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TOPIC: Method vs Brecht

Method vs Brecht 9 years 4 months ago #1292

  • akfarrar
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Found this whislt seaching for something else:

http://www.holycross.edu/departments/th ... peare.html

People's thoughts?
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 4 months ago #1293

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I have a number of issues with this essay...

1) Why must the end of Winter's Tale be any of the things the author claims? Why can't it be believeable and wonderful?

2) Doesn't Linklater predate Berry? I always though their styles were similiar but didn't think Linklater's teachings were an outgrowth of Berry's (or the "British Vocal Technique" as called by the author).

3) The reason why the English are so much better at performing Shakespeare is that they grow up with it in their everyday culture. Arguably, the language of Shakespeare is closer to their way of natural expression so the "leap" is less (though the American dialect is closer the way Elizabethans actually spoke).

Knowing full well the context of the average annual meeting of the SAA, I'm not suprised there's far more opinion than substance. The members are full of scholars, a majority of which have never performed Shakespeare and would rather bloviate on the "finer merits of sallied vs. sullied".

More on this when I have time...
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 1 month ago #1517

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This is a subject that really gets me going. Sorry I've come so late to the discussion.


First, the only reason there's such a rift between the 2 camps is because Method insists upon being the only way to do it. You won't find that to be the case among those who recognize the tenets of Method as valid, BUT, also realize the importance of vocal training and technique-(hence, actually finding WORDS and their production of value) IE., something in addition to a steady diet of anal retentive psychoanalytic masturbation.

Secondly,Method sits on a high horse, looking down on the rest, plainly and simply because of Marketing; Showbiz and The Movies, Strasberg, Marilyn Monroe, Brando, and Hollywoodland--the time was not "out of joint" for the confluence to catch fire. Adler admitted that she did little, if anything, with Brando--something on the order of just trying not to f---him up, is how she put it;(and we know what Lee and his wife did with Marilyn) What Brando left with is what he initially brought with him--talent (as subjective as an analysis can be, of what his was, accompanies that statement-but that's for another time). That goes for all the storied stars who helped to propagate Strasberg's myopic version of Stanislavsky's holistic genius. Konstantin was a STAGE Director, after all, and the likes of one of HIS most successful, Alla Nazimova, looks at it quite differently than do any of Strasberg's Disciples. She Assumed, took in, drank, put on, the character.

But the press was so good, one couldn't be a "real" Actor (read STAR) without paying homage to the Guru--Inside the Actors' Studio is an extension of that "legacy". Interesting, that a big war went on with Brecht, associating his ideas with Communism and the like--any of this sound familiar? MARKETING (and Words) can make things happen--where was Orwell?
Certainly Brecht isn't "the only way". But then, is Any Way that? Some would have us believe so, and the money and power is on their side.

To the vocals and language: The reason the British are so much better at Shakespeare is because they actually spend some focused time on learning HOW to speak the words--and Shakespeare is everything about the WORDS and how they're assembled.. I think too much is made of the "natives have an advantage" bit; it smacks of something of a too oft-quoted dismissal; a rationale for why we "lose" this battle. Dustin Hoffman found out differently from Sir Peter Hall when he did Merchant.

--On being real AND wonderful: If we "yanks" would recognize, as did Hoffman, that "You can't improvise this s--t"., and pay more attention to what Shakespeare provides, expressly for the actor, in the structure of his form, we wouldn't have to throw up our hands and say, "Oh, those Brits and their accents..." Sadly; the consensus among many teachers and grassroots theatre directors in the United States, is that in order to do Shakespeare properly, one must "put on" a British accent!!!

A good combination of vocal and breathing techniques and their benefits can be had from the mixture of Berry, Linklater, and Patsy Rodenburg-(RSC & Guildhall School of Music and Drama)- Rodenburg spent some time teaching at a New York school sporting a huge sign with the quote ,"The word comes last" on the wall where all the "magic learning" (my sarcasm) takes place. She states that today's actors don't want to assume a character--be anyone else--they only want to play themselves, and are always insisting that Shakespeare's characters are unreal--"my character wouldn't do that"--heh,heh. Could it be that blinded by the Hype-- having not learned how-- the ACTOR CAN'T do that?

Additionally, the "fourth wall", having been shored up by those Method adherents ever higher than its initially grand heights thanks to the Restoration, allows for Nothing of what's necessary to get the attention and trust of an audience never allowed to become honorary Players in the proceedings--An absolute intention of Shakespeare. So, the end of A Winter's Tale, having been prepared for (thanks to the style, technique, and attitude of the Players for 5 acts previous) CAN be both believable and wonderful AND break the fourth wall--in its own fashion--BUT, not if the actors have been spending the whole evening focused on their private "inner feelings" while "pretending" the audience isn't there. (How DO they justify THEIR Morris Dance, anyway?) (smile). Ronald Watkins is a genius on this , and Granville Barker as well, and I recommend their books to the Method Myopic wholeheartedly, as a means for the adoption of some sanity through nuts-and-bolts clarification on this subject.

No wonder Shakespeare is dying...Still. O for a Muse of Fire...
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 1 month ago #1518

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I have little of worth to say on this topic - but was anyone else struck, as was I, at the considerable verbal awkwardness of two otherwise excellent American actors - Robert Downing Jr (especially) and Annette Benning - during McKellen's Richard III ? Particularly when compared to (what seemed to me to be the incomparable acting) of the rest of the cast e.g., McKellen, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Clarence, Hastings, Stanley, Tyrell, etc?
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 1 month ago #1519

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While Stanislavki's system is the de facto standard for the top acting schools int he US, the Method as a brand has become stale and reminiscent of "old Hollywood". The only well-known proponent is Robert DeNiro and, while a fine actor, is only one in a sea of new & upcoming talent, especially in the realm of Shakespeare.

Once considered "high culture" until the 80s & 90s, Shakespeare has hit on a widespread "low culture" appeal. Branagh's Renaissance Films have taken the bard out of the heritage genre and into cross-commercialized into a newer & developing breed of performance. But the origins are still ingrained in the everyday culture in the UK. Yes, the Brits take more time on how the words are spoken, but I stand by my original point of that they way modern day British English is spoken (idioms, phrases, expressions) is closer to Elizabethan language. It takes Americans that much extra work to embody these things which the Brits already have a leg up on. However, the Americans have the advantage on the accent. Shakespeare did NOT have an accent resembling modern British English; mostly like East Coast US with a little Irish & Scottish sprinkled around. So there can be advantages & disadvantages on both sides.

Unfortunately, Shakespeare is not taught as much in US schools as it is in the UK. It's even poorly taught with the excuse that the materials itself will compensate for the shortcomings of the presentation. There also isn't much done to dispell the illusion that all Shakespearean actors dress up in tights and recite lines while posing all over the stage, doing "actor-ly" things that the "common folk" accept as "high culture".

English children grow up with constant exposure to Shakespeare and English actors likely perform Shakespeare more than any other playwright. In the US, there's such a mass of culture that American actors "choose" to perform Shakespeare or "choose" to do anything but. If they choose the latter, there's no problem finding shows to work in so they can blissfully avoid the bard if they feel it's too complex for them. But then there are American actors like Michael McShane who improvises Shakespeare on the UK version of Whose line is it anyway? so well that you'd think he was born with Tudor rose tattoo somwhere :)

I think Branagh summed things up nicely on his appearance on the Craig Ferguson Show the other night. He got into Shakespeare when he saw a fantastic production of Romeo & Juliet at a young age. It open his eyes, the costumes & sets were fantastic, and he fell instantly in love with the story. He then shortly after saw another production of R&J and it was awful and he was perplexed how that could be. He then set out to discover what made the first performance work. Why was one performance so good and the same one so bad?

Watch part of it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq7y_p7w97Q
(Unfortunately, it ends before it gets into the serious Shakespeare stuff.)

If only actors & directors focused more on what makes a production successful and entertaining, there might be a lot better Shakespeare out there.
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 1 month ago #1520

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Stanislavski?...not quite.
Unfortunately, the Whole-Cloth de facto standard, has every remnant of the Strasberg--and now further stretched and deified--Meisner over-simplified and over-emphasized bastardization tacked onto its coat tails, replete with brass buttons (a more vulgar and accurate reference, I avoided) still screaming at those who would question the singular omnipotence of its success. Still trading themselves off as Stanislavski and Still using someone else's notoriety as their biggest selling-point? Stanislavski himself questioned that over-cooked-but-underdone single ingredient recipe devised by Strasberg, and after much waffling back and forth, Strasberg finally was able--under the immediate gaze of the Real Master-- to sheepishly coin it an "American Method". That done, he commenced his re-codification with the (somewhat) bold rationalization that Stanislavski had himself "under-emphasized" --or had completely missed! the very points (invented by Stanislavski) that Strasberg was then emphasizing (and overly so, according to the Inventor!) If this isn't transparency, I don't know what it might be called; but by this time, Strasberg had already worked his hypnotic guilt spell on the unknowing,uninitiated, and, more importantly, UN-Connected. His Fame--relative to the successes he claimed to be his--was enough to allow him the Raspberries he now spit at the Inventor, whose patent he still had the audacity to place upon the very weakened child to which he had given birth. And too much of a good thing, Is Bad.
That may sound like I'm overstating the case, but consider, that as a result of this rift, Strasberg found himself no longer taken seriously by the likes of some of the brightest lights, partners in his very company; Stella Adler--who actually studied with KS, and who was the instrument of the message from KS to Strasberg re: his distortions; Robert Lewis, co-founder of The Actors Studio, who later was compelled to set things right in a series of lectures he delivered entitled "Method--or Madness?"
To the end, Strasberg would continue to tie himself to whomever--yes, even Konstantin Stanislavski-- or whatever would shine a light ever brighter on himself. The damage, I'm afraid, has been done. His narrow focus pervades--and even though the "old Hollywood" you speak of may be fading somewhat, Hollywood, and the cheap, but always effective reasons for its success, will always pervade, and it will always support, at any cost, the illusion it creates for itself. As a matter of fact, it's gotten even better at selling hollowness for the real thing. Who is among this new sea of upcoming Shakespearean talent--Leonardo DiCaprio?--old dog--new name.
P.S.- Branagh, McKellan, Dench, Holm, Thompson--where, and on what diet, did they cut their teeth? Why are they so damned good at it? I don't believe a sensitivity for the quality of a "good ol' bangers and mash" is the answer.
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Method vs Brecht 9 years 1 month ago #1521

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Charles Wrote:I have little of worth to say on this topic - but was anyone else struck, as was I, at the considerable verbal awkwardness of two otherwise excellent American actors - Robert Downing Jr (especially) and Annette Benning - during McKellen's Richard III ? Particularly when compared to (what seemed to me to be the incomparable acting) of the rest of the cast e.g., McKellen, Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Clarence, Hastings, Stanley, Tyrell, etc?

_____________
Sorry Charles; meant to respond sooner--but as you can see I've been busy running my mouth else wise. The observation you mention happens to be (in my opinion) a direct result of what has sifted down from all I've been spouting about. Certainly the focus on Self, sensory recall, and being "in the moment" are important qualities for an actor to explore. But without sound technical skills, I believe we miss so many opportunities to find ideas and inspiration/connection simply in the exercise. ( And not only when it comes to WS and classical material in general, but also wherever the need arises for the metamorphosis of word into action) How to handle the transit from Page To Stage; the structure:rhythm, drive, momentum, attack, shaping, flow--SOUND, and the emotion attached to producing those sounds, that way, with INTENT. What does the need to summon more Energy, summon in a human being? Is an ability to project to the back row of a theatre the only reason proper breathing techniques are advisable? What is it the author has heard in what he/she wrote?--you can bet Shakespeare (and this goes for all good authors, I believe) heard/and/or/spoke out loud every line he ever set to paper. Words are an actor's Notes--to dismiss them is to come to the concert hall carrying an empty instrument case.
All of the actors I mentioned in the above post, know what to look for in Shakespeare's Form--and it ALL has to do with how the words are set down on the page--what they DO, how they SOUND, and WHY Shakespeare set them down that way. He was an Actor too--and Method never entered into the equation. (Of course you need a Folio to do the job, but free copies of the plays are available in that form.)
You can't sight-read Beethoven's Fifth without knowing something about the value of the notes on the page--the same goes for Shakespeare. But it's not rocket science. And it can be employed with ANY textual material. I know, I've done it--and I can tell you when Branagh, McKellan et al are employing it. But we have been taught that it doesn't matter!!! --"Being Real" is the only thing. And the visual has nigh unto eliminated the need for the aural.
And about such things, sad to say, we're just downright LAZY. Ever have to turn up the sound on a video movie because even with millions in sound equipment, you can't hear what the heck they're saying? Mumbling is "natural" I guess. Why do we have trouble with words? We don't care about them--too much work; or in our case, it's "Wrong" to place focus on them, because in the grand scheme, we don't really need to be concerned about messy things like words--we can make them up and be more REAL--what's it called?--oh yeah, Improvisation.
P.S. Ian McKellan has a website where he sits and answers questions about speeches, the plays, etc. You click on your choice and answer--he then tells you if you're right or wrong, and then goes into a little depth on why. The material is Very basic, eg. What is happening in the first line of RIII, etc. But in analyzing the speech--even with the neophyte in mind--he focuses on the Words, why Shakespeare used these particular ones, and what they Do and Mean to the Speech and to the Actor. And, I might add, to the Play and to the attention span and ultimate enjoyment of the Listener.
Charles, you must have a good ear.
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Method vs Brecht 8 years 8 months ago #1902

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What is the address for that website? It sounds very interesting.
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Method vs Brecht 8 years 8 months ago #1903

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for sbrooks

Have Fun
http://www.stageworkmckellen.org/
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