World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Method acting

Article Id: WHEBN0000059495
Reproduction Date:

Title: Method acting  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Classical acting, Elia Kazan, Stanislavski's system, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Ion Cojar
Collection: Acting Techniques, Theatre
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Method acting

In the dramatic arts, method acting is a group of techniques actors use to create in themselves the thoughts and feelings of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances. Though not all Method actors use the same approach, the "Method" refers to the method of teaching the craft of acting, which was created by Constantin Stanislavski in order to teach concepts of acting to his students. Later, Stanislavski's method of teaching acting was adapted by Lee Strasberg for American actors. Strasberg's method emphasized the practice of connecting to a character by drawing on personal emotions and memories, aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory and affective memory. Stanislavski's system of acting was the foundation of Strasberg's technique. Rigorous adherents of Strasberg's technique are now commonly referred to as "Method Actors", although the "Method" refers to Stanislavski's original system.

Method acting has been described as having "revolutionized American theater". While classical acting instruction "had focused on developing external talents", the Method was "the first systematized training that also developed internal abilities (sensory, psychological, emotional)".[1]


  • Origins 1
  • Technique 2
  • Contemporary approaches 3
  • Teachers 4
  • Practitioners 5
  • Further reading 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


It was derived from the "system" created by Constantin Stanislavski, who pioneered similar ideas in his quest for "theatrical truth". This was done through his friendships with Russia's leading actors, his collaborations with playwright Anton Chekhov, and his own teaching, writing, and acting at the Moscow Art Theatre (founded in 1897).

Strasberg's students included many of the best known American actors of the latter half of the 20th century, including Dustin Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Mickey Rourke, and many others.[2] Using the Method, the actor also recalls emotions or reactions from their own life and uses them to identify with their character.


"The Method" refers to the teachings of Lee Strasberg—but the term "method acting" sometimes applies to teachings of his Group Theatre colleagues, including Stella Adler, Robert Lewis, and Sanford Meisner, and to other schools of acting influenced by Stanislavski's system, each of which takes a slightly different approach.

Generally, Method acting combines the actor's careful consideration of the character's psychological motives and personal identification with the character, possibly including a reproduction of the character's emotional state by recalling emotions or sensations from the actor's own life. It is often contrasted with acting in which thoughts and emotions are indicated, or presented in a clichéd, unrealistic way. Among the concepts and techniques of Method acting are substitution, "as if", sense memory, affective memory, animal work, and archetype work. Strasberg uses the question, "What would motivate me, the actor, to behave in the way the character does?" Strasberg asks the actor to replace the play's circumstances with his or her own, the substitution.[3]

Sanford Meisner, another Group Theatre pioneer, championed a closely related version of the Method, which came to be called the Meisner technique. Meisner broke from Strasberg on sense memory and affective memory—basic techniques espoused by Strasberg through which actors access their own personal experiences to identify with and portray the emotional lives of their characters. Meisner believed this approach made actors focus on themselves and not fully tell the story. He advocated actors fully immersing themselves "in the moment" and concentrating on their partner. Meisner taught actors to achieve spontaneity by understanding the given circumstances of the scene (as did Strasberg). He designed interpersonal exercises to help actors invest emotionally in the scene, freeing them to react "honestly" as the character. Meisner described acting as " truthfully under imaginary circumstances".[4]

Robert Lewis also broke with Strasberg. In his books Method—or Madness? and the more autobiographical Slings and Arrows, Lewis disagreed with the idea that vocal training should be separated from pure emotional training.[5] Lewis felt that more emphasis should be placed on formal voice and body training, such as teaching actors how to speak verse and enunciate clearly, rather than on pure raw emotion, which he felt was the focus of Method training.[5]

Stella Adler, an actress and acting teacher whose students include Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, and Robert De Niro, also broke with Strasberg after she studied with Stanislavski himself, by which time he had modified many of his early ideas. Her version of the Method is based on the idea that actors should conjure up emotion not by using their own personal memories, but by using the scene's given circumstances. Like Strasberg's, Adler's technique relies on carrying through tasks, wants, needs, and objectives. It also seeks to stimulate the actor's imagination through the use of "as ifs". Adler often taught that "drawing on personal experience alone was too limited". Therefore, she urged performers to draw on their imaginations and utilize "emotional memory" to the fullest.[6]

Contemporary approaches

Contemporary Method acting teachers and schools often synthesize the work of their predecessors into an integrated approach. They reject the notion that any one of the major Method teachers of the 20th century was completely correct or incorrect, and they continue to develop new acting tools and techniques.

In addition to taking an integrated approach, contemporary actors sometimes seek help from psychologists[7][8] or use imaginative tools such as dream work or archetype work to remove emotional blocks.


Constantin Stanislavski described his acting system in a trilogy of books set in a fictional acting school: An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role. He also wrote an autobiography, My Life in Art. Acting teachers inspired by Stanislavski include:


The following actors have been noted as practitioners of Method acting.

Further reading


  • Mel Gussow: "The Method, Still Disputed But Now Ubiquitous", The New York Times (April 14, 1987)

Major books on Method acting

  • O poetică a artei actorului (Poetics of the actor's art) by Ion Cojar

See also


  1. ^ Flint, Peter B. (1992-12-22). "Stella Adler, 91, an Actress And Teacher of the Method". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lee Strasberg of Actors Studio Dead". 1982-02-18. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  3. ^ Carnicke, Sharon. Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge Theatre Classics, 2008, p. 221
  4. ^ Meisner, Sanford. Sanford Meisner on Acting, Vintage, 1987
  5. ^ a b Robert Lewis (2003), Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life, Hal Leonard Corporation, ISBN 1-55783-244-7, p.193.
  6. ^ "Stella Adler". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2011. 27 October 2011.
  7. ^ Larina Kase (2011), Clients, Clients, and More Clients!: Create an Endless Stream of New Business with the Power of Psychology, McGraw–Hill, ISBN 0-07-177100-X, p.125.
  8. ^ S. Loraine Hull (1985), Strasberg's method as taught by Lorrie Hull: A practical guide for actors, teachers, and directors, Oxbow Books, ISBN 0-918024-38-2, p.10.
  9. ^ Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 1. Granite Hill Publishers. pp. 408–.  
  10. ^
  11. ^ Niemi, Robert James (2013-10-17). Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films, Second Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 270–.  
  12. ^ Cross, Mary (2013). One Hundred People who Changed 20th-century America. ABC-CLIO. pp. 392–.  
  13. ^ Richardson, Niall; Locks, Adam (2014-07-25). Body Studies The Basics. Routledge. pp. 74–.  
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "'"Michael Caine 'uses painful secret to cry on set. London: Telegraph. 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  16. ^ Gallagher, Danny (2013-12-13). "Method Actors". Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  17. ^ "The Method Madness of Daniel Day-Lewis". London: 2014-02-08. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  18. ^ "Co-Stars Who Hated Each Other: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in 'The Notebook' and More". Daily Beast. 2014-07-04. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  19. ^ l "TY ME UP, TY ME DOWN Tyrese tells us how to spot a cheat and what he likes in a woman". Elle. 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ "Walton Goggins 'Justified' Q&A: "I can't believe that this is my life". Digital Spy. 2013-03-11. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  22. ^ "Kamal Hassan turns 57 : Celebrities, News - India Today". 2011-11-07. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  23. ^ "Tom Hiddleston: Life Beyond Learning Lines". 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2014-06-06. 
  24. ^ "The Sunday Tribune – Spectrum". Retrieved 2013-10-08. 
  25. ^ Long, Paul; Wall, Tim (2014-07-10). Media Studies: Texts, Production, Context. Routledge. pp. 135–.  
  26. ^ "'"Jared Leto took method acting to the extreme with 'Dallas Buyers Club. Toronto Sun. 2013-11-01. Retrieved 2014-07-04. 
  27. ^ "Jack Nicholson Interview - Quotes about the Joker, Movies, and Richard Nixon". Esquire. 2003-12-31. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  28. ^ Gates, Anita (January 21, 2008). "Suzanne Pleshette, 70, Newhart Actress, Dies".  
  29. ^ "The Sunday Tribune - Spectrum". Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  30. ^ "Talent is about being in the right place: Naseeruddin Shah - The Times of India". 2013-04-02. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  31. ^ "Shelley Winters Outspoken Oscar-winning actress who had a string of famous lovers". Herald Scotland. 2006-01-16. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.