7 Common Acting Methods That Actors Use (With Tips)
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While working as an actor, creating a process that allows you to play a character convincingly can help you connect to a scene and improve your overall performance. Acting methods are preexisting processes that you can use to practice and refine your personal acting style. Learning about some of the common acting methods, their philosophies about acting and their general techniques may give you insight into how to select an acting method for yourself.
In this article, we explore different acting methods that you can use and offer some suggestions for how to choose one for your own performances.
What is an acting method?
An acting method is a systematic approach you can take to understand your role, make choices about a scene and express emotion during a performance. Most acting methods have techniques to help you analyze a character, suggestions for how to prepare for a performance and exercises to improve your acting abilities. They also usually feature a main belief about the role of an actor or a general approach to acting.
Related: How To Start Acting
7 acting methods for actors
Here are seven common acting methods that actors use:
1. The Stanislavski method
The Stanislavski method, also called classical acting, is an acting method created by theater practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski. It focuses on using a systematic approach to recreate genuine emotions. This method encourages actors to ask questions about a given scene, such as who they are in the story, what they want at that moment and how they intend to get what they want. Classical acting is one of the most commonly taught acting methods.
2. The method acting technique
Method acting expands on Stanislavski's method and specializes in psychologically experiencing the emotions of a character. It relies on a concept called emotion memory, where an actor remembers an emotion they felt in a similar circumstance to the scene so that they can accurately depict those emotions.
Actors who use method acting often try to recreate situations from scripts in their real lives and imagine themselves as their characters so that they can properly experience similar emotions.
3. The Adler method
The Adler method is based on the teachings of Stella Adler, an actress who studied under Stanislavski. This method believes that personally experiencing the emotions of a character isn't necessary for an actor. An actor using the Adler method researches historical and cultural contexts related to their character or scene and uses their imagination to portray a character's emotions through that context.
4. The Meisner method
The Meisner method is an acting technique that tries to create a natural performance that feels true even if the circumstances are fictional. It uses repetition exercises to get an actor comfortable with their lines and a scene. According to the creator of this method, Sanford Meisner, this repetition allows the actor to stop thinking about acting and instead react naturally to the scene.
5. The Chekhov method
The Chekhov method uses physical movement to express a character's inner thoughts and feelings. Unlike many other acting methods, Michael Chekhov's techniques don't encourage actors to recreate the natural world. Instead, this method believes that the function of an actor is to interpret the world, and it often involves using heightened or exaggerated movements to portray a character's mindset.
6. The practical aesthetics acting technique
The practical aesthetics acting technique is a method developed jointly by actor William H. Macy and playwright David Mamet. This approach focuses on the literal actions of a scene and uses a four-step process to analyze the practical action of a scene. The four steps include a description of the scene, what the character wants from the interaction, what the actor wants from the scene and how the actor can relate the situation to their own life.
7. The Hagan method
The Hagan method follows the techniques of actor and instructor Uta Hagen's books, "Respect for Acting" and "A Challenge for the Actor." These books detail a realistic acting style that uses a technique called transference to help an actor create a natural performance. Originally called substitution, transference involves comparing a person, memory or situation from your real life with the scene you're performing.
Tips for choosing your acting method
Here are some suggestions to help you decide which acting method works best for you:
Take different acting classes
Exploring different methods of acting can help you decide which techniques you want to use in your own work. One way you can experience multiple methods is to take different acting classes. Consider researching acting programs in your area and take courses that focus on different methods. This can give you experience with each method and help you determine which style feels the most natural to you.
Think about your medium
Actors can specialize in a particular type of medium, such as film, stage plays or voice acting. Different acting methods may work better in certain mediums. For example, someone who wants to act on stage may choose an expressive and visual style, such as the Chekhov or Stanislavski method. When choosing your own acting method, try to think about the types of productions you want to create and consider a technique that complements that medium.
Read about acting methods
Learning more information about techniques that interest you can give you a better idea of how a certain method works in practice, which may help you select a method to use. Most of the main acting techniques have several books about them that detail their main philosophies and common exercises you can perform. Try to find some books on the subject to give you further insight into particular methods.
Consider combining acting methods
While selecting a particular acting method can help you approach a scene and develop your character, you don't need to choose a single technique to become a successful actor. Several methods have similar acting goals or exercises that work well together. If more than one method appeals to you, consider combining different techniques to create your own personal acting style.
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