What is Method Acting
Method acting, or as it is sometimes simply known, the Method, is a technique used by actors. Method acting is thought to have revolutionized acting as we known it today. It is the antithesis of the wooden actor and uses techniques such as sense and memory to achieve realism in acting. Actors who use the Method rely on using their own emotions from their past in order to bring new depth to a part.
Method acting is thought of as an American form of acting, but it was a Russian theatre director named Konstantin Stanislavski who wrote books on the subject in the 1930s. Around the same time, one of Stanislavski’s students, Richard Boleslawsky, opened an acting school in New York. Boleslawsky began teaching Stanislavski’s basic principles of acting.
In the 1940s and 50s, method acting was popularized and taught at the legendary Actors Studio in New York City by famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg. Another school in New York, called the Actors Group, also taught the method under the coaching of Stella Adler. Acting students came from far and wide to learn this new technique.
Popularity of the Method grew with the work of actors such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. Their style of acting, or non-acting, was considered a breakthrough in the acting world. Compared to old style actors such as Clark Gable, theirs was an acting of previously unseen raw emotion and sensitivity. Other famous actors who have studied the Method are Al Pacino, Paul Newman and Robert DeNiro.
Method acting is thought to one of the most difficult techniques to learn. There are no technical forms or lessons that can be practiced to learn it. There are numerous versions of the Method, taught by different teachers. Most of the techniques are based on the sense or emotional memory process. The actors have to fully immerse themselves in the character in order to sense all of the experiences the character would.
Stella Adler, who taught method acting to both Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro, studied method acting with Stanislavski. Her teaching methods involved using memories or an incident from the actor’s own life to enhance his or her acting. By doing this, actors can use real emotions in portraying their characters.
Although method acting is thought to be the most realistic of techniques it can sometimes present a minor irritation to other actors. Dustin Hoffman once went without bathing and sleeping for two days in order to immerse himself in a role. On seeing Hoffman’s condition, Laurence Olivier his co-star in the film, famously asked him, “Why don’t you just act?”