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Method acting is an acting technique in which actors try to replicate the emotional conditions under which the character operates in real life, in an effort to create a life-like, realistic performance. "The Method" typically refers to the generic practice of actors drawing on their own emotions, memories, and experiences to influence their portrayals of characters.
Mainly an American school, "The Method" was popularized by Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio and the Group Theatre, in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s. It was derived from "the Stanislavski System", after Konstantin Stanislavski, who pioneered similar ideas in his quest for "theatrical truth." This was done through friendships with Russia's leading actors as well as his teachings, writings, and acting at the Moscow Art Theater (founded 1897).
Strasberg's students included quite a few of America's most famous actors of the 20th century, including Paul Newman, Al Pacino, James Dean and many others.
Some consider Method acting difficult to teach. Partially this is because of a common misconception that there is a single "method." "The Method" (versus "the method" with a lower-case m) usually refers to Lee Strasberg's teachings but really no one method has been laid down. Stanislavski himself changed his method constantly and dramatically over the course of his career. This plurality and ambiguity can make it hard to teach a single method. It is also partially because sometimes method acting is characterized by outsiders as lacking in any specific or technical approach to acting, while the abundance of training schools, syllabi and years spent learning contradict this. In general, however, method acting combines a careful consideration of the psychological motives of the character and some sort of personal identification with and possibly the reproduction of the character's emotional state in a realistic way. It usually forms an antithesis to clichéd, unrealistic, and so-called rubber-stamp or indicated acting. Mostly, however, the surmising done about the character and the elusive, capricious or sensitive nature of emotions combine to make method acting difficult to teach.
Depending on the exact version taught by the numerous directors and teachers who claim to propagate the fundamentals of this technique, the process can include various ideologies and practices such as "as if", "substitution," "emotional memory" and "preparation".
Sanford Meisner, another Group Theatre pioneer, championed a separate, though closely related, school of acting which came to be called the Meisner technique. Meisner broke from Strasberg on the subject of "sense memory" or "emotion memory", one of the basic tenets of the American Method at the time. Those trained by Strasberg often tried to experience all sensations as the character would and often used personal experience on stage to identify with the emotional life of the character and portray it. Meisner found that too cerebral and advocated fully immersing oneself in the moment of a character and gaining spontaniety through an understanding of the character's objectives and through exercises he designed to help the actor gain emotional investment in the scene and then free him or her to react as the character.
Stella Adler, the coach whose fame was cemented by the success of her students Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro, as well as the only teacher from the Group Theatre to have studied Acting Technique with Stanislavski himself, also broke with Strasberg and developed yet another form of acting. Her technique is founded in the idea that one must not use memories from their own past to conjure up emotion, but rather use circumstances from their imagination. She also emphasized, like Sanford Meisner, the all-importance of "action" within the theatre. As she often preached, we are what we do, not what we say.
Stanislavski's works, including the autobiography My Life in Art, and his trilogy of books set in a fictionalized acting-school as a pretense for his own teachings: An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role, inspired many others who have followed the example of Stanislavski as prominent Method teachers. They include:
- Eugeny Vakhtangov, a Stanislavski student and protegé as well as an actor and director.
- Uta Hagen, actress, the author of Respect for Acting and Challenge to the Actor. (She emphasized "identity" and "substitution.")
- Richard Boleslawski, actor and film director.
- Stella Adler, actress.
- Lee Strasberg, director, actor, producer.
- Robert Lewis, cofounder of The Actors Studio and author of Method — or Madness?
- Herbert Berghof, founder of HB Studios.
- Harold Clurman, director and critic.
- Sanford Meisner, actor.
- Michael Chekhov, actor, director, author. (His method, largely an outside-in approach and somewhat more "metaphysical," diverged from and converged back to Stanislavski's over the course of his career.)
These American actors have acknowledged using Method Acting as part of their technique:
- Robert De Niro
- Al Pacino
- Marlon Brando
- James Dean
- Dustin Hoffman
- Steve McQueen
- Robert Duvall
- Diane Keaton
- Geraldine Page
- Paul Newman "I wanted to be the first animated character on screen to demonstrate method acting," referring to his role in the animated 2006 movie "Cars." 
- George Peppard employed the technique in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" 
- Rod Steiger
- Dennis Hopper said in the documentary "Mysteries of Love" that he reverted to a "Lee Strasberg" acting method for his role in the film "Blue Velvet."
Major books on Method:
- Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen
- An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski
- To the Actor by Michael Chekhov
- Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner
- Method or Madness by Robert Lewis
- Advice to the Players by Robert Lewis
- Slings and Arrows: Theater in My Life by Robert Lewis
- The Actor's Studio: A Player's Place by David Garfield
- Miranda is Beautiul: A Biography by Miranda Vittoria Graham
Articles about Method Acting:
de:Method Acting fr:La Méthode (théâtre) nl:Method acting fi:Metodinäytteleminen zh:方法演技
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