Method acting is an acting technique in which actors try to replicate real life emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance. This is contrasted with a more abstracted, less involved style of acting in which the actor himself or herself remains an outside observer of the character he or she is portraying.
“The Method” in method_acting typically refers to the generic practice of actors drawing on their own emotions, memories, and experiences to influence their portrayals of characters.
“The Method” was first popularized by the Group Theatre in New York City in the 1930s, and subsequently advanced by Lee_Strasberg at The Actors Studio in the 1940s and 50s. It was derived from Stanislavski’s ‘system’, created by Constantin Stanislavski, who pioneered similar ideas in his quest for “theatrical truth.” This was done through friendships with Russia’s leading actors, collaborations with playwright Anton Chekhov, as well as his teachings, writings, and acting at the Moscow Art Theater (founded in 1897).
Strasberg’s students included many of America’s most famous actors of the latter half of the 20th century, including Marlon Brando, Vic Morrow, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and many others.
In Stanislavski’s ‘system’ the actor analyzes deeply the motivations and emotions of the character in order to personify him or her with psychological realism and emotional authenticity. However, using the Method, an actor recalls emotions or reactions from his or her own life and uses them to identify with the character being portrayed.
Some consider method_acting difficult to teach. This is partially because of a common misconception that there is a single “method.” “The Method” (versus “the method” with a lowercase m) usually refers to Lee_Strasberg’s teachings, but really no one method has been laid down. Stanislavski himself changed his System constantly and dramatically over the course of his career. This plurality and ambiguity can make it hard to teach a single method. It is also partially because sometimes method_acting is characterized by outsiders as lacking in any specific or technical approach to acting, while the abundance of training schools, syllabi, and years spent learning contradict this. In general, however, method_acting combines a careful consideration of the psychological motives of the character, and some sort of personal identification with, and possibly the reproduction of the character’s emotional state in a realistic way. It usually forms an antithesis to clichéd, unrealistic, so-called “rubber stamp” or indicated acting. Mostly, however, the surmising done about the character and the elusive, capricious or sensitive nature of emotions combine to make method_acting difficult to teach.
Depending on the exact version taught by the numerous directors and teachers who claim to propagate the fundamentals of this technique, the process can include various ideologies and practices such as “as if,” “substitution,” “emotional memory in acting,” and “preparation.”
Sanford_Meisner, another Group Theatre pioneer, championed a separate, though closely related school of acting, which came to be called the Meisner technique. Meisner broke from Strasberg on the subject of “sense memory” or “emotional memory,” one of the basic tenets of the American Method at the time. Those trained by Strasberg often used personal experience on stage to identify with the emotional life of the character and portray it. Meisner found that too cerebral, and advocated fully immersing oneself in the moment of a character and gaining spontaneity through an understanding of the scene’s circumstances, and through exercises he designed to help the actor gain emotional investment in the scene and then free him or her to react as the character.
Stella Adler, the coach whose fame was cemented by the success of her students Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro, as well as the only teacher from the Group Theatre to have studied Acting Technique with Stanislavski himself, also broke with Strasberg and developed yet another form of acting. Her technique is founded in the idea that one must not use memories from their own past to conjure up emotion, but rather using the Given Circumstances. Stella Adler’s technique relies on the carrying through of tasks, wants, needs, and objectives. It also seeks to stimulate the actor’s imagination with the use of as-if’s. As she often preached, “We are what we do, not what we say.”
- Acting–The First Six Lessons by [[Richard_Boleslavsky]]
- Respect for Acting by [[Uta_Hagen]]
- [[An_Actor_Prepares]] by [[Constantin Stanislavski]]
- To the Actor by [[Michael_Chekhov]]
- A Dream of Passion by [[Lee_Strasberg]]
- Sanford_Meisner on Acting by [[Sanford_Meisner]]
- Method or Madness by [[Robert_Lewis]]
- Advice to the Players by [[Robert_Lewis]]
- The Method Manual for teachers and actors by [[Ed_Kovens]]
- The Actor’s Studio: A Player’s Place by David Garfield
- Strasberg’s Method by Lorrie Hull
- ”Truth: Personas, Needs and Tragic Flaws in the art of building actors and Creating Characters by Susan Batson