the Method

Definition

Theater

  • An acting technique developed from the theories of KonstantinStanislavsky and taught from 1950 onwards at the Actors Studio, New York, under the directorship of Lee Strasberg.Strasberg was a former pupil of Richard Boleslavsky, who had broughtStanislavsky's ideas to America in the 1920s. The most important principleof the Method is the actor's total understanding of and identificationwith his character's motivation; to grasp this, the actor is encouragedto draw on comparable experiences in his or her own life, includingpainful ones that have been buried in the subconscious. This is intendedto produce a greater realism in the actor's subsequent portrayal ofthe character. The technique was widely criticized, but remained animportant influence on stage and screen acting in the latter halfof the 20th century. Notable exponents of the Method include MarlonBrando and Dustin Hoffman.

    Enthusiasm for the Method led Eli Wallach into trouble whenhe was appearing in a Broadway production of Antony and Cleopatrain 1948. One night Wallach rushed to the theater inspired by Strasberg'sclassroom exhortation, "If you go on stage to do something,do it!" In his role as a messenger he became so eager to deliverhis news about Antony's marriage that he kept on interrupting Cleopatra'slengthy soliloquy. The exasperated actress, Katharine Cornell,finally slapped him hard and walked offstage. At his next class, Wallachcomplained to Strasberg, "What the hell kind of Method is that?"The director merely shrugged: "wait for your cues".

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