Dustin Hoffman once went two days with no sleep and no personal hygiene to prepare for a role. His fellow actor, Sir Laurence Olivier watched on as Hoffman struggled through his scene. Olivier finally asked Hoffman a now famous question. “Why don’t you just act?’
Behold the Method Actor.
Method acting, sometimes called the Method, is a technique used by actors. It is a system that helps actors achieve a level of psychological realism in their craft. It was designed to do away with the forced indicative style of the 30′s. This is accomplished by use of sense memory and exploring ones own experiences and memories to bring life to the emotion.
Method acting is considered an American acting form but was developed by a Russian director named Stanislavski. He wrote books on the method in the early 1930′s. The method was continued on by his student Boleslawsky and was taught in many New York theater classes.
The method wouldn’t take off until the 1940′s and 50′s. It was then popularized and taught by the famous Actor’s group in New York. The method had undergone some change and it’s modified versions were being taught by teachers such as Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg.
Stella Adler took these basic principles and asked students to use imagination to cultivate emotional environments specific to the character. Where Lee Starsberg looked to further plumbing the depths of the psyche for true emotion to be layered onto the performance,
Actors that studied the method and helped to bring it to the mainstream include Marlon Brando, James Dean, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and Paul Newman.
Method acting is considered to be difficult to learn and master but the returns in your craft are great! A more genuine and sensitive performance. A living breathing actual moment on stage.
Method acting, of course, has it’s dangers. It can be tough, emotionally, as you repeatedly subject yourself to deep levels of emotion. But part of the training is to let go of these things when they are no longer serving you on stage.
Though it is strenuous, it persists for a reason. We are a generation hungry for honesty and the Method provides just that. An opportunity to see people being private in public. Am opportunity to peer into the window of someone else’s life and watch on. It provides truth in an art form based on lying.