WHY "METHOD ACTING" IS PREFERED BY MOST ACTORS IN RECENT TIMES
Are you wondering what method acting is all about? Below are the basics of this acting method developed by Lee Strasberg and practiced at the Actors Studio by actors like Marlon Brando and Geraldine Page.
An important goal of this acting method is to get rid of the muscular tensions that keeps the actor's instrument from being free. Lee Strasberg believed that actors who can relax their muscles reach a higher state of concentration and responsiveness.
2) Sense Memory and Concentration
The actor develops concentration through sense memory exercises. As the name suggests, sense memory is the use of the actor's senses to recall objects and experiences. A beginning method actor will first explore a real object, like a cup of coffee, through all five senses, then put the object down and try to recall the sensory experience of what the object looked like, tasted like, smelled like, etc. A more experienced actor would work on an exercise recalling an experience, such as what it feels like to be sick or to be hungry.
Here are a few examples of other sense memory exercises a more advanced actor would work on:
- An overall sensation such as being in the rain or extreme heat.
- Exploring a place with all five senses.
- Exploring a personal object with sentimental value.
- Re-creating the experience of being in private ("the private moment exercise", a great one to deal with stagefright).
Eventually, an advanced actor will combine several sense memory exercises at once. Not only do sense memory exercises help method actors believe in the given circumstances of the scene they're working on, but they give them great focus and concentration.
3) Emotional Memory
Method actors learn to use sense memory to recall emotional experiences from their past. Instead of trying to remember or force an emotion, the actor tries to re-create with his senses the circumstances surrounding the experience. For example, he would use sense memory to re-create where he was at the time, what he smelled, the sounds he heard, etc. With practice, an accomplished method actor can trigger the right emotion for his character within seconds by simply recalling a single smell or sound.
Lee Strasberg also developed several exercises to help actors create believable characters on stage. The most well known is the animal exercise where a method student will observe an animal and then try to create the experience of being that animal through their five senses. With practice, the actor can pick a couple of attributes of the animal and incorporate them into the role he's playing.
5) Scene Work
Strasberg also guided actors on how to work on a scene or play. Method actors use a list of questions when they prepare for a role such as Who Am I ? Where Am I?, etc. This acting method also encourages the use of improvisation and substitution to make the scene more real to the actor (for example, an actor can imagine a good friend in place of his partner in the scene if he's having problems with the relationship). Method actors also use a lot of the acting techniques developed by Stanislavski. For example, they learn to look for what the character wants in a scene (the "objective") and how to break the scene into beats and action verbs.
These are just the main highlights of this acting method. Lee Strasberg developed many other exercises to help the actor with specific problems. His "method" is the most widely used acting technique in America. Countless famous actors you can see on stage or on screen today are trained in method acting.
By Alex Swenson
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