02 Apr 3 Popular Acting Techniques
Whether on screen or on stage, embodying the spirit and personality of a character is a thrill beyond comparison. Acting is an art that few master, but many strive to; if you are one of the many, come to Expression City to become one of the few. When you sign up for our acting classes, you receive instruction from professional actors who are intimately familiar with the business in an environment that allows you to experiment with different acting methods, meaning that you will become familiar with both the practical and technical aspects of acting. In this blog, we will go over three famous acting techniques that you will learn more about in your acting class.
The Stanislavski system is an acting technique that was created by Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), an influential Russian actor/director. Stanislavski strived to create an acting technique that was realistic. This technique inspired all of the major American acting techniques that followed, including Method acting; in fact, he is often called the “father of Method acting.” Many techniques from this system are still used today. Below we highlight some of the most significant.
The Magic If
This concept was designed to spark the actor’s imagination. Essentially, the actor asks themselves, “What would I do if what is happening to this character happened to me?” They reflect on how they would feel and how they would respond. The idea is to get inside the head of the character and grow belief in the imaginary character, making the acting more real. “The magic if” can also be applied to making prop use more realistic on stage.
Use of Objectives and Active Verbs
Actors who subscribe to the Stanislavsky system aim to discover the super-objective, or driving force, of the play. They then go through the script and break it into smaller objectives based on what the character is trying to accomplish, what prevents them from doing so, and what actions they can take towards this goal. They then link all these objectives together with the through-line, which brings it all back to the super-objective. This concept helps you focus on action as opposed to emotion, so objectives are stated as the infinite of an active verb. For example:
Tension Relief and Concentration
Stanislavski held the belief that actors cannot focus when their bodies are tense, which he demonstrated by having actors deliver lines while holding heavy objects. He believed that actors need to actively work on relaxing off stage in order to ensure they can prevent muscle tension on stage. Additionally, relaxing and focusing on the part requires actors to enhance their ability to concentrate. Stanislavski actors will start by hyperfocusing on one area of the stage, then slowly widening their focus to include the stage as a whole. This also helps actors to avoid stage fright or focusing on the audience.
Students of this system use their own memories to draw emotion into their roles. In contrast to Method actors, the Stanislavsky system also uses physical movements to access emotions.
Stanislavski actors build characters not only from an emotional perspective, but by developing how they are perceived outwardly, through movement, tempo, voice, and costume.
You have probably heard of method acting because there are many famous movie stars who subscribe to it, but you may not know exactly what it means. Method acting was created by Lee Strasberg (1901-1982), an Austrian-born American actor and director. As mentioned above, method acting was heavily influenced by Stanislavski’s work. The goal of method acting is to create authentic thoughts and feelings while acting. This is one of the most popular acting techniques, particularly in television and movies. Method acting shares a lot of qualities of Stanislavski, with some differences.
Like Stanislavski, Strasberg believed that tension is distracting to actors, so in order to focus, actors must focus on relaxing. Method actors remove tension from their bodies by focusing on one body part at a time, tensing and the releasing until it is relaxed.
Method actors will connect to their characters and character’s environment by using sense memory. Sense memory uses smell, touch, taste, hearing, and sight to prompt one to bring the actor back to a certain experience so they can tap into their emotions of that time. This is particularly helpful for film because it allows actors to tap into an emotion again and again for different takes.
Just like the Stanislavski system, method actors use their own memories and experiences to connect with a character emotionally. An actor will use sense memory to evoke a certain memory that gives them a certain emotion. It is important to learn this technique from a trained acting teacher, as this can be very overwhelming for beginner actors.
One exercise from Lee Strasberg’s acting technique is called Animals. Essentially, the actor embodies an animal as a character, recreating how they move and how they interact. They watch the animal and observe how it sees, smells, and otherwise uses its sense. Eventually, the actor will incorporate what they have learned into their human character.
Method acting also involves in-depth analysis of the script. Method actors break down the script to learn more about their characters and to find their motivations.
Method actors also learn how to improvise within a scene, helping them embody their character. They will draw from a real-life relationship to infuse an on-stage relationship with meaning.
Are you ready to master the art of acting, regardless of technique? View our schedule to sign up for our acting classes today!
The Meisner technique was also influenced by Stanislavski. Sanford Meisner (1905-1997) was an American actor who studied with Lee Strasberg, but went on to develop his own method that did not focus on the actor’s inner world. The goal of the Meisner technique is to encourage the actor to be spontaneous, following their instincts on stage.
The Reality of Doing
Meisner believed that actors had to be involved in a real situation on stage to engage the audience. The idea is that the actors become the character through action, committing and acting on impulse.
Instead of planning ahead and deciding in advance what the character’s objectives are, Meisner actors experience every scene from moment to moment. There are several Meisner techniques that involve improvisation, allowing the actors to focus on being in the scene and what is happening in that moment.
Meisner encouraged his actors to daydream, which he believed was a more powerful way to evoke emotion than sense memory or emotional memory. Meisner actors fantasize about having the experience of a character; for example, if the character is supposed to be sad in a scene, the actor will fantasize about what would make them really sad. This is the only preparation for a scene under the Meisner technique; after this, the actor must react from moment to moment.
At Expression City, we will teach you all about different acting techniques and how to use them to your advantage. Are you ready to give acting a try? Sign up for one of our acting classes at Expression City today! Check out our schedule here.