The history of cinema is influenced by that of theater not only in the staging and the use of special effects including mirrors, lights and more, but also in acting.
In fact, when we talk about acting styles, as the theater has a much longer history than film, we also refer to those. Attention, to be completely clear, we are not saying that acting in the theater and in front of different cameras with a crew around the actor is the same thing, on the contrary, however, film acting styles are derived essentially from theatrical ones. So let’s get to know better the world of acting through the ten most important styles of this art, in which we all improvise every day.
1. Stanislavski’s method
This style of acting is certainly the most famous. As we told you in the introduction, if you thought this method was born with cinema and film experience, you were wrong. Konstantin Sergeevič Stanislavskij was one of the protagonists of the Russian theatrical reform of the 1900’s and his method continues to be the most popular in the world.
It is based on two practices. The first is to assimilate every narrative element of the character, to know him thoroughly, and therefore to memorize and internalize his desires, his faults and even his every ugliness. The second aspect, almost in contrast with the other one, obliges the actor not to imagine an emotion but to draw it from his experience and transform it in order to insert it in the context. Moreover, according to this method, the actor must continue to wear the character’s clothes, as much as possible, even off the set.
2. Bertolt Brecht’s method
Another giant of the theater who has innovated theatrical acting and consequently that of cinema, is certainly the German playwright Bertolt Brecht. In total disagreement with Stanislavsky, the method of acting in analysis requires the actor or actress to maintain a detachment from the character they play.
Estrangement, as this style is called, states a very interesting idea. In order for the spectator to gain an intellectual and social maturity, but above all a critical awareness, the actor must maintain a certain detachment because in this way the spectator will also be able to detach himself from the identification with the character he is seeing, and take a more objective point of view on the work. Some practices that the actor should perform are for example exaggerated acting, set tone of voice and very artificial gestures, almost over the top.
3. The Minimalist Method
These two methods of acting have within them a very wide range of nuances, also worthy of attention. Minimalism in acting is something very complex and also originated in the theater, but it is mainly with film that this nuance stands out among the other styles. Minimalist acting makes very few gestures of the actor or actress, an important meaning. There are actors who specialize especially in this style, as they have a range of expressions in their baggage minimal but very effective.
4. The Lee Strasberg Method
The Lee Strasberg method is strongly influenced by that of his master, namely Stanislavsky. Like him, also the Polish director affirms that a good actor must identify himself with the character he plays. Moreover, even more than his master, Strasberg is strongly convinced that it is necessary to rely on one’s own memory, on one’s own pains, traumas, no matter how painful they are for us. If a role is not approached in this way, the emotions are fake and empty of meaning.
5. The method of Stella Adler
Stella Adler also studied with Stanislavsky, however she does not agree with her colleagues like Lee Strasberg. The famous Hollywood actress and teacher, thinks that the acting method should not depend so much on memory, otherwise you risk damaging your mental health in favor of work. Instead, her technique, her acting style, has imagination as its focus. Thanks to it, Adler proposes the creative act of thinking about something one has not experienced and bringing it back on stage with a much sought-after credibility.
6. The Sanford Meisner method
As well as Lee Strasberg, Sanford was one of the co-founders of Group Theatre, however after some time he began to doubt the method of his colleague. His acting technique, unlike Strasberg‘s, is very much focused on improvisation and on how actors and actresses should be amazed by what happens on stage, not following a script and therefore feeling real emotions.
7. The Michael Chekhov method
Son of the famous Russian playwright, Chekhov too, despite having Stanislavsky as his teacher, has broken away from his method of total identification with the character to be interpreted. As you are seeing for yourself, there are many acting styles, but for the most part they are very derivative of two particular methods: Bertolt Brecht‘s and Stanislavsky‘s. In Hollywood Chekhov was very successful as a teacher and under his wing even personalities of the caliber of Marilyn Monroe and Gregory Peck passed. Chekhov preferred the opposite of identification with the role, a dialectic between oneself and the character, to try to understand him more.
8. The Method of William H. Macy and David Mamet
Until now we have talked about acting styles invented by important people of the past, all passed away as they say. Instead in this paragraph we talk about William H. Macy, one of the main characters of “Shameless”. He and playwright Mamet developed a technique called “practical aesthetics,” based on the centrality of action. According to practical aesthetics, there are eleven fundamental actions and in a given scene you can always recognize one of them and take it as a reference.
9. The Uta Hagen Method
Uta Hagen, a very important German theatrical actress and teacher, agrees on the identification with the characters, indeed for her the actor should do a work on the substitution of memories. Only by replacing the character’s memories with his own, the role will have a certain credibility.
10. The Viola Spolin method
We conclude this article with Viola Spolin, an American theater teacher best known for her “theater games”, which transform even the most complicated stage techniques and conventions into playful activities, through which it is easy to learn. Both actors and spectators are considered participants in these games. The method she prefers is that of improvisation, where emotions must really be felt in order to communicate them.