PlayShakespeare.com
Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me
  • Page:
  • 1

TOPIC: Character Acting for Method Actors

Character Acting for Method Actors 5 years 10 months ago #2274

Here's an email I've sent to various acting coaches. I thought people here might like to weigh in:

I'm the Artistic Director of Folding Chair Classical Theatre, a small classics company based in New York City. I'm sending this letter to theatre practitioners I respect (either from first-hand knowledge or by reputation). I'm seeking people's thoughts about "character acting." My end goals are to lead workshops and, eventually, to publish a book. I have many ideas of my own, but I know there's also much I can learn from others.

Via my work as a director, actor and teacher, I've discovered that there are many tools available for the "external" (outside in) actor who wants to generate more inner truth. The actor who found her way into theatre via comedy, clowning, impersonations or talking-in-silly voices and walking-with-silly-walks can learn (or at least try to learn) how to play believable psychology, realistic actions, super-objectives, etc. from an endless array of books and courses that promote Method Acting, the Stanislavsky System or some related set of techniques.

But what about the "internal" (inside out) actor who wants to learn to play "characters"? What should she do -- with her voice and body -- when cast as a Dickensian pick-pocket, "Star Trek" alien, or "Alice In Wonderland" animal? What if she's cast in a role that doesn't seem so overtly character-ish? If she's playing Juliet or Lady MacBeth, should she try to alter the way she normally speaks or moves?

Such an actor can buy a book (or take a class) on "stage movement" or "voice for the actor", but how should she incorporate what she learns with what she already knows? How does one join "talking like an old crone" or "hopping like a frog" with actions, super-objectives, being in-the-moment, etc.? Or do you not join them? Do you look upon them as two necessary but distinct forms of work?

By the way, I'm not suggesting all actors must do both outside-in and inside-out work. I'm a huge of Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, even though (to me) they seem to never change physically or vocally. There's need for all sorts of actors. But I do believe that actors should have tools available that they can use if they choose to learn new skills.

If you'd like to help, here -- specifically -- is what you can do:

1. Give me your thoughts on what I've written, above.
2. Suggest exercises or resources (books, etc.) that might be useful.
3. Let me know what I can do with your suggestions. For instance, if this leads to publication, is it okay for me to quote you.

I thank you for your help, and I will happily share with you -- if you're interested -- the thoughts of the community and the outcomes of my workshops.

Regards,

Marcus Geduld
Artistic Director, Folding Chair Classical Theatre, Inc.
http://www.foldingchairtheatre.org
mgeduld AT gmail DOT com

PS. Please forward this letter (and my email address) to anyone you think might be interested.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Character Acting for Method Actors 5 years 10 months ago #2275

In my opinion, if you're one actor or another (an inside-out or an outside-in), acting (and especially what you're calling "character acting") needs to be internalized—it's just a question of path. Specific responses below...
grumblebee wrote:
But what about the "internal" (inside out) actor who wants to learn to play "characters"? What should she do -- with her voice and body -- when cast as a Dickensian pick-pocket, "Star Trek" alien, or "Alice In Wonderland" animal? What if she's cast in a role that doesn't seem so overtly character-ish? If she's playing Juliet or Lady MacBeth, should she try to alter the way she normally speaks or moves?

I would definitely put myself in this category. I'm slower to learn lines and slower to hit upon the "magic trigger" that drives the character. Sometimes it's something director says and sometimes a particular moment or line in the script (or a few) that provides that trigger for me. It's a bridge of sorts that connects my internal person with something internal about the character. Then I can use that in other ways to increase the speed of character development in other areas of the play.

But the issue how to get that initial internal trigger. I'm a firm believer in improvisation. Also, as "California" as it may sound, meditating and yoga might be helpful ways to clear out mental clutter and try to focus on aspects of a character and how to internalize them. I've even had some of my my great character discoveries while standing in the shower. At some point, the process becomes less cerebral and more physical. Personally, I'm a kinesthetic learner so movement can help embody the lines and lead to discoveries (even if that's just pacing around my house). So being physically and mentally "prepared" helps me be open to whatever may come.
grumblebee wrote:
Such an actor can buy a book (or take a class) on "stage movement" or "voice for the actor", but how should she incorporate what she learns with what she already knows?

For me, it's not really a conscious decision. I studied theatre, dance, singing, audition techniques, etc. but actively thinking about those things don't incorporate them into my work. It's not thinking about them (after I fully understand them) that integrates them into my work. It's like doing all your work in rehearsal and then throwing it all out the window on opening night. Try to make it as organic as possible.
grumblebee wrote:
How does one join "talking like an old crone" or "hopping like a frog" with actions, super-objectives, being in-the-moment, etc.?

I think it's improvisation. Just do it. Its often silly, maybe not at all productive in any logical sense, but there's something that settles in the bones for an internal actor. The improvisation may be with other actors or completely along. It's like a muscle—the more you use it, the easier it gets.
grumblebee wrote:
Or do you not join them? Do you look upon them as two necessary but distinct forms of work?

Depends on the actor(s) you're working with. As the director, you'd observe if the actor needs it broken down or not.
grumblebee wrote:
By the way, I'm not suggesting all actors must do both outside-in and inside-out work. I'm a huge of Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, even though (to me) they seem to never change physically or vocally. There's need for all sorts of actors. But I do believe that actors should have tools available that they can use if they choose to learn new skills.

Different stroke for different folks. I go both ways. For some roles, I consider it successful if nobody were able to recognize me on the street afterwards. Other roles, it doesn't matter.
grumblebee wrote:
2. Suggest exercises or resources (books, etc.) that might be useful.

Where do I start?

1) The Stanislavski trilogy- If the actor hasn't read this then that's a first. An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, Creating a Role.
2) Freeing the Natural Voice- by Linklater (and the Shakespeare version, of course)
3) No Acting Please by Eric Morris (or others by him)
4) The Transpersonal Actor by Manderino
5) Impro by Keith Johnstone

The list could go on, but that's a solid start.
grumblebee wrote:
3. Let me know what I can do with your suggestions. For instance, if this leads to publication, is it okay for me to quote you.

Do whatever you please. :)
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Character Acting for Method Actors 1 year 2 days ago #6818

Take a look at Michael Chekhov's To the Actor. It's very much to your point. He was a student of Stanislavski's but approached roles very differently. Some very interesting psychophysical exercises there.
The administrator has disabled public write access.
  • Page:
  • 1
Moderators: William Shakespeare
Time to create page: 0.267 seconds