they joyous? Those summertime road trips. Those nights in. Nights out. Are they painful? I believe all memories, painful or joyful, are good memories. They’ve made you who you are today, and aren’t what you’d necessarily experience tomorrow.

Those words are important to you. You react to them because you hear, and listen to them. You feel what the singer/songwriter felt. Interpret them to your past, current, and new mood; place in your life, events.

The same should occur when you read, hear, and speak those words from the page of your sides. From that script that was lovingly written, poured over with blood, sweat, and tears, from someone who was also battling with bravery to put their hearts out for the world, and happened to have the right people believe in them.
They deserve it. The people you are portraying and sharing their journey with in the form of character’s shoes deserve it.

YOU deserve it.

You work too damn hard (I hope), to let your momentary perception of semantics derail you.
This was one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned, one that not only I’ve been able to utilize in my acting, but also in my life.

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Jaylee: Words, Language, Vulnerability, and Living Your Art
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Since I was a kid I’ve found something magnetic in the storytelling process; to delve into another being, learn from them, and share their truth. I’m now pursuing a career in film and television.