Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Full disclosure: Acting is an art…or a craft (whether it’s one or the other is still debated), not a science. There are many approaches to reach the same objective…good acting. What I write in this blog is based on my experience and my opinion. I have found there are as many opinions as there are actors and what works for one may not work for another.
I have been trained by several acting teachers/coaches and have read several books on the craft. What I have discovered is that there are not only several methods, but disagreements on how one should learn the craft (or art as Stella Adler would describe it). Some teachers such as Lee Strasberg place emphasis on the internal while Sanford Meisner would emphasize the external. Strasberg taught sense memory and Stella Adler felt sense memory was dangerous to one’s psyche.
So, what has worked for me? Well, that is what this is about.
I am a follower of Sanford Meisner. Meisner taught being real in imaginary circumstances and placed emphasis on the other actor through his repetition exercises. I find it best to memorize my lines without emotion so I can react according to the other person. I recommend his book, Sanford Meisner On Acting, and recommend taking Meisner classes.
Another technique is not one for the actor, but for the Director that nevertheless benefits the actor. This is The Travis Technique Master Class. Rather than asking me to define my character, or how my character should behave, the Director would talk directly to the character and question the character. This is the Interrogation Process. There is also a peer to peer interrogation as well. In short, the emphasis is on the character rather than the actor. I am still learning this technique and hope to use it in future projects.
There are several books that I have found very helpful, even though I don’t agree with a few authors on some issues. An example is Ivana Chubbuck’s, The Power of the Actor. While I find the first three “tools” (Overall Objective, Scene Objective, and Obstacles) to be helpful, she lost me at the fourth tool, Substitution. Substitution involves sense memory, which I agree with Adler can be dangerous.
Other books I recommend include Psychology for Actors written by Kevin Page (he shot J.R. in “Dallas”) and The Art of Acting by Stella Adler. Auditioning for television and film is very different from acting and I highly recommend The Organic Actor, by Lori S. Wyman, C.S.A.
Let me repeat…the foregoing are my opinions based on my experience and what works for me.
Find what works for you.