Friday, January 3, 2014

The Group Theatre primer on Method Acting

Method Acting Procedures
The Actors Studio
Method Acting Tips
And Tricks
This page will lead interested individuals to descriptions of various techniques and procedures of so-called "method"
acting.  What you will find here is not copied from books.  It's in my own words, and composed for you with
definitions, analogies, descriptions and examples of this work which I am able to relate to you after studying,
teaching and using it as an actor for the past 35 years.  I hope you enjoy as well as learn.  There are many fine
books about this subject, and I have listed my favorites, with descriptions of their contents at this site.

Harry Governick
Artistic Director
TheatrGROUP, Inc.

Method acting

Method acting is any of a family of techniques used by actors to create 
in themselves the thoughts and feelings of their characters, so as to 
develop lifelike performances. Though not all method actors use the 
same approach, the "method" in method acting usually refers to the 
practice, influenced by Constantin Stanislavski and created by Lee Strasberg
in which actors draw upon their own emotions and memories in their portrayals, 
aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory and 
affective memory. Method acting shares similarities with Stanislavski's system.
Method actors are often characterised as immersing themselves in their 
characters to the extent that they continue to portray them even offstage 
or off-camera for the duration of a project. However, this is a popular 
misconception. While some actors have employed this approach, it is generally 
not taught as part of the Method[citation needed].
Method acting has been described as having "revolutionized American theater." 
While classical acting instruction "had focused on developing external talents," 
the Method was "the first systematized training that also developed internal 
abilities (sensory, psychological, emotional)."[1]
Method acting continues to evolve, with many contemporary acting teachers, 
schools, and colleges teaching an integrated approach that draws from 
several different schools of thought about acting.




"The Method" was first popularized by the Group Theatre in New York City 
in the 1930s and subsequently advanced by Lee Strasberg and others at 
the Actors Studio in the 1940s and 1950s. It was derived from the 'system'
created by Constantin Stanislavski, who pioneered similar ideas in his quest 

for "theatrical truth." This was done 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).
Strasberg's students included many of the best known American actors of 
the latter half of the 20th century, including Marlon BrandoPaul Newman
Robert De NiroAl Pacino,James DeanGeorge PeppardDustin Hoffman
Marilyn MonroeJane FondaJack NicholsonMickey Rourke, and many others.[2]
Using the Method, the actor also recalls emotions or reactions from his or 
her own life and uses them to identify with the character being portrayed.
[citation needed]


"The Method" refers to the teachings of Lee Strasberg, but the term 
"method acting" is sometimes applied to the teachings of his Group Theatre 
colleagues, including Stella Adler,Robert Lewis, and Sanford Meisner, and to 
other schools of acting derived from Stanislavski's system, each of which takes 
a slightly different approach. Constantin Stanislavskihimself has been noted 
saying that certain techniques that are considered to be "method" are not true 
to his original system, with an undue emphasis on the exercises of affective 
memory. However there is no one correct way of method acting, for each 
different method technique is simply a different teachers' understanding 
of the Stanislavski System.
Generally, Method acting combines the actor's careful consideration of 
the character's psychological motives and personal identification with the 
character, possibly including a reproduction of the character's emotional 
tate by recalling emotions or sensations from the actor's own life. It is often 
contrasted with acting in which thoughts and emotions are indicated, or 
presented in a clichéd, unrealistic way. 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.[3]
Sanford Meisner, another Group Theatre pioneer, championed a closely 
related version of the Method, which came to be called the Meisner technique
Meisner broke from Strasberg on the subjects of sense memory and affective 
memory, basic techniques espoused by Strasberg through which actors access 
their own personal experiences in order to identify with and portray the 
emotional lives of their characters. Meisner believed that this approach 
caused actors to focus on themselves and not fully tell the story. He advocated 
fully immersing oneself "in the moment" and concentrating on one's partner. 
Meisner taught actors to achieve spontaneity by understanding the 
given circumstances of the scene (as did Strasberg) and through 
interpersonal exercises he designed 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."[4]
Robert Lewis also broke with Strasberg. In his books Method—or Madness? 
and the more autobiographical Slings and Arrows, Lewis disagreed with the 
idea that vocal training should be separated from pure emotional training.[5] 
Lewis felt that more emphasis should be placed on formal voice and body training, 
such as teaching actors how to speak verse and enunciate clearly, rather than 
on pure raw emotion, which he felt was the focus of Method training.[5]
Stella Adler, an actress and acting teacher whose fame was cemented by the 
success of her students Marlon BrandoWarren Beatty, and Robert De Niro
also broke with Strasberg after she studied with Stanislavski himself, the only 
Group Theatre teacher to do so, after he had modified many of his early 
ideas about acting. 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.[6]

Contemporary approaches[edit]

Contemporary Method acting teachers and schools often synthesize the work of 
their predecessors into an integrated approach. They reject the notion that any 
one of the major Method teachers of the 20th century was completely correct 
or incorrect, and they continue to develop new acting tools and techniques.
Some modern acting theorists and teachers have noted that Lee Strasberg, 
Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler, and others often misunderstood each other's work, 
and that their criticisms were based on this misunderstanding. For example, 
they all taught actors to use their imagination, to connect with each other in 
performance, to analyze the script for wants, needs, and objectives. Meisner 
often said that Strasberg actors were too focused on themselves, but Strasberg 
trained many of the most respected actors of the 20th century.
In addition to taking an integrated approach, contemporary actors sometimes 
seek help from psychologists[7][8] or use imaginative tools such as dream work 
or archetype work to remove emotional blocks. Techniques have also been 
developed to prevent the world of the performance from spilling over into 
an actor's personal life in destructive ways.


Stanislavski described his acting system in a trilogy of books set in a 
fictional acting school: An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and 
Creating a Role. He also wrote an autobiography, My Life in Art. 
Acting teachers whose work was inspired by Stanislavski include:
In fact, most post-1930 acting philosophies have been strongly influenced 
by Method acting, and it continues to be taught at schools around the world, 
including the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and 
Los Angeles, the Actors Studio Drama School in New York, the 
Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York and Los Angeles, theEdgemar Center 
for the Arts in Santa Monica, Calif., HB Studio in New York, Le Studio 
Jack Garfein in Paris and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.


Further reading[edit]


Major books on Method acting[edit]

Books on contemporary approaches to Method acting[edit]

  • The Intent to Live by Larry Moss
  • Dreamwork for Actors by Janet Sonenberg
  • O poetică a artei actorului (Poetics of the actor's art) by Ion Cojar
  • Rosemary Malague: An Actress Prepares: Women and "the Method", London & New York: 
  • Routledge, 2011

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stella Adler, 91, an Actress and Teacher of the Method New York Times, December 22, 1992.
  2. a b c d e Lee Strasberg of Actors Studio Dead The New York Times, February 18, 1982
  3. ^ Carnicke, Sharon. Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge Theatre
  4. Classics, 2008, p. 221
  5. ^ Meisner, Sanford. Sanford Meisner on Acting, Vintage, 1987
  6. a b Robert Lewis (2003), Slings and Arrows: Theater in My LifeHal Leonard CorporationISBN 1-55783-244-7,
  7.  p.193.
  8. ^ "Stella Adler." Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. 27 October 2011.
  9. ^ Larina Kase (2011), Clients, Clients, and More Clients!: Create an Endless Stream of New Business 
  10. with the Power of PsychologyMcGraw–HillISBN 0-07-177100-X, p.125.
  11. ^ S. Loraine Hull (1985), Strasberg's method as taught by Lorrie Hull: A practical guide for actors, teachers, 
  12. and directors, Oxbow Books, ISBN 0-918024-38-2, p.10.
  13. ^ Hari Bansha Acharya: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  14. ^ The Ghost Rider himself answers your questions Empire
  15. ^ Michael Caine 'uses painful secret to cry on set' The Telegraph
  16. ^ Jane Fonda Is Actress with a Character AP, Gettysburg Times – Jun 14, 1962
  17. ^
  18. ^ What I've Learned: Jack Nicholson Esquire
  19. ^ Suzanne Pleshette, 70, ‘Newhart’ Actress, Dies The New York Times, January 21, 2008
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ [3]
  23. ^ Shelley Winters Outspoken Oscar-winning actress who had a string of famous lovers 16 January 2006 
  24. Herald Scotland
  25. ^
  26. Khans-says-Ranbir-Kapoor/articleshow/20491317.cms?intenttarget=no

Sense Memory
Magic If
Animal Exercise
Song & Dance
Private Moment
Speaking Out
Affective Memory
Given Circumstances

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