Method acting

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In the dramatic arts, method acting refers to a range of techniques for training actors to achieve better characterizations of the characters they play, as formulated by Lee Strasberg. These techniques can be traced to Constantin Stanislavski's ideas, formulated in the early 20th century. A practitioner of method acting is called a method actor.

Stanislavski's system[edit]

Main article: Stanislavski's system

"The Method" traces its origins to the "system", as formulated by Constantin Stanislavski. Stanislavski's philosophy was a part of the theatrical realist movement and based on the idea that great acting is a reflection of "truth" conveyed both internally and externally through the actor. Stanislavski set out to convey "truth" through a more human system of acting, which would encourage an actor to build a cognitive and emotional understanding of their role. He developed his system of acting through his friendships with Russia's leading actors, his collaborations with playwright Anton Chekhov, and his own teaching, writing, and acting at the Moscow Art Theatre (founded in 1897).

His system is often erroneously identified with Lee Strasberg's Method approach, which claimed inspiration from Stanislavski's approach. However, Strasberg's adaptation relied exclusively on psychological techniques and contrasted sharply with Stanislavski's multivariate, holistic and psychophysical approach, which explores character and action both from the "inside out" and the "outside in." In this respect his system is far more similar to other classical acting techniques than to method acting.[citation needed]

Strasberg's Method[edit]

Strasberg used the term “Method” to describe his philosophy of acting and his techniques of training actors, which built upon some of Stanislavski's early ideas. Strasberg's method is based upon the idea that in order to develop an emotional and cognitive understanding of their roles, actors should use their own experiences to identify personally with their characters. The method uses techniques to reproduce the character's emotional state by recalling emotions or sensations from the actor's own life. Among the concepts and techniques of method acting are substitution, "as if," sense memory, affective memory, animal work, and archetype work. Strasberg uses the question, "What would motivate me, the actor, to behave in the way the character does?" Strasberg asks the actor to replace the play's circumstances with his or her own, the substitution.[1]

Stanislavski found faults with an experienced-based approach early on, noticing that users and abusers of techniques such as affective memory were prone to hysterics. For this and other reasons he shifted the focus of his system to rely upon imagination, which the actor can use to portray things they haven't even experienced. This remains a fundamental distinction between the System and Strasberg's method, and other American acting philosophies, such as that of Stella Adler and Meisner, would be much truer to Stanislavski's system in this respect.

Given method acting's reliance on the personal experiences of the actor, method actors often replicate external conditions of a role to create experiences they can call upon when acting. This practice can become so extreme as to be potentially dangerous, and it is not unheard of for actors to abstain from food, sleep, or social interaction in an effort to better their performance. Contemporary method actors sometimes seek help from psychologists.[2][3]

Strasberg's students included many prominent American actors of the latter half of the 20th century, including Paul Newman, Al Pacino, George Peppard, Dustin Hoffman, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Mickey Rourke, and many others.[4]

Practitioners[edit]

The following actors have been noted as practitioners of Strasberg's method.

Criticism of Strasberg's method[edit]

Many American acting teachers inspired by Stanislavski broke off with Strasberg, believing his method was not an authentic adaptation of Stanislavski's system.

Sanford Meisner, another Group Theatre pioneer, believed the method was far too focused on the internal workings of the actor, and that acting should be "outside in" rather than "inside out." His ideas came to be called the Meisner technique, and he advocated actors fully immersing themselves "in the moment" and concentrating on their partner. Meisner taught actors to achieve spontaneity by understanding the given circumstances of the scene. He designed interpersonal exercises to help actors invest emotionally in the scene, freeing them to react "honestly" as the character. Meisner described acting as "...living truthfully under imaginary circumstances."[44]

Robert Lewis also broke with Strasberg. In his books Method—or Madness? and the more autobiographical Slings and Arrows", Lewis described his thoughts that method acting was too focused on pure emotional training and neglected elocution and body training, fundamental to classical acting training and thus included in Stanislavski's system.[45] In the method's reliance on emotion it could too easily encourage overacting.

Stella Adler, an actress and acting teacher whose students include Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro, also broke with Strasberg after she studied with Stanislavski himself, by which time he had modified many of his early ideas. Her version of the method is based on the idea that actors should conjure up emotion not by using their own personal memories, but by using the scene's given circumstances. Like Strasberg's, Adler's technique relies on carrying through tasks, wants, needs, and objectives. It also seeks to stimulate the actor's imagination through the use of "as ifs." Adler often taught that "drawing on personal experience alone was too limited." Therefore, she urged performers to draw on their imaginations and utilize "emotional memory" to the fullest.[46]

The charge that Strasberg's method distorted Stanislavski's system has been responsible for a considerable revivalist interest in Stanislavski's "pure" teachings. As the use of the Method has declined considerably from its peak in the mid-20th century, acting teachers claiming to teach Stanislavski's unadulterated system are becoming more numerous.

Method acting also has detractors from within the profession itself. Many prominent actors and directors cite method practitioners as difficult to work with, requiring long preparation and becoming so self-absorbed in their role as to ignore staging directions and chew the scenery.[47][48] Alfred Hitchcock disdained method acting, describing his work with Montgomery Clift in I Confess as difficult "because you know, he was a method actor." He recalled similar problems with Paul Newman in Torn Curtain.[48] Among actors with contempt for the method are Lillian Gish, who quipped "It's ridiculous. How would you portray death if you had to experience it first?"[49] and Charles Laughton "Method actors give you a photograph. Real actors give you an oil painting.”[50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Carnicke, Sharon. Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge Theatre Classics, 2008, p. 221
  2. ^ Larina Kase (2011), Clients, Clients, and More Clients!: Create an Endless Stream of New Business with the Power of Psychology, McGraw–Hill, ISBN 0-07-177100-X, p.125.
  3. ^ S. Loraine Hull (1985), Strasberg's method as taught by Lorrie Hull: A practical guide for actors, teachers, and directors, Oxbow Books, ISBN 0-918024-38-2, p.10.
  4. ^ a b c d "Lee Strasberg of Actors Studio Dead". Nytimes.com. 1982-02-18. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  5. ^ Jones, Jerene (1983-11-07). "For Baby Doll Carroll Baker, Life Has Been No Nursery Rhyme". People. 
  6. ^ Niemi, Robert James (2013-10-17). Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films, Second Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 270–. ISBN 9781610691987. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Halliwell, Martin (2007-03-10). American Culture in the 1950s. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 87–. ISBN 9780748628902. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  8. ^ "Marlon Brando redefined acting: He combined method acting with his own inner turmoil". Associated Press. July 2, 2004. Archived from the original on 2016-06-01. 
  9. ^ Applebaum, Stephen (2003-01-24). "How playing The Pianist took its toll". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  10. ^ a b c d Staggs, Sam (2006-07-25). When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of "A Streetcar Named Desire". St. Martin's Press. pp. 87–. ISBN 9780312321666. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  11. ^ [1] Archived December 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "Michael Caine 'uses painful secret to cry on set'". London: Telegraph. 2009-10-28. Archived from the original on 2015-09-26. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  13. ^ a b Kroon, Richard W. (2014-04-30). A/V A to Z: An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Media, Entertainment and Other Audiovisual Terms. McFarland. pp. 415–. ISBN 9780786457403. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Davis, Glyn (2011). Far from Heaven. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 29–. ISBN 9780748637799. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  15. ^ Gallagher, Danny (2013-12-13). "Method Actors". Cracked.com. Archived from the original on 2016-06-04. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  16. ^ "The Method Madness of Daniel Day-Lewis". London: Telegraph.co.uk. 2014-02-08. Archived from the original on 2016-06-11. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  17. ^ Graham, Caroline. "I Am Crow... Johnny Depp reveals the inspiration behind his teetotal Tonto character". Daily Mail. 19 May 2012. [2]
  18. ^ Eberwein, Robert (2010-05-17). Acting for America: Movie Stars of the 1980s. Rutgers University Press. pp. 184–. ISBN 9780813551135. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  19. ^ Tom Brook (3 January 2013). "The president's wife: Sally Field on Spielberg's Lincoln". BBC Online. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  20. ^ [3] Archived June 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "American Horror Story: Hotel - Lady Gaga goes method for acting debut in Season 5". NewsComAu. 11 October 2015. 
  22. ^ Pfeiffer, Lee (2006-11-07). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Classic Movies. DK Publishing. pp. 60–. ISBN 9781440696862. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  23. ^ Zarrilli, Phillip B. (2010). Theatre Histories: An Introduction. Taylor & Francis. pp. 403–. ISBN 9780415462235. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  24. ^ "Walton Goggins 'Justified' Q&A: "I can't believe that this is my life". Digital Spy. 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  25. ^ "Anne Hathaway: Going Method To Create Amelia Brand". Deadline. 2014-12-21. Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  26. ^ Monaco, Paul (2010-05-05). A History of American Movies: A Film-by-Film Look at the Art, Craft, and Business of Cinema. Scarecrow Press. pp. 136–. ISBN 9780810874398. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  27. ^ a b Cross, Mary (2013). One Hundred People who Changed 20th-century America. ABC-CLIO. pp. 392–. ISBN 9781610690850. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  28. ^ Kuhnke, Elizabeth E. (2015-05-13). Body Language For Dummies. Wiley. pp. 249–. ISBN 9781119076445. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Joe Williams (2 February 2014). "Philip Seymour Hoffman: the death of a method actor". stltoday.com. 
  30. ^ "The Sunday Tribune – Spectrum". Tribuneindia.com. Retrieved 2013-1.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  31. ^ Long, Paul; Wall, Tim (2014-07-10). Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context. Routledge. pp. 135–. ISBN 9781317860785. Retrieved 26 September 2014. 
  32. ^ "Brad Pitt’s Concern Over Shia LaBeouf’s "Method" Odors May Mean the Actor Is Too Extreme for Hollywood". "Vanity Fair". 7 January 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  33. ^ "Jared Leto took method acting to the extreme with 'Dallas Buyers Club'". Toronto Sun. 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  34. ^ The Big Gundown (Tomas Milian: Acting on Instinct) (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Grindhouse Releasing. 1968. 
  35. ^ a b http://www.biography.com/people/judd-nelson-224924.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ "Jack Nicholson Interview - Quotes about the Joker, Movies, and Richard Nixon". Esquire. 2003-12-31. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  37. ^ "10 Best Method Actors". Made Man. 
  38. ^ a b c Zucker, Carole (2013-11-11). Figures of Light: Actors and Directors Illuminate the Art of Film Acting. Springer. pp. 135–. ISBN 9781489961181. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  39. ^ Geoffrey Macnab. "River Phoenix: the last film". the Guardian. 
  40. ^ Gates, Anita (January 21, 2008). "Suzanne Pleshette, 70, Newhart Actress, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-03. Because she was a method actress, 'Hitch didn’t know what to do with me,' Ms. Pleshette said in a 1999 Film Quarterly interview with other Hitchcock heroines. 
  41. ^ "Shelley Winters Outspoken Oscar-winning actress who had a string of famous lovers". Herald Scotland. 2006-01-16. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  42. ^ "Reese's base-ic instinct". Daily Mirror. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  43. ^ Sheridan, Emily (15 April 2009). "Batter up: Reese Witherspoon gets to grip with her ball skills as she practises for softball film role". Daily Mail. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  44. ^ Meisner, Sanford. Sanford Meisner on Acting,'" Vintage, 1987
  45. ^ Robert Lewis (2003), Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 1-55783-244-7, p.193.
  46. ^ "Stella Adler". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. 27 October 2011.
  47. ^ "Anthony Hopkins On Method Actors: ‘What A Pain In The A**’". The Inquisitr News. 
  48. ^ a b Leslie H. Abramson (8 April 2016). Hitchcock & the Anxiety of Authorship. Springer. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-137-30970-9. 
  49. ^ "Silent Film Stars on the Stages of Seattle". 
  50. ^ Philip French. "Philip French's screen legends". the Guardian. 

Further reading[edit]

Articles[edit]

Major books on Method acting[edit]