The Actor Studio Method is a different style of acting method, that we will discover here.

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Actors Studio's history

The Actors Studio was founded in 1945 in Manhattan, New York by Elia Kazan, Cheryl Crawford and Robert Lewis, later joined Lee Strasberg and held the studio until 1982. The Actors Studio started as a member organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights. The Studio became famous for its distinctive and refining teaching method for acting.

This method or approach was developed by the Group Theatre –including Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and Stella Adler– in the 1930s and built on Konstantin Stanislavski's system.

Each of the three teachers brought something specific that set the standard for the Method's success.

  • Lee Strasberg is recognized for his psychological aspects, where he focused on the memory recall or emotional memory technique.
  • Stella Adler the sociological aspects, meaning that actors should find truth in the script through inner emotions, experiences, and circumstances.
  • Sanford Meisner for the behavioural aspects.

In the Studio, actors worked together to mould their skills in a private environment, which allowed them to take risks as performers, something that was not possible in commercial roles.

At first, the method was used for some theatre performances, it is later on that it was introduced to Hollywood and the cinema and the method reached audiences beyond the stage.

What is Method Acting? —also called Method

Method acting is a systemic approach and technique used by actors to fully identify themselves at an emotional level with their character. In other words, the actor 'becomes' the role or his character and stays in character for an extended period of time.

The use of Lee Strasberg’s exercises both develop the content of the actor’s talent and provide a roadmap to the individual’s creation of a character. The use of one’s own life experiences in the creative imagination infuses each choice with genuine thought, desire, sensation, action, and feeling, resulting in psychologically in-depth behaviour.
The Method trains actors to use their physical, mental and emotional self in the creation of a character and stresses the way in which personal experience can fire the actors' imagination.

Among the main concepts and techniques of Method, the magic if of Stanislavski is then called 'as if', sense memory, affective memory (both referring to emotional memory) are among the most used. Many method actors seek help and advice from a psychologist to better develop their roles.

The method can be a year-long work and training for some characters, depending on the difficulty of the role and the exercises or techniques from the method that the actors decide to use.

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Psychological effects

The risk of this method is that it can lead to changes in your psyche and behaviour for as long as you inhabit your character.  This happens when the emotions of a character are not compartmentalized, they can infringe on other facets of the actor's life, thus affecting the actors' psyche.

It is best to know in advance the consequences that the method can provoke in certain persons. It is best to read as much as possible about it and be aware of its psychological effects.

Method acting, when applied correctly, is mainly deep acting, through changing thoughts and actions and should not provoke negative moods such as fear, anxiety, shame, or sleep deprivation. This is what can happen when actors create dissonance between their actions and their actual feelings.

Some actors have recognized that it can be difficult to retrieve themselves from their character and have struggled to remember who they are.

Famous actor's Method Acting influence: Hollywood and India

As the method became more and more popular, it reached the seventh art in Hollywood and even India! The Actor's Studio in New York City was associated with actors such as Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and James Dean to name a few.

The Method has evolved, and it is not the same as it used to be when it started in the 1930s, since it reached Hollywood it has evolved in several directions. Some actors have put more emphasis on their body or voice, while others have focused on the character's life experiences or impulses.

joker
The Joker, a difficult character that many actors have performed with the Method. Source Unsplash

Hollywood

There are many examples of American actors that used the Method in Hollywood, here are a few examples and how they applied the Method to create or become their character.

Joker: Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto

When it comes to playing the Joker, every actor is living in the shadow of Heath Ledger taken from us far too soon, but that a result made cinematic history. Joaquin Phoenix and Jared Leto have also worked the extra mile using the Method to perform the Joker character.
Joaquin Phoenix, not only lost a lot of weight but he had also been seen walking New York street in full clown makeup and a burgundy suit.
Jared Leto also went full method, when performing the Joker role. During the whole filming experience, Leto never left his character and is known for having made crazy things on the Suicide Squad set, like sending a dead rat to Margott Robbie or scaring Scott Eastwood among other things.

Charlize Theron

The actress employed method techniques on the film Monster, such as gaining 30 pounds (ca. 14 kg) for the role, and underwent intensive makeup to help her transform her into someone completely different.

India

In Indian cinema, a form of method acting was also developed independently of American cinema. It started in the 1940s with Dilip Kumar.

Dilip Kumar

Dilip Kumar became one of the biggest Indian film stars of the 1950s and 1960s while being a pioneer of method acting in India. He reproduced the Hollywood method of acting without any acting school experience, his main inspiration was Marlon Brando. Dilip Kumar inspired many future Indian actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and Naseeruddin Shah.

For learning more about Stanislavskis system search here on Superprof:

film
Acting method is not for everyone, be surrounded by a professional crew or teacher to experience this technique. Source Unsplash

Why study method acting?

While actors train using the Stanislavski system because it guides them and help them learn the ways to create a truthful performance rooted in genuine emotions. Some actors' decision to use the Method is to achieve a deeper level of performance.

Depending on your level and ability, it is encouraged to first be acquainted with the Stanislavski system. Keep in mind that the Method is a very intense and extenuating experience, and it is best to learn it with a crew or supervision, depending on the character and role you want to perform.

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Cloé

Franco-Mexican freelance writer. I love writing about philosophy, poetry and social justice. Hope you enjoy my articles!