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The Stanislavsky Acting System

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If you have taken or are currently taking a drama class, then chances are you are familiar with the Stanislavsky acting method. Constantin Stanislavsky gained prominence early in the 20th century both as an actor and a director. Known as the”Father of Method Acting”, Stanislavsky created an acting system that is founded on realism. Until today, this system continues to influence the various acting methods being used in America.

Imagination and Emotions

Stanislavsky believes that in order to achieve realism in acting, the stage actor must be able to believe the circumstances occurring in the play. Therefore, he must use his imagination. One effective method that you (as an actor) can use to achieve realism is by asking yourself the “what if” question: “What if this situation was really happening to me?”

It’s also not enough to rely on what’s written on the script about your character. It’s also a good idea to have a deeper understanding of your role by asking yourself some questions that can help you get to know your character more. “What does my character want?” “Where does my character come from and where does he wish to go?”

If you find it difficult to focus on your character’s emotions, it might help to imagine your motivation and objective instead. You can then translate your character’s motives into actions. For instance, does your character want to help or to sabotage someone? Or does he wish to chase or run away from a certain situation?

Overcoming Stage Fright

Stage fright is certainly one of the most common problems that a lot of beginning actors come across with. Even if you don’t have stage fright, there may be times when you feel tense performing in front of an audience. To help you overcome this anxiety, Stanislavsky recommends practicing to achieve “solitude in public”. You can start by picking out a small area in the stage and considering that as your private space. Gradually, you can start widening this private space until it becomes the entire stage.

Character-Building Exercises

Building your character involves more than just exploring his emotional condition. In the Stanislavsky acting system, actors are also encouraged to develop their characters from the outside. For instance, your character might have a certain way of walking or speaking. These seemingly little physical details can have a big impact on the development of your character.

What To Expect From The Stanislavsky System

Relaxation exercises are an important part of the Stanislavsky acting method. Once you have accomplished these exercises, you can then begin working on your concentration. For advanced actors, they can improve concentration through “emotional memory exercises” (also known as “sensory exercises”). These exercises involve re-creating the circumstances of the scene in his imagination. For instance, if the scene requires you to look guilty, you might want to recall a similar situation where you also did something terrible but did not want to admit to it right away.

As mentioned, the character’s physicality is also emphasized in the Stanislavsky acting system. Expect to spend a lot of time practicing your speech. You might also be required to take other performing classes that can contribute to your acting as well, such as singing and dance.

Filed under Acting Methods
Jul 12, 2011

DIY Acting Techniques

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DIY Acting TechniquesMost people have dreamed of becoming a famous actor at one time or another. For the majority of these people, it’s just a passing fancy—an entertaining daydream to pass the time. These people really don’t have the desire to seriously pursue acting. Then there are those people who give it a halfhearted attempt. They join a play or two, take some acting classes, but eventually give up when they discover how tough the acting industry is. And then there are those aspiring actors who cannot imagine themselves pursuing any other career. If you think you belong to the last group, then it’s time to see if you have what it takes. Before you invest in an expensive drama school or move to New York or LA, take a look at these DIY acting techniques that you can do by yourself.

Observe veteran actors

One of the easiest ways to learn acting techniques is by simply watching and observing actors that you idolize. If you don’t have a particular favorite actor, then try observing well-recognized or award-winning actors and actresses. Buy, rent or download the films which garnered them awards and study their performances. This will mean watching the film a couple of times. During the first time, watch the film as you would normally watch any movie. The second time around, pay close attention to the acting of the actor. Observe how the actor plays his character, and take notes if you must.

Mimic the performance of the actors

Another effecting acting technique would be to mimic the actor in various scenes in the movie. Not only will this allow you to try acting firsthand, but it will also make you aware of the many subtleties that are involved in acting. These subtle details go unnoticed most of the time, but as you mimic the actor, you will learn how simple details like a nod of the head or a half-smile can have a huge impact on a scene.

Try method acting

Method acting is one of the most popular acting techniques available. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson are Hollywood heavyweights that are also method actors. Method acting is basically becoming the character, instead of just playing the character. It will require you to be in your character’s shoes even when you are off-screen. A good exercise is to create a character in your mind. Make sure that you develop this character’s background, motivation, habits and everything you can know about him. For a few hours a day, imagine yourself as the character while doing the things you would normally do. How would your character eat? How would he walk down the street? Practice with many different scenarios.

Recall emotional experiences

If you have trouble conveying emotions in a believable manner, one of the things you can do is to recall your own real-life experiences. For instance, if the scene calls for you to be nervous, you can go back to a memory of a situation where you were really overwhelmed with anxiety.

Filed under Acting Methods
Jul 4, 2011

The Stella Adler Acting Method

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Stella Adler Awake and DreamDo you want to become a successful actor like Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts and Salma Hayek just to name a few? If you do, then you might want to study the Stella Adler acting technique. The famous actors mentioned are only among the many Hollywood stars who studies the Stella Adler method in order to improve their acting skills. Stella Adler was an experienced film and theater actress before she started teaching. Although she trained under the renowned Stanislavsky, Adler did not necessarily agree with all his principles. For instance, although Adler believes that imagination is key to becoming a successful actor, she doesn’t think that it’s necessary for the actor to go back to his own experiences to be able to convey realistic emotions.

Look For Actions

According to Stella Adler, a good actor knows how to translate his imagination into actions. She says that it’s important for the actor to be constantly doing something while onstage. This doesn’t mean that you should always be moving around the stage. It means that you should focus on the emotions of your character and translate them to the equivalent actions. For instance, is your character trying to plead, to help, to teach, to demean, to avoid, etc.? It’s important that you know the motivation behind every line your character says and every move he makes.

How to Develop the Imagination

Being a good observant is necessary for developing the imagination. You should always be observing the world around you, making sure that you focus even in the slightest details. You can then imagine these specific details and use them onstage as though you are really seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting these details. Once you have done this effectively, the audience will be able to see the scene through your eyes.

It’s also important to use your imagination and intellect when studying the play or the script. Of course, it’s not enough that you know your scenes and have memorized your lines, you should also understand the entire story of the play and the motivation behind it. It also helps if you imagine the social situation of the play. What is the story’s milieu and how does this milieu affect your character?

Some Acting Exercises

The Stella Adler Acting method requires acting students to perform a lot of exercises. One good acting exercise that you can do is selecting a single line from a play that you haven’t read or watched before. Now, try to imagine the motivation behind the character saying that particular line. What are the circumstances? What is the character trying to achieve? Make sure that the situation you choose is something that you feel passionately about so you can live the lines, instead of just memorizing and saying them.

The Stella Adler acting method is an ideal acting technique for aspiring stage actors. If you feel that your acting skills are still down to “role-playing”, then the Stella Adler method can also train you to hone your imagination so you make the circumstances of the play as real as possible.

Filed under Acting Methods
Jun 28, 2011

The Meisner Acting Technique

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Sanford MeisnerIf you are pursuing a career as a professional actor then you probably know that there are many acting techniques that you can use to master your craft. One of these techniques is the Meisner Acting method. Like many acting techniques, the Meisner method was influenced by the Stanislavsky acting system. However, unlike the Stanislavksy technique which involves plenty of mental exercises (such as the sense memory exercise), Meisner insists that an actor mustn’t just work “in his head”. Instead, Meisner emphasizes the importance of spontaneity and instincts in an actor’s training.

Doing and Acting

Unlike other acting methods which requires the actor to think extensively about his role, the Meisner technique also puts importance in the act of “doing” itself. Meisner believes that in order to become a credible performer, you need to be engaged in something real that is occurring onstage, not just in your imagination. Once you become committed to what is really happening onstage, it will be much easier for you to act using your impulses.

Focusing On the Moment

Focusing on what is occurring at the given moment also figures heavily in training under the Meisner acting method. Instead of thinking about your character’s objective and what will happen next in the scene, it’s important that you experience the scene as the present moment. After all, this is true enough in real life. Even though we do our best to plan and prepare for the future, the only tangible circumstance that we can deal with is none other than the present moment. Another way that you can concentrate on the present moment is by focusing more on the other actor/actors in the scene with you, rather than yourself.

Daydreaming vs. Sense Memory

Other acting methods such as the Stanislavsky method makes use of sense memory exercises in order to convey realistic emotions in a scene. What the actor does is recall his own real-life experiences that are similar to the situation in the scene. This way, he can re-create the appropriate emotions. Although this method works for a number of successful actors, Meisner believes that simple daydreaming or fantasizing is even more reliable than sense memory exercises. This can be particularly helpful if the scene involves a situation which you have never experienced before. For instance, let’s say that you are supposed to play a role of someone who has been betrayed by a loved one. If you haven’t had a similar experience before, you can imagine a fantasy instead. Say your best friend revealed a secret that you confided in her. You will probably feel a mixture of anger, hurt and other emotions. You can then play off these emotions during the scene.

Some Meisner Technique Exercises

If you will be studying acting under the Meisner acting method, you should expect to do a lot of exercises. For instance, you will be doing some exercises to help you learn your lines mechanically, without focusing yet on pauses, intonation, tempo, etc. This will allow you to become spontaneous when you are actually saying your lines in the scene.

Filed under Acting Methods
Jun 21, 2011

Acting Technique: How to Memorize Lines

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How to memorize linesLearning and memorizing lines is without a doubt one of the most common problems that many actors experience. If you have found yourself many times stammering onstage or in front of the camera, racking your brain for your next line, then don’t worry: you’re not alone. Many actors have trouble memorizing their lines. Unfortunately, memorizing lines is one of the nonnegotiable aspects of acting. Even though you will sometimes hear famous actors talking about how they would improvise, you can guarantee that they started out memorizing their lines as well. Here are some tips to help you learn your lines better:

Repeat and repeat again

Repetition is not only one of the most common ways to memorize your lines, it is also extremely effective. Of course, you don’t want to just repeat the lines in your head, you need to say them out loud repeatedly. If you’re a beginning actor, the best thing to do would be to say your lines as you would say them during the performance itself. Some advanced actors say their lines out loud in a mechanical manner. Only during performances do they add the pauses, silences, tempo, intonation, etc. This helps them become spontaneous in their acting.

Listen and communicate with other actors in the scene

Many actors make the mistake of listening to other actors in the scene, just so they can hear the cue for their next line. This might help you say your lines on time, but it will certainly disrupt your performance. Keep in mind that to become an effective actor, you need to believe the situation or the circumstances happening in the play or the film. Obviously, you won’t be able to do this if all you’re thinking about is your lines. When you listen attentively to your fellow actor, you get to contextualize your lines, which in turn helps you remember them better. Your acting performance also improves since you become more “natural” in saying your lines.

Get moving

Studies have proven that movement can help you remember your lines better. So when practicing your lines on and off the stage, make sure that you perform the accompanying movements as well—whether it’s pacing around or just making simple gestures.

Rehearse on your free time

Although there are plenty of rehearsals and read-throughs before the actual performance, these may not be enough for someone who needs to exert extra effort to memorize lines. If this sounds like you then you need to take the initiative to practice the lines on your own. Record the lines and use your MP3 player to listen to them on your free time. You can just choose to read the other actors’ lines and leave yours blank so you can supply them. Practice your lines while driving, working out at the gym, washing dishes and other everyday activities. By the time you are about to go onstage or in front of the camera, chances are you have memorized your lines so much that you can say them in your sleep.

Filed under Acting Methods
Jun 14, 2011