Method Acting: What is it and why should I do it?

Method Acting

Acting Techniques of the Professionals


What is Method Acting?

To most people the term method acting brings to mind such feats of physical and psychological endurance that sometimes verge on the cringeworthy. We associate the work of Daniel Day Lewis with this kind of acting technique; Lewis, in order to effectively portray Christy Brown, the Irish artist who suffered from severe cerebral palsy in My Left Foot (1989), asked of cast and crew to wheel him around the set in his wheelchair and to spoon feed during meal breaks so that he could ‘remain in character’. We think of Christian Bale who lost 63 pounds in The Machinist (2004) in order to play Trevor Reznik, the insomniac factory worker. We recall the severe physical transformation of Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) that left us wondering if this was still the same actress. And all of that so that these method actors may imbue the characters they played with the authenticity that was crucial to those critically acclaimed and much awarded performances that so many of us loved.

While these are surely instances of the application of method techniques, they are yet very dramatic (and drastic) ones. Most working method actors that we watch in film, theatre and television are in fact doing method acting ‘stuff’ and we hardly notice it. So what is it and how do we spot it? .

Commonly, the acting methodology of Lee Strasberg is what is referred to when the term ‘Method Acting’ is used. However in the wider sense of the term, Method Acting, describes a number of acting methodologies that have derived from the Stanislavski System. What makes this system and the techniques drawn from it so special rest in their ability to elicit realistic and ‘truthful’ performances from actors on stage (and on set). So whether the method actor is going ‘all Daniel Day Lewis on their character’ or is playing them with real feeling and emotion but with no overt physical transformation, they are still most probably utilising some type of method acting technique.

A number of individuals claim to have devised such acting techniques but the techniques of Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and Robert Lewis are what are considered the derivations of the Stanislavski System known as Method Acting.

Why Method Acting?

Method acting is widely considered to be the most effective type of drama technique. This is due to its success in training actors so that they are able to bring truth and authenticity to performance. This truth and authenticity in performance has a direct effect on the audience. Truthful performances can move audiences; they can impact them psychologically in a way that performances based on pretence can never do. For that reason actors that are trained in method are most sought after. They rise faster and higher in their careers.

A method actor is at the top of the ‘acting game’ and is the one most likely to be cast over other actors.

So if you are interested in pursuing acting professionally, you must consider method acting – or at least some other acting technique that will enable you to give powerful, realistic performances the same way method acting can do.

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