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History of Method Acting

Constantin Stanislavsky, Russia (1863 – 1938)

"Method of Physical Action"

The notion behind this concept is that an actor should recall a relevant emotional experience from their own life and then use it to summon up feelings which are associated with the event. These intense emotions can then be brought into the character that the actor is portraying. The result is a realistic performance that allows the audience to connect with the character on a deep level. According to him the actor searches for inner motives to justify action and the definition of what the character seeks to achieve at any given moment (a "task"). Later on Stanislavski developed a more physically grounded rehearsal process that came to be known as the "Method of Physical Action". 

Lee Strasberg, United States (1901-1982)

The method (The psychological aspects) 

Strasberg’s method requires actors to go beyond emotional memory and use a technique called “Substitution” to temporarily become the characters they are portraying. Strasberg identified what he saw as limitations to Stanislavski’s system, in that actors’ emotional memories were insufficient to fully connect to the circumstances experienced by the characters they were portraying.  His interpretations of Stanislavsky’s System became the iconic acting technique known as the Method.

Stella Adler, United States (1901-1992)

Stella Adler technique (The sociological aspects)

Her version of the method is based on the idea that actors should stimulate emotional experience by imagining the scene's "given circumstances", rather than recalling experiences from their own lives. Adler's approach also seeks to stimulate the actor's imagination through the use of "as ifs", which substitute more personally affecting imagined situations for the circumstances experienced by the character.

Sanford Meisner ,United States (1905-1997) 

The Meisner technique (The behavioural aspects)

Meisner felt that a mental approach was too internal. Instead, he insisted that an actor must have their actions provoked by fierce attention to their fellow actors, creating tension the audience can observe. Meisner developed a system of exercises designed to rid actors of their habitual behaviours and uncover organic impulses. The Meisner technique involves three main components that work hand in hand: emotional preparation, repetition, and improvisation

Michael Chekhov, Russian-American (1891-1955)

(The Physical Aspect) 

As he was taught by Stanislavski himself, Chekhov’s approach also follows the idea of accessing an emotional response in the actors’ work. Becoming the character takes on a slightly different light though, as Chekhov uses physical techniques to find the character. ‘Psychological gestures’ is a concept designed by Chekhov to help the actor find his/her particular role. This involves the actor externalising an inner want or trait from the character in a gesture which will then affect the performance on a subconscious level later via the physical memory.