“Living truthfully under imaginary circumstances”
Sanford Meisner’s definition of acting is a beautiful and profound one, and captures the essence of what we are trying to achieve as method actors. To bring truth and authenticity to an imaginary performance is the holy grail for every actor. The ultimate question, which sets us all on the path of discovery as an actor, is ‘how do you achieve this?’
The Reality of Truth in Performance
“The work of Stanislavsky and the Moscow Art theatre had convinced me that acting was the art of living on stage…But the ultimate question remained. How do you accomplish this?”
Writers, theorists, critics and actors from Stanislavski to present day have asked the same question – how to bring a character to life in a way that is authentic. Lee Strasberg, the supremo ‘Method Man,’ identified the solution to the problem by asking ‘what would I do if I were in this situation?’ So your character falls in love overnight. Have you been in love? What did it feel like? What did you do?
You must do whatever it takes to believe that you are experiencing your character’s story arc. Only once you believe it, will the audience.
“The actor must see through the lens of the belief system of the character as created by the writer, and breathe life into it by rooting emotionally in his or her body, not head.”
This approach requires you to think about what techniques it will take to change your behaviour to adopt that of your character. It is a leap, and not all of us make it successfully. There are a series of tried and tested method acting techniques that, once they become second nature, will help you make the leap every time.
“Your acting technique should be hidden”
Make the Leap – Live Truthfully in Imaginary Circumstances
What do you do if the character’s experience is so far removed from your own that you find it difficult to relate? The trick is to find assimilation in emotions. While you might not be able to relate to a man shackled by a barbaric class system, for example, you have surely felt anger in your life? Channel that to summon the burning rage the character feels at his situation, albeit alien to you. This is what Vakhtangov was doing by ‘creating belief’ for himself.
To find out more about how to use your full wheel of emotion, click here.
Method acting is about bringing truth and reality into imaginary circumstance with tried and tested exercises and practical ways to train the senses and expand your inner resources. If you would like to know more about these techniques, read my other blog articles or pick up a copy of my new book, The Ultimate Guide to Method Acting.
So what is the answer to the ultimate question of how to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances? Train in method acting!