Who else knows what Method Acting is?

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on an innocent forum question, “What are the significant differences between the techniques of Meisner, Strasberg and Adler, since they all stem from Group Theatre?”

three-muskateersOne responder, a teacher who wrote his thesis on this question, jetted over some general ideas about Strasberg “dredging” up emotion and then went on to attribute the core of my dad’s work to Sandy Meisner. [Sigh] I couldn’t let it stand, so I subscribed to the forum, and posted my own reply. (A special thanks to Serious Will for posting that question and giving me the shove I needed to start blogging!).

So this will be a space to get the straight talk about what we do – we train actors and directors to be better at their jobs. We show people how to inspire themselves, rather than just hoping they can get into a groove. I won’t give you the line-by line answer to those people who write the “10 Reasons I Hate Method Acting,” – there will always be ignorant people who would rather rant than learn – but I will answer questions from the comments section and share my thoughts about how you can get more out of your training or your professional work.

Acting lessons are all around us. You can learn while brushing your teeth, or noticing the homeless guy on the corner raving like a lunatic, or watching a six-year-old play soccer. I’ll tell you what I see, and you tell me what you think. I’ll also throw out questions to see what you think about the going’s on in the creative world – hey, the Oscars are coming, so you need to get out and see some of the movies up for awards this year. There are some great movies and some great actors up this year… but I’ll leave that for another post.

I started this blog because most people looking to learn about Lee Strasberg’s work run into a lot of false information and uninformed opinions, so they end up believing things about the Method that just aren’t true.

So let’s get the dialogue started. Tell me what YOU think Method Acting is all about….

– David Lee Strasberg

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Published in: on February 10, 2009 at 5:46 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Great to see your blogging !

    Looks great !

    • Hello Peta-maree, nice to hear from you. I hope things are going well for you Down Under.
      Thanks for dropping in and stay in touch.

  2. Well, what a surprise. I think it is great you are using your writing talents to answer questions about method acting. I am certain people will learn from what you have to say!

  3. Hi David

    Give my love to the Strasberg family !

    I “personally” found Method to give me the greatest breakthrough in acting, i found it freed me from so many “acting” techniques, i had studied ( and i studied them all ) yes it is hard work – but you get out what you put in ! Relaxation may be boring and you may ask “why am i doing this” ( that is how the mind works ) but believe me, when you walk on that stage and you carry that garbage of emotion from your real lives happening of that day or week – Method technique, is a sure fire cure – to rid that and get all your body, mind etc… too the place for performance. I remember for studying Method ” i am so good at crying ” but it was forced, it wasnt real and it certainly did not come from a real place… Method also is like an onion, it peels back, then gives the multi layers needed to breathe, move, walk and talk as the “character”

    Anyhow my latest gig i am Production Manager for Hayden Tee
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayden_Tee ) second album, live recording at Fox 28th Feb – Media Release : http://www.insightcommunications.net.au/PDF/GENERATION_WHY_MEDIA_RELEASE_FINAL.pdf

    Working with an awesome Director and MD and team !!! If you in OZ get your tickets at Moshtix !

    Also say hello to Anna and tell her, i found my fathers maternal background “Ashkenazi” i only have 200 years ( back to 1700s) all from Prussia and Hesse Germany ! Still tracing back…

    Lots of love to everyone !

  4. Good question !

    What does it mean to me – to study at Strasberg ?

    I had an accent tutor for a year, before i trained there… That was $50 an hour every week ! I had two more tutors, who got me to a level i believed, i was capable enough to train at Strasberg ( I had also completed training at two other schools, but did not feel ready )… STRASBERG was MY dream ! We all have a dream – and mine was to study at Strasberg ! When i finished i had finally fulfilled what my soul had been looking for. I truly felt like i was now a real artist with no facade… that all my classes with Marco and Hedy Sontag and Cathleen Leslie – may have been hard and confronting, but if i truly wanted to be the best i could be – then i needed to learn. And i did ! I personally recommend Strasberg training to everyone !

    Each of us has a dream; mine was training at Strasberg.

  5. Dear David,
    I am currently attending Circle in the Square theatre school, and am getting several different techniques from different teachers. One of of my acting technique teachers is Terry Hayden. She uses several exercises that she learned from your father during her time at The Actor’s Studio. One of these exercises is called the “walk about”. It includes a student walking in a circle while humming and then responding to single words being spoken to them. A scene partner then is asked to stand up against a wall while the student continues walking in the circle. They speak the text of their scene and respond to each other. Are you aware of such an exercise? If so could you tell me anything about it’s origin?
    Very Truly Yours,
    Jessica Cermak

    • Thanks for your question, Jessica. All I can tell you is that I don’t know of the exercise and if my dad used it, it is not one which ‘survived’ as he probed and tested constantly to find the most valuable and effective exercises. It is not something which we use. I am asking around to see if anyone else here might have come across the exercise.

      From your description, I am not sure what skills it is intended to build. As I mentioned in the post, my father said that “work for the actor lies in two parts, the ability to create a reality and the ability to express that reality.” In my opinion, If you are not building one of those two skills, then I question the value of the exercise. Feel free to write back and let us know if the exercise was productive for you – my father studied Grotowski’s work, and worked with Bertol Brecht in Germany so we never pass up the chance to learn something new. Meanwhile I will let you know if I discover anything on the roots of the exercise.

  6. Dear David,
    I thanks so much for trying to look into the exercise for me. My intention was not to prove whether or not the exercise was a “fake” or not, but rather to try to get some perspective and history on what was being taught to me. I am sorry to hear that the Walk About did not “survive”. I think that it is a worth while exercise.

    Perhaps I didn’t describe it clearly enough. First the actor tries to free their body from tension. They then start walking in a circle and at a certain point they are instructed to hum something. So they are relaxed, in their body, and connected to their voice so that they are free and able to express themselves. The instructor then will say a word and the actor will stop humming the word has something to do with the given circumstances of the scene after the actor has walked for a while the instructor says another and another. Their partner then stands against a wall and begins there scene the whole time the partners are communing but not moving out of their physical state. This exercise has help me take in the given circumstances on a subconscious level (I tend to get stuck in my head), allowed for greater relaxation, and permitted me to be more active on the text since I can’t just grab, hug, or slap my scene partner (in other words I feel as if I play actions on the words).
    I am glad that you have started this blog. I feel like it is a necessary link for young actors to the roots of american theatre, and I certainly appreciate your response.

    • I appreciate the sentiment, Jessica. My answer is not to say “real” or “fake,” but rather to understand the roots of the exercise. It is not a judgement but rather an observation.

      This is a little like a CSI episode as I piece together data and patterns to see what fits. I spoke to a couple of our teachers and we seem to agree on a couple of things: as you describe the exercise, I think it is fair to say the walking and relaxing feels familiar. We all recognized that as an element from Boleslavsky (my father’s first Stanlislavski-based teacher) that has a long history.

      It is the more abstract humming and word direction that is unfamiliar. It is always possible that my dad used it for a particular person with a particular challenge, and now you get to benefit from it. In most cases, though, we do not interject too much into the exercises. The continued concentration on circumstances can be built through the sense memory exercise. In that exercise you will maintain a point of physical concentration for upwards of an hour (refocusing as necessary when your mind inevitably shifts). The focus on physical stimuli serves to keep you out of your head. From that place of concentration, you can then begin speaking words while maintaining the exercise. In this way, I would attempt to train you, physically and mentally, to instinctively hold circumstances on your own.

      That said, if it works for you, then it is by definition a good exercise. There is no arguing with success. Best of luck to you in your work and training, and I hope you keep contributing to the blog.


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