method

In one famous Brando origin story, Adler asked her students to pretend to be chickens as an atomic bomb drops. While everyone else was flapping in a panic, Brando peaceably squatted down. “I’m laying an egg,” he told Adler. “What does a chicken know of bombs?”

reading Alexandra Schwartz on Isaac Butler’s book about method acting in The New Yorker. A shifting concept, perhaps we can agree?

“the Method” is describes a set of techniques, practices, and concepts for helping actors achieve emotional life and truth in their performances. The Method is based on the teachings of Stanislavski, developed at the Moscow Art Theater, interpreted in the United States by teachers like Lee Strasburg, Stella Adler, and Sanford Meisner and by actors like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

Defining things is hard, I’m already quibbling with myself!

Maybe Wikipedia’s is better, Wikipedia really is a miracle, isn’t it folks? Sainthood for Jimmy Wales.

Some of what the Method seems to get at, like chunks of reality, precision of memory, the blend of emotional and physical experience, reminded me of Hemingway on focusing as specifically as possible on the connection of sensation to specific detail. What did you feel, what exactly made you feel it in the moment?

MICE: How can a writer train himself?

Y.C.: Watch what happens today. If we get into a fish see exact it is that everyone does. If you get a kick out of it while he is jumping remember back until you see exactly what the action was that gave you that emotion. Whether it was the rising of the line from the water and the way it tightened like a fiddle string until drops started from it, or the way he smashed and threw water when he jumped. Remember what the noises were and what was said. Find what gave you the emotion, what the action was that gave you the excitement. Then write it down making it clear so the reader will see it too and have the same feeling you had. Thatʼs a five finger exercise.

Y.C.: Listen now. When people talk listen completely. Donʼt be thinking what youʼre going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe. You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice. When youʼre in town stand outside the theatre and see how people differ in the way they get out of taxis or motor cars. There are a thousand ways to practice. And always think of other people.

more on that.



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