“I love the sense of how time passes when I’m acting. When you’re not aware of the clock ticking, that is always a good sign you’re enjoying something.” -Hannah Ware
Great acting is something worthy of marvel. The most accomplished performers on stage, film and television have years of experience honing in on their craft.
Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branaugh, Maggie Smith, Cate Blanchett and Daniel Day-Lewis are just a few of the most skilled actors working today. Their vulnerability, acting techniques and artistry have left an impact on viewers, won them a slew of awards, respect in the industry and, most importantly, inspired younger actors to perform at their best.
The majority of the previously mentioned actors have studied acting classically to become better performers.
There is a wide variety of acting techniques that are available to all and that can be implemented by aspiring performers to secure the best jobs and shine at auditions who knows, after a few years of experience, your name might be called on Oscar night!
Without further ado, Superprof will consider the characteristics of classical acting, where to study it and the famous actors that put classical acting into effect.
It is tough to pinpoint classical acting as a consequence of the fact that no textbook or actor will have the same definition of what classical acting is.
The standard techniques of classical acting came into effect and prominence in the late 1800s from an acting system created by Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski. He believed that an actor needed to carefully analyse the script and explore the character personally to find the truth of the personage.
Actors who were involved were required to have an expressive body to relate all the details and eccentricities of the character.
Stanislavski published a book titled, An Actor Prepares, that was translated into the English language in 1936 just two years before his death in 1938 at 75 years of age. His theories of classical acting included an emphasis on physical actions, the objective of reading through the script with trained precision to find the main essence of the character and creating personalised emotional memories about real life or made up experiences.
Another pioneer of classical acting is Michel Saint Denis who moved to London in 1935 and set up a drama school where he implemented the same methods as Stanislavski and taught renowned actors such as Sir Alec Guinness (or Obi-Wan Kenobi for Star Wars geeks), Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy) and Sir Laurence Olivier (no explanation needed).
Saint Denis trained his acting students using improvisation, sense memory and sought a balance between internal and external techniques.
Many British actors have widely accepted the techniques of Stanislavski and Saint Denis. Therefore, many people outside of the United Kingdom refer to classical acting as British, English or Shakespearean acting.
Before moving onto the next subheading, it is essential to state the primary purpose of Stanislavski’s system, that influenced classical acting techniques, like the following: for the audience to connect with the character, the actor portraying the character must identify with the character.
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Aspiring actors are taught to use their voice to convey emotion. (Source: pixabay)
Actors following the classical acting method are highly expressive individuals who use their body as a vessel to accurately portray the character they are playing.
When an actor disappears into character and adopts the traits, flaws and personality of the person they are portraying, they have successfully done their job and followed the advice of their classical training.
There are specific characteristics of a classically trained actor that can be observed by onlookers and differentiated from other acting methods.
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Some of the identifying traits of classical acting include the following:
The characteristics mentioned above are some of the most notable of the classical acting technique. They can be seen by viewers watching a play, television series or film.
Professional institutes demonstrate useful games and exercises for students to become better actors. (Source: pixabay)
While a grand majority of well-known actors such as Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Meg Ryan and Jennifer Lawrence never received any professional training, it is highly recommended to invest in acting classes to become a better performer.
Having polished skills from a public dramatic arts school inspires confidence in studio executives and makes you more appealing for leading roles.
Classical acting techniques can be studied in the United Kingdom and internationally at some of world’s most distinguished performing arts institutions.
Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren and Ben Kingsley are all acclaimed actors from the United Kingdom who have received classical training.
Due to the raw talent of British actors, there are a few distinguished schools where aspiring talents can currently study classical acting. The following are two of the greatest examples:
While it is true that the United Kingdom boasts very qualified schools to learn more about classical acting, some of the best schools in the world are located in other countries. The following list mentions some of the most well-renowned institutes to learn more about classical acting in other countries:
All of the previously mentioned schools, in the UK and internationally, equip students with classical acting techniques that will help them to hold their own against experienced actors.
Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest actresses on her generations who uses classical acting techniques. (Source: Visual Hunt)
Since the classical acting method is one of the most acclaimed acting techniques, many famous students are working in the theatre, on television and in the film industry.
Here are a few of the most recognisable faces of the classical acting method:
Various other actors such as Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins, John Gielgud and Emma Thompson are known for displaying techniques of classical acting on different mediums.
An aspiring actor should always work hard to develop their professional skills and adopt a method of acting that will cause them to rise above the competition during auditions.
Other acting techniques such as the marvellous Method, the devices implemented by Sanford Meisner, the Brechtian acting methods used in theatre and film, and, of course, practical aesthetics, can be further understood by reading the articles published by Superprof.