Acting is a simple word used frequently in our society. When the average person hears the word, she automatically associates it to either 1. doing something or 2. what Meryl Streep does in all of her films. When I hear the word, I instantly associate it to what I do for a living.
I walk into a theater or a class and apply myself to a fictional character. I figure out the objectives and motivations of each character I encounter. I ask myself questions such as: “Who are they? What do they do for a living? What did she eat last night? Does all this information correlate with what she is feeling?”
But, most importantly, my mere idea of the word ‘acting’ differs greatly from what an expert automatically thinks of. A Stanislavsky enthusiast would say, “Acting is doing, feeling, empathizing to deliver a realistic interpretation of a character.” My drama teacher believes that acting involves a great amount of creativity, vulnerability, and psychology. An actor delivering a message to an audience realistically without speaking is psychological and, unfortunately, quite challenging. Nevertheless, I am highly interested in all of the approaches to acting–especially Stanislavsky’s System, but I essentially want to learn what approach will suit me. Hopefully, my blog will help you make the insightful decision as well!
Constantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938)
Many of the approaches to acting are notably related to Stanislavsky’s System, also known as Method Acting. According to PBS’s segment, American Masters, Constantin Stanislavsky was a Russian theatre director and actor who found a naturalistic approach to acting. He travelled around to world to spread his idea of Method acting. He came to the United States and astonished all with this new, original approach to acting. From what I have learned in previous theater classes, his idea has been adopted by actors who are serious and dedicated to building their artistic craft. In New York City, there is a school named The Actors Studio and was founded by artists such as Ella Kazan, Cheryl Crawford, and Robert Lewis. In a different American Masters segment that centered on the Actor’s Studio’s history, it was written that the Actor’s Studio was the home for many serious and dedicated actors such as: Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Sidney Poitier. Eventually, an intense actor and, later on, the artistic director of The Actors Studio, Lee Strasberg, came along, brought the ideas he learned from Stanislavsky’s followers to the Actor’s Studio and redefined American theatre.
Sidney Poiteir at the 1963’s Oscars
Method Acting is known to be one of the most famous and effective approaches to deliver a naturalistic performance. However, KC Wright, an actor and former blogger, wrote a blog post on several acting techniques and believes that there are other notable approaches to acting, as well, such as: Meisner’s technique, Strasberg’s method, Adler’s method, Chekhov’s technique, Practical Aesthetic, Hagen’s technique, and Spolin’s approach. Many of these mentioned approaches stem from Stanislavsky’s System, but some of them derive from other ideas and/or people. I surprisingly have only learned about two approaches, but yearn to learn about all of them.
During high school, I was vaguely introduced to who Stanislavsky was and the technique he created to help actors deliver theatrical performances naturally/realistically. In my acting class, I learned some of the key words Stanislavsky used, like: objective, motivation, memory, etc. I, like many others, have not been formally introduced to other approaches to acting. Actors, who seriously want to make a living off of this career, know that learning about these approaches is integral to becoming successful and educated artists. Therefore, blogging about this topic will allow me to reach people who feel the same way I do: actors and/or people who truly want to learn about the art of acting, who are open to different perspectives on acting, who are questioning the methods behind acting, and who have set acting as their profession.
Furthermore, being educated in this subject will prepare me for challenges I will face as an actress. Auditioning is an integral process in the acting world. During auditions, you are either chosen or not chosen to play a role. In order for an actor to convince an auditor that they are the one, she has to think on her feet. Most importantly, learning about various acting techniques will help me in remarkable ways. For instance, with these learned techniques, I will tackle auditioning obstacles such as: cold reads. Cold reads, assigned by the auditor, are merely scripts given to you out of the blue. You need serious technique to tackle these scripts effectively with, let’s say, five given minutes. Being an actor is incredibly challenging, but with technique and practice, the job will feel like second nature.
Dustin Hoffman during a screentest (can also be defined as a film’s form of auditioning)
It is safe to say that many uninformed actors view Method Acting, or any other approach, as highly intense and frightening. According to many of my peers, a Method actor is required to dig deep into their minds and, sometimes, pull out memories they are uncomfortable with. This can either lead to a disaster or enlightenment. This perception, however, was formulated by my peers and not by professionals who have fully dealt with the consequences and/or benefits of Method Acting. Therefore, I should explore all these diverse ideas further to gain my own opinion on the matter. In order to do so, I need to fully research and learn about the root of different approaches to acting. For instance, I have to create an inquiry with questions like: “Who is Stanislavsky? What was his purpose behind the Method? Is his idea effective and why? How did his teachings travel to the United States? What or who inspired this approach of acting?, etc.” These questions can easily be applied to the other approaches to acting. Open-mindedness is key to understanding, enjoying, and using these famous techniques.
At the end of high school, I vaguely knew about who Stanislavsky was and the techniques that came before and after him. Now, by the end of college, I would like to know all the acting techniques, know what technique is considered the best, and practice them all in different circumstances. A dedicated drama student must know who he is and what he produced in order to satisfy his/her requirements as a student. Normally, you learn this through practicing the Method and/or other approaches, but some drama students are not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to research Stanislavsky and his counterparts for a whole semester. Some drama professors want you to practice Method acting instead of researching the history of it. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity and turn it into something that would benefit me greatly in the future. Researching, writing and learning about the various acting techniques in this class will not only expand my knowledge on the advanced world of acting, but introduce me to my major!