You’ve probably seen acting methods at work even if you didn’t realise it at the time. While raw talent is certainly an advantage, the ways in which you apply it will depend on the type of work you’re doing. In stage acting, for example, you have to portray a character to people who are some distance away from you. In film acting, on the other hand, the camera comes right up close, and your smallest facial expressions become part of the story you’re telling through drama.
The art of acting has evolved based on what it takes to communicate roles to audiences on stage and screen and these are some of the acting methods that are put to work in to achieve this.
If you’ve ever watched Shakspearian actors at work on stage, you will have some idea of what classical acting techniques entail. The difference between classical acting and its more modern cousins is a bit like the difference between opera and folk music. Everything is “bigger” and more exaggerated. The aim is to express oneself so strongly that even people seated in the back row of a theatre cannot fail to understand the emotions being portrayed.
It’s not an approach that works well on film, where the audience doesn’t need exaggeration in order to grasp the emotional message being conveyed. In fact, up close, it will seem artificial and unrealistic.
With the rise of film, a need for a more realistic acting style came to the fore. Stanslavski wanted to develop a system that did just that. He advocated the need for actors to consider the motivations of their characters, an understanding of who they are and the environment in which stories unfold.
In the portrayal of emotions, Stanislavski called on actors to use emotional recall and to relive real emotions during their performances. This idea was taken one step further in method acting which we’ll take a closer look at soon.
Training in Stanislavski’s acting techniques involves a variety of exercises aimed at helping actors to interpret roles believably, and the methods and techniques that followed his breakthroughs have their roots in his techniques.
Chekhov’s Acting Technique
Building on what he learned as a student of Stanislavski. Chekhov sought to integrate emotions with physical body language. These movements should be realistic and understated, but nevertheless add weight to the emotional realism of performances with a “psycho-physical” approach to each actor’s interpretation of their roles.
The aim is to “show” the emotional and mental state of the character through movements and gestures – a principle that’s still followed in such a way that it’s possible for the viewer to interpret emotional contexts in strong performances even when they are unable to hear the spoken word.
Method acting isn’t for everyone – in fact, it’s rather controversial. Stanislavski’s influence is noticeable, but in Lee Strasberg’s method, the actor actually strives to “become” the character they portray. To achieve this, actors immerse themselves in their roles to the point where their real emotions, rather than recalled emotions, come into play.
Needless to say, “the Method” is often taken to extremes as actors strive to “experience” what it’s like to be a character. Critics often refer to Lawrence Olivier’s remark to Dustin Hoffman who went without sleep in an attempt to realistically portray his character in Marathon Man. “My dear boy,” said Olivier, “Why don’t you just try acting?”
Despite criticisms, however, method acting is still used, and although it can be taken to extremes, it can result in remarkably realistic performances.
Meisner’s technique is meant to sharpen your ability to react to situations in the moment without extensive planning. But it does require some thought before you begin. First, you should prepare yourself emotionally. In this process, you consider your character’s backstory – the things that aren’t in the script – and react accordingly using your instincts to portray how your character would behave.
A typical Meisner technique exercise could involve two actors repeating similar sentences in different tones of voice. For example:
“Your shirt is yellow.”
“Yes, my shirt is yellow.”
Consider different tones of voice, and these simple statements become emotionally charged. Improvisation is key here, and each actor responds based on the triggers he or she is given. It’s a great way to develop your ability to interpret situations in different ways depending on the emotional cues the moment brings.
Training and Technique Can Make You a Better Actor
While most of us would like to believe that we can be good, even great, actors without extensive training, exploring different acting techniques can help us to sharpen our skills.
While many people see actors as the stars of the show, great actors always put their audiences first. How you portray a role isn’t as important as the reaction your portrayal gets from your audience. Needless to say, this takes empathy – an ability to “read” or predict audience reactions and respond accordingly.
There are many ways you can practice this in real life, and few are as effective in developing your ability to engage audiences as sales, marketing, brand representation, and customer support. That’s why RSVP, one of the UK’s best-known call centres, draws its personnel from a pool of actors and aspiring actors. If you’re working to develop your acting skills or are between projects, RSVP offers you a flexible opportunity to practice your abilities in real-world scenarios while earning an income.
Join our talented team and become one of our “stars.” Visit the RSVP Careers page today! We respect your skills, and we’ll put them to good use!