The Method: Acting
Through out the span of our lives, we have watched countless hours of television, hundreds of movies, and maybe even seen a few plays as well. Here is the question. Out of all that time spent, has there ever been a performance that truly spoke to you? One that seemed so real that you actually felt for the character, missed, loved the character?
When celebrities are asked how they achieve such acting prowess and mastery of a role, most will say, "It's all in the script", or "I worked off of the actors", this isn't completely true. Though through character development the character becomes a person to other actors, really its the empathetic relationship between actor and character that makes the part so real.
You can thank a man named Stanislavsky for this amazing concept of becoming your character through relating your past to theirs. The style is know as Method Acting, or more commonly, The Method.
Actors work on this method tirelessly and try and apply themselves to the part totally.
First, remember that each of these approaches begins with Stanislavsky's fundamental idea that all acting must be motivated. No one today disagrees with that. That's why these different techniques have many similarities. Today we're just dealing with the key differences.
Method actors believe that you can transcend mere lines and stage direction with a background or underlying feeling, one that makes the lines mean more then ink on paper. The actual method for achieving the transcendence is rather complicated, but here is a simple example exercise that can help wrap your head around it.
The Breakfast Drink - Recall what you drink first thing in the morning in intricate detail. Close your eyes and recreate in your mind's eye the room that you have the drink in - really see it, smell it, touch it, hear it. Then bring your attention to the drink and slowly start to drink, really concentrating on the senses. Try this for 15-20 minutes. Then choose a monologue you have learned by heart and start to say the lines whilst thinking about the drink. The drink is the main focus of concentration the lines are secondary. You must ensure that you are truly focused on the drink. Test this by continually asking sense questions internally to yourself, such as ‘How hot or cold is it? What is the cup made of? How does it taste?', whilst saying the lines at the same time. Tricky I know, but it will have a significant effect on the believability of the lines. The reason for this is that the experience of the drink is real to you - you believe in the drink. This belief starts to transcend into the words of the character.
Now when you are really acting, you pick something that relates to the material that you are playing, and hopefully it will show through somehow. This is an extremely complicated idea with many subsets and branched off ideas, so going really in depth is almost impossible. Just remember next time you are watching the Dark Knight how Ledger must have had to relate to his character, and how hard it was for him to essentially become The Joker