Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 7/16/17

Stella Adler was one of the founders of method acting in the United States. Most people think about Lee Strasberg when you talk about the method. He was one of the first people to bring Stanislavski's system to the United States. But then Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner broke away from Strasberg when they thought he was focusing too much on parts of Stanislavski's training that Stanislavski himself came to reject.

In the most general terms, Lee Strasberg wanted actors to think about emotional moments from their lives and use that emotion on stage. If your character's father is dying, think about when someone in your family died. Stella Adler wanted actors to imagine the circumstances of the scene. If your character is a banker, go to a bank and learn what they do. Sanford Meisner wanted actors to react with other actors in the moment. Study your character to the point where you know how they would react in any given situation. Each approach is similar, and more or less based on Stanislavski's system. The audience would never be able to tell what the actor was doing, but it's obvious to the actors if their partner is using a different technique.

Acting with someone who uses Strasberg's method is like acting with a wall. When fully immersed in their own emotional memory, they can block out everyone else around them. Actors who use the Meisner technique are the exact opposite. They pay careful attention to everything their partner says and does. Adler students are closer to Meisner, but not as in the moment.

When I started acting, I thought Strasberg's method was the way to go. It makes sense. If you have to act an emotion, just imagine something in your past that brings out that emotion. But the younger you are, the less likely you'll have a similar experience. Shakespeare as a teenager is very difficult for someone with no life experience.

When I got a teacher who used the Meisner technique, I knew that was the way to go. It made even more sense. Rather than think about yourself, you react to the other characters around you. Ophelia isn't crazy because she has a chemical imbalance. She's crazy because Hamlet drives her crazy.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I found that with Strasberg's method, I could never cry on stage. Thinking about a sad memory never did it for me. As soon as I went Meisner, I could cry on cue. Rather than make myself cry from a buried emotion, I was crying because of the character's situation. It suddenly got very easy. It's also much easier to recover when you're crying based on the scene rather than something terrible in your past.

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