Thursday, 23 April 2009

Acting Stance

My method Acting teacher told me "Acting is nothing but NIKE"...............and Nike stands for "just do it"....Acting is nothing but doing......oxford dictionary tells the same......"act- to do"....

We all actors struggle to know about Basics of Acting but we don't get consolidated information.. This Post is for all the individuals interested to know about basics of famous Acting theories.

Thespis -(534BC)

In about 530bc, Thespis of Icaria stepped forward from the chorus and presented a story in the first person for the first time.
2,500 years ago in ancient Greece his actions did not go unnoticed.
Some critics thought Thespis’s actions were deplorable.
Surely standing on a stage pretending to be someone else was no more than telling lies and certainly not to be encouraged.

This critical opinion was obviously not shared by everyone and the first person performance survived.

I suppose this proves three things:

1. Doing what feels right even if it means going against what is considered normal can lead to you getting a word being created from your name; Thespian.
2. Acting is not about telling lies, but about telling the truth

3. Critics know nothing.

Quintilian(35AD- 95AD)

During the era of the Roman Empire and through out the Middle Ages acting was considered to be dangerous profession, aside from the obvious difficulties an excitable and critical audience could pose, it was believed that there was a more inherent danger.

The Greeks believe that the body was composed of four basic fluids: black bile, yellow bile, Red blood, and Phlegm, and it was very important that these fluids remained in balance. One of the major symptoms of an imbalance was the display of emotions, which in turn was believed to be a symptom of some internal problem. Strong emotions were at this time referred to as Humours.

This meant actors faced a terrible dilemma. If you were to act out some strong emotion, would this lead to an imbalance of your basic fluids, and cause some terrible internal problem. If so, this could mean that acting could be extremely bad for your health.

Fortunately a Roman called Quintilian produced a system that enabled actors to avoid such problems. Instead of playing emotions for real, actors could replace them with a series of predetermined gestures, vocal inflections and body poses. This enabled actors to portray strong emotions in a way that could be interpreted by the audience without any danger to themselves.

This method of acting was to be used, refined and adapted for the next 800 years.
This method now may seem odd and out of place to current lines of thought concerning the craft of acting. But Quintilian’s work on oration encompassed much more than these devises for displaying emotion. His belief in a strong and powerful voice is still as important today as it was in his time. And even if the modern actor does manage to portray emotions in a more realistic manner, it will be of little benefit to the audience if it is unable to hear and understand the words the actors is using.

Aaron Hill (1685—1750)

Aaron Hill an English author, actor, director and critic wrote an essay in 1753 entitled the Art of Acting.
The essay tells us that there are ten dramatic passions: joy, grief, anger, pity, scorn, hatred, jealousy, wonder, fear and love, and each of these passions should be represented by a series of standard poses and facial expressions.
Although simplistic, in one form or another this way of representing emotions has lasted up to the present day. Early silent films certainly used variations of Hills ideas, and it has always been a device used in slapstick comedy. Mime artist and clowns use little else to tell their story’s, and I suppose the expression that certain soap actors are forced to hold as they stare into the camera at the end of particularly dramatic scenes could fall into this style of performance as well.

Francois Delsarte (1811 -1871)

Born in France Delsarte dreamed of being a singer but after damaging his voice by faulty training he turned his attention to the teaching of dramatic expression.

Like Quintilian and Aaron Hill, Desarte believed that emotions should be expressed by using a series of prescribed poses and vocal inflections.

But Delsarte differed from these predecessors in his belief that one should also feel the emotions one was trying to express. He believed that if the correct pose and vocal inflection were used, they would help create the appropriate emotional reaction as well. “Motion creates emotion”. What was absolutely essential to this theory was getting the gesture correct.

Delsarte spent a lot of time studying people, normal people going about their every day lives, he even studied anatomy. He needed to see people express their feelings: anger, love, grief and joy. He wanted to see the real thing, not the sterile representations that theatre offered.

“You can never show truly more than you are capable of experiencing. For the expression of noble emotions, one must feel noble emotions. Imitation will carry you but a short way”.

Delsarte believed that there was a universal formula that could be applied to all things, “the trinity”, for man the trinity was: Life, mind and soul, communication had its own trinity: Voice, gesture and words. For the body, the trinity consisted of: Head, torso and limbs, and each of these could be sub divided into three. Using this, he then went on to prescribe the correct posture and gesture for each part of the body for each emotion.
Delsarte’s idea’s where taken up by an American actor called Steele Mackaye, he transported these ideas across the Atlantic where they were enthusiastically received, although some of his idea’s would become distorted and changed as time went on and it was probably this trans Atlantic crossing that has established the name of Delsarte as a major figure in the history of teaching the dramatic arts.

Constantine Stanislavski (1863 -1938)

Constantine Stanislavski has been with out doubt the greatest influence on acting we have known. His system, as laid out in his three seminal works, An Actor Prepares, Building a Character and Creating a Role, provides actors with a series of useful aids and practical methods that help preparing for roles in rehearsals and during the performances themselves.
Born Constantine Alexeiev in Mocow 1863 to wealthy parents, he soon developed a love of performing. At this time actors performed in a very theatrical manner, they didn't speak with their natural voice, and declaimed their lines in an artificial style, and accompanied each word with a dramatic gesture. Although this was the norm not all actors were so melodramatic. An actor called Shchpkin was renowned for his realistic portrayals of people and their feelings. Unfortunately Constantine would have only have known Shchpkin by reputation as he died in the same year as Constantine was born.
Constantine dreamed of being a great actor, he studied and experimented continuously, trying to improve his technique. Nothing seemed to work, he always felt false. Indeed so embarrassed by one production, he changed his name to Stanislavski so no one would recognize him. Even when his performances were well received he never felt satisfied.
It was perhaps his knowledge of Shchpkin and in particular one of his sayings, "there are no small parts, only small actors", that he began to see that there was another way of representing people on stage, in shades other than black and white.
In 1897 Constantine Stanislavski and a playwright and teacher Vladimir Namirovich Danchenko formed the Moscow Arts Theatre with which as an actors and director Constantine could experiment with some of his new ideas. Over a six-year period the Moscow Arts Theatre produced twenty plays to great success and achieved international acclaim with their new naturalistic style.
Constantine was still not happy, particularly about his own performances, they still felt mechanical, they contained no inner feeling. In 1906 after a triumphant tour of Germany he took a break from the company.
He allowed himself time to review and rethink his whole approach to acting. Drawing on his experience he began to write down and work out a "system" that would help create the kind of performances he desired.
Once back with the Moscow Arts Theatre he was able to try out and develop these new ideas. He worked on relaxation, concentration, given circumstances, action, the super-objective, emotion memory, the magic "If" and many others , for the rest of his life he worked on, and refined his idea's, sometimes abandoning previously strongly held views, in a search of a way for actors to get to the truth of a role. His work always was and continues to be a work in progress.
Stanislavski's system has been the starting point for virtually every theory that has followed. It is from his ideas others have gone on to refine and develop there own thoughts. It has also provided a solid view of the theatre which others have been able to react against. His work still provides the firm footing that is required for the study of acting to move forwards.

Evgeni Vakhtangov (1883 -1922)

Evgeni Vakhtangov was a co-founder of the Moscow Arts Theatre, and was keenly involved in directing and teaching.

Although he was influenced by Stanislavski’s techniques, Vakhtangov wanted to experiment and develop a style of his own. He wanted to take what he had learned from Stanislavski and combine it with what he called “fantastic realism”.

The idea of performing in a theatre for him was not to recreate life as it was outside, but to express life in a highly theatrical way without losing its truth and integrity.

Actor were encourage to use a system called ‘justification’, this is an idea that says an actor can use motivations unrelated to the play or character that still produce the necessary emotion or action that is required. A performance should not be shackled by realism, but allow to fly by encouraging the use of a performers imagination.

Edward Gordon Craig (1872 - 1966)

As the son of Ellen Terry, It probably surprised no one when Edward Gordon Craig became an actor. He became a member of Sir Henry Irving's Company of which his mother was the leading actress.
The life of an actor though was not sufficient to fulfill all of his creative ambitions.
Craig dreamt of creating a new kind of theatre. He used his skill as an artist to create drawings and models to display his visions.

He started designing scenery and instead of creating realistic reproductions of real life, his designs tried to capture the spirit and mood of a play. For the rest of his life he worked on creating this new and imaginative theatre.

Vsevolod Meyer hold(1874-1940)

Within the Moscow Art Theatre Meyerhold led a revolt against naturalism in the Russian Theater. He was an early advocate of the theater of the absurd, borrowing elements from pantomimes, and circus acrobats.

Meyerhold was in love with motion, but wanted his actors to be efficient, so that they could achieve the maximum effect on their audiences in the most direct way possible. Instead just reflecting life to audiences he wanted to excite them and carry them on a ride.

He created a technique called Biomechanics that trained his actors to be physically capable of carrying out the actions he wanted.

Bertolt Brecht (1891-1955 )

Brecht has become one of the most prominent figures in the 20th-century theatre. His ideas have added a perfect counter balance to the realism of Stanislavski. Instead of becoming so deeply involved with the story and characters that audiences were likely to forget that they were in a theatre at all, he wanted to make sure his audience were always be aware of where they were and force them to think rather than just go along with what they see.

"In order to produce A Effects the actor has to discard whatever means he has learned of persuading the audience to identify itself with the characters which he plays. Aiming not to put his audience into a trance, he must not go into a trance himself. His muscles must remain loose, for a turn of the head, e.g., with tautened neck muscles, will "magically" lead the spectators' eyes and even their heads to turn with it, and this can only detract from any speculation or reaction which the gestures may bring about. His way of speaking has to be free from ecclesiastical singsong and from all those cadences which lull the spectator so that the sense gets lost.

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948 )

Artaud was an actor, playwright and essayist belonging to the surrealist movement. His ideas about theatre were extreme and his own practical experiments with them ended in failure.

His legacy though has been the influence his ideas have had on the generations of directors that have followed. He labeled his concepts for a new type of theatre as Theatre of Cruelty.

He wanted to brake down the barriers between his actors and audience. He wanted to release feelings usually suppressed in the actor's subconscious and set them free. He also wanted to create a spectacle that would influence the lives of all who saw it.

" I propose then a theater in which violent physical images crush and hypnotize the sensibility of the spectator seized by the theater as by a whirlwind of high forces. A theater which, abandoning psychology, recounts the extraordinary, stages natural conflicts, natural and subtle forces, and presents itself first of all as an exceptional power of redirection. A theater that induces trance, as the dances of Dervishes induce trance, and that addresses itself to the organism by precise instruments, by the same means as those of certain tribal music cures which we admire an records but are incapable of originating among ourselves".

Michael Chekhov(1898-1956 )

Michael was the nephew of the great playwright Anton Chekhov, and became one Constantine Stanislavski best and most famous actors in Russia. He then went on to develop an innovative directing and teaching style himself. In 1942 he moved to America where he acted in many films and taught some of the greatest actors of the time.

As a student, Chekhov was asked to enact a true dramatic situation as an exercise in Affective Memory. He recreated' - extremely effectively - his father's funeral. Stanislavski only later discovered that Chekhov's father was still alive and consequently commented on his pupil's 'overheated imagination.' This Faculty of Imagination was to become the key to his whole approach to acting in the course of his professional career. Movement, Atmosphere, Concentration and intense Ensemble work became additional tools for the building of a role and the birth of a production. The vitality of Chekhov's approach can enthuse and inspire in a dynamic way, enabling actors to open new doors to the creative individuality within.

Lee Strasberg (1901 -
The name Lee Strasberg is synonymous with ‘The Method’ and The Actors Studio, perhaps the most famous school of acting in the world.
He is also the theatre who has created more controversy and debate than any other. His interpretation of Stanislavski’s system has by its advocate been hailed as producing some of the finest actors of the modern age, it’s critics would argue the opposite.
The ‘Method’ he created was based on Stanislavski’s and others work with affective memory, a controversial way of controlling emotions. This is where the arguments stem from. Affective memory did indeed form part of Stanislavski’s early exploration of the art of acting, but he was later to abandon it in favour of, imagination, concentration and the ‘magic if’ as ways of reaching an appropriate emotional state.
Like most arguments the there are of course two sides, and the any short appraisal of the differing positions can only be considered as simplistic in the extreme. The work of Lee Strasberg is often misrepresented as producing army’s of mumbling self absorbed actors, but if a teacher is going to be judged on the qualities and talents of his students you would have to go a long way to beat the long list of luminaries that The Actors studio can present. Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Kim Stanley, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Eli Wallach, Eva Marie Saint, Robert DeNiro, Jill Clayburgh, Jack Nicholson, and Steve McQueen are just a few who have studied under the man.
Stasberg himself is a shining example of his technique, deservedly winning an Academy Award nomination for his performance in The Godfather: Part II.

"Art is Longer Than Life" -- Lee Strasberg

"If we cannot see the possibility of greatness, how can we dream it?" -- Lee Strasberg

"An Actors' tribute to me is in his work." -- Lee Strasberg

"Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The make-up of a human being - his physical, mental and emotional habits - influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized." -- Lee Strasberg

"A great actor is independent of the poet, because the supreme essence of feeling does not reside in prose or in verse, but in the accent with which it is delivered." -- Lee Strasberg

"Work for the actor lies in two areas: the ability to consistently create reality and the ability to express that reality." -- Lee Strasberg

"The actor creates with his own flesh and blood all those things which all the arts try in some way to describe. Goethe said that an actor's career develops in public, but the actor's art only in private. The Studio exists to encourage that private process of creation." -- Lee Strasberg

"We want you to work easily and soundly and simply because we know that out of that work done in quietness comes little by little a greater thing, the art of the actor." -- Excerpt from a "Dream Of Passion" by Lee Strasberg.

Stella Adler(1902 -1992)

Born into a theatrical family in New York in 1902 it wasn't long before she made her first appearance on stage aged just four in her father's production of Broken Hearts at the Grand Street Theatre, New York.

Her parents Sarah and Jacob Adler were both successful actors and ran the Adler Company; in which a total of fifteen family members performed, part of the strong Yiddish American Theatre movement. They would put on classical plays, translated into Yiddish, of Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Tolstoy, as well as other modern and classical playwrights, with Stella the parts of both boys and girls.

Later despite being an established actress she attended The American Laboratory Theatre School which had been founded by5 by Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya, both former members of the famed Moscow Art Theatre. It was here she was introduced to the work of Stanislavski.

In 1931 she became one of the original members of The Group theatre, a company put together by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg with the aim of creating an American version of the Moscow Arts Theatre.

The company achieved great success, but Stella became dissatisfied with the methods being used by company director Lee Strasburg, especially his interpretation of Stanislavski's affective memory techniques.
In 1934 Stella met Constantine Stanislavski in Paris, where she learnt that the man on whom the Group theatre based its work had himself move on and abandoned his ideas on affective memory. For six weeks they met every day and worked together for hours. Stanislavsky taught her that "the source of acting is imagination and that the key to its problems is truth, truth in the circumstances of the play."

When she returned she continued acting with the Group Theatre and also began teaching using the techniques shown her by Stanislavski. This was not universally welcomed, Lee Strasberg in particular was dismissive, refusing to let go of the affective memory 'method' he had been developing.

In 1949 She founded the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in New York City. She taught here for a decade, helping to produce some of the greatest actors of the period. Her most famous students were Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Warren Beatty.

Later became an adjunct professor of acting at the School of Drama at Yale University.
She wrote a book, "Stella Adler on Acting," which defined her theories of acting.

"Acting, creating, interpreting, means total involvement; the totality of heart, mind, and spirit. Acting is the total development of a human being into the most he or she can be and in as many directions as you can possibly take."

Viola Spolin (1904 -1994)

Viola Spolin created and developed a series of theatre games.

She realized that an actor can be held back by being to serious or by over thinking. She saw that a sense of playfulness and the act of play was a skill that as adults we easily lose. Yet these childlike skills can be powerful triggers that can fire the imagination into creative thought.

It is Voila Spolins work that has given us the tools to develop the actors skills in the field of improvisation.

Sanford Meisner (1905 -1997)

Born in New York Sanford Meisner was one of the founder members of the highly influential Group Theatre. But despite the success he achieved with here as an actor, he did not always agree with the methods being used by the group’s director and teacher Lee Strasberg. He particularly didn’t like the use of affective memory. He felt that it could destroy the link that actors can create with each other during a performance.

Following the lead of another of his group theatre contempories Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner soon began teaching his own theories and ideas. He defined acting as “…living truthfully under imaginary circumstances”. Like other American teachers Miesner has played a major role in carrying forward the work of Stanislavski.

Jerzy Grotowski (1933-

Jerzy Grotowski has been interested in the bare bones of theatre.

For him there was no necessity for scenery, props, musicians, make-up or lighting. All that is needed is a space, actors and spectators.

He saw that what made theatre special and different to other mediums such as TV and Film is the interaction that can be achieved between performer and audience.

He wanted his performers to get rid of any social mask that a performer can hide behind and confront the spectator with the truth, no matter how uncomfortable.

He called this type of work, Poor Theatre.

One of his main influences has been the work of Antonin Artaud.

Tadashi Suzuki

Suzuki has brought together styles from east and west. He has created a Physical style of theatre using the traditions of classical Japanese theatre, Indian Kathakali dance and some aspects of western ballet.

His aim is to produce actors who, as well as highly trained voices also achieve a high degree of physical expression.

"…to make it possible for actors to develop their ability of physical expression and also nourish a tenacity of concentration".



so here is the beginning of " Personality theory of Acting".

What we do at the time of rehearsals..nothing but to behave according to the take it as in simple words..we try to change our personality according to the to enhance the skills, you should always try to explore more and more at the time of performance you could swap between the personalities....

"Always take any character as a Personality" ..and then try to play that Personality it asks for extensive practical work....this is very contradictory to Stanislavsky's "if"....because you don't try to become someone....but you do the research work, understand the personality of particular character and at the same time you research on your own personality as well, and then you play they difference between both of the personalities....

Normally we don't research on our own personality....may be the given character is very near to your own where is the need to play some other just play your own.....

so the most important task is to find out your own personality and then try something very conflicting to your you could explore more

always try to act in extreme opposite manner , even in your daily life as well....because now the hardcore realism is needed...which is very near to Naturalism...,and if you could play the extreme in daily life, you surely can do that on stage as well.....

So , if you wanna improve or enhance the skills....better you try more and more personalities.....

so essence would be...." Acting is nothing but, playing varied personalities"

Anupam S.
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