Lee Strasberg Method

 In the 1920s, a colleague of Stanislavski’s, Lee Strasberg, developed his own derivative which today is the preference of Hollywood actors who utilize method acting. Strasberg’s model takes the System further, advocating not only for a utilization of emotional memory but a full immersion into the memory, called Substitution, as well as the use of imagination and physical senses. The actor does not play the character so much as become the character, however temporarily.

Method acting attempts to duplicate reality as much as possible, whereas classical acting is far too big to be real and is more at home on the stage. 

What sets Method actors apart from those of other Stanislavski-based schools of acting is that Strasberg actors recognize the limitation of using one’s own emotional memory to play a completely different person. If a character is feeling sad, an actor would be able to substitute a personal sadness for that of the character to portray the emotion realistically. However, an actor who has lived his or her entire life in the twentieth century would have no frame of reference – intellectually or emotionally – for what life would have been like in the eighteenth century. An actor from a middle or upper-class family would have no frame of reference as to what it would be like to be poor or homeless. A method actor would go out in an attempt to replicate these experiences as much as he or she could prior to and during the production.

Method Acting is not without its flaws. Becoming a character – especially one from a marginalized demographic – is not without its ethical quandaries. It may be possible to come close to living the same way someone did before electricity or the invention of refrigeration, but it is another thing entirely to live as if one suffers from a physical or mental illness. The pitfalls of emulating these traits can be extremely problematic and rely heavily on stereotypes or generally bad behavior that do no favors to those individuals in the real world who really do struggle with these ailments.

Method acting can also cause physical stress and damage in preparation for roles. Method acting is often a preferred acting technique by many established actors. It is not something I would recommend to someone just starting out in the craft. Explore all areas of learning and find the best fit. 

Learning method acting starts with the basics. One still needs a core of experience and understanding of Script, techniques and the character’s objectives to achieve a truly believable performance. 

Revised – Original content courtesy FSJ

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