Regardless of whether you want to become a Hollywood or Broadway actor, you should be clear about what acting techniques are best for you and apply these during auditions and performances. A complete knowledge of all these methods will enable you to address whatever problem you may encounter in delivering your lines, thereby allowing you to give out an exemplary performance that will help in completing a production.
Although you may have learned these approaches while you took part in a workshop or enrolled in an acting course, one of the things you really need to decide on is which among them is best for you. It is basically all about making decisions and choosing the right path that would lead you to hone your craft better and be the best at what you do.
So, here are seven acting techniques that could help strengthen you as an actor:
This is a technique developed by Constantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor and director during the start of the 20th century. A lot of the well-known actors have used this method and one of them is Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar for his performance in the film, The Godfather, which was released in 1972.
The system is divided into three sections:
Section One – This is where the actor would be dealing with the Magic ‘If’. Think about creating an emotion or feeling by stimulating your imagination. What if all the things happening to the character you are playing would happen to you, what would you feel?
Section Two – Stanislavski has always believed that an actor is influenced by his mind or his emotion to be able to create an action. Meanwhile, as motivations become his subconscious, he begins to perform the actions. In short, an actor has to understand what drove the character to become who he is by looking into the past.
Section Three – The moment an actor determines his goals, he will be able to realize what he should be doing. This technique is used to achieve an objective.
Lee Strasberg, an American actor and a teacher for directing and acting, derived this technique from the Stanislavki’s System. Method acting is considered as one of the most popular techniques used by a number of actors in Hollywood.
Simply put, an actor has to convince himself to be relaxed and get rid of all the stress and tension within him. Take note that all these excess baggage will hinder your performance. As an actor, you need to concentrate and always do your best to refocus once you get distracted.
At this point, actors create real thoughts and emotions through imaginary circumstances. You can take advantage of your past experiences and connect them to your character’s emotion. When you are able to do this, you should be able to provide what the director wants, which is your best performance.
In using this technique, you can again recall your own experience and connect it to your role’s state of emotion. Just as in the Sense Memory, where you take advantage of past experiences. You can always recall what you felt during that day and relate it to how your character should feel.
Warning: Emotional Memory normally won’t work for beginners, as the idea can be overwhelming for someone who is still new in the industry. This method requires guidance from a professional teacher and a great experience regarding memory exercises.
This type of method acting is quite common. This is when you will be asked to walk around the classroom and portray an animal. During this exercise, you will be asked to use your five senses to explore the character you will be portraying.
This is a technique only a few are aware of, yet it can be as powerful as any acting method out there. As a matter of fact, a lot of acting schools do not even teach this kind of technique. Anthony Hopkins, Johnny Depp, and Helen Hunt are just among the names that made it to the peak of their career with the Chekhov technique.
Perhaps, Chekhov learned a lot of things when he worked with Stanislavski at the Moscow Art Theatre and this was when he learned a new method in acting – a psycho-physical approach. This is a combination of working with your impulses, adding in a dash of imagination, and mixing everything with your inner and outer gestures.
There’s a fine line between imitating and interpreting life and that is the premise of the Chekhov technique. Actors perform not to imitate, but to interpret. This is what this approach is all about, which basically allows the audience to know the real essence behind a character.
You would recognize this acting approach by how an actor performs with ease, brings about the beauty and form of his expression and sees the big picture. So, if you will use this yourself, you would be able to convey a character with much more emotion than when you are just plain acting.
When you are trained to use this technique, you will be taught how to be receptive of the things around you. This will allow you to internalize your character from within.
Pay attention to the different psychology of the characters. This is the best way to figure out the reasons you have been acting and feeling in a certain way.
Start drawing pictures in your mind. You can ensure a character is revealed as these images unfold. An actor’s imagination can stir up emotions and most of all, breathe life to your character.
Keep in mind that the atmosphere has a huge impact to the way you act. You can create a happy atmosphere to infiltrate your mind and body when you perform.
Moreover, the quality of your movements combined with your physical sensations can greatly allow you to create the character your director has been looking for.
If you can access your emotions through the atmosphere and sensations, you can also learn how to interpret your character’s mind and desires. From there, you will be able to develop a gesture that would gradually fill your entire body.
When Sanford Meisner studied with Lee Strasberg, the person who developed the Method Acting technique, at the Group Theatre, another acting technique flourished. Meisner developed his own method inspired by Stanislavski, but this time, it is about an actor having to clear his mind from everything and just going with whatever comes to his head.
The main goal of this kind of technique is to perform with spontaneity on stage. In short, you just have to follow your instincts.
With this, acting would mean engaging with something that is real. You simply become the character yourself as you perform and act on your instincts.
Talking about what is real means something that is happening at the moment. When you train with this kind of method, you will learn how to experience a scene as it happens.
Another approach you can realize with the Meisner technique is to charge yourself with emotions. This method believes in the beauty of ‘daydreaming’, which is more powerful than relying on your emotional memories for your performance.
David Mamet and William H. Macy came up with this technique based on the teachings of the great legends, Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, and Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher.
This technique is based on the practice that breaks down a scene with the use of this four-step analysis.
Basically, this is a description of what is happening.
Keep in mind that in acting, one actor should give while the other takes. With this, you should be able to determine what the character wants you to say or do.
Following the second step, the essential action is simply realizing what the character wants. You have to take note that there’s a fine line between what the character is supposed to be doing and what the actor is actually doing.
Think about retrieving the essential action. Consider this as the spark that would light up your acting skills for a scene and allow you to recognize what should be done.
As a whole, Practical Aesthetics aims to create an acting experience based on your will as an actor.
If there’s one thing Stella Adler learned while she was still working in the theater and film industry before she transitioned to becoming an acting teacher by studying with Stanislavski and his method is that an actor’s talent depends on his imagination. According to her approach, you do not need to relive something from the past and recall experiences to portray a role or create an emotion.
This is what acting is all about. Good actors do what’s supposed to be done. He starts by looking for actions in the script, dissects why these actions have to be done, and then, performs them.
First, you take a look at what is going on around you. Second, as you discover new things, you begin to create images in your mind that would enable you to internalize the scene. Overall, you tend to develop your imagination, which will allow your audiences to see that picture through your eyes.
Learn to understand the play. This is the only way you can portray the character and reveal the secrets to your audience. Whenever you train an actor’s mind, this means you don’t just simply study the text and the idea, but also research on the social situations of the entire play.
This means that if you are serious about portraying a role, then you have to be that role. You will do everything, including change your physical qualities and your voice to become a character. This is what will separate you from those who are just actors to those who are huge actors in their own rights.
Adler wants to emphasize what it means to be ‘epic’ and ‘big’. It is not easy to find a ‘big’ actor out there. So, you have to do whatever it takes to become one and to do this, you have to break away from the ‘boring’ way of acting.
Now that you have discovered the leading acting techniques, below are distinctive methods which will allow you to improve your skills and reveal your expertise in acting further:
This is an acting technique that takes advantage of some 200 plus games in the theater as well as acting exercises that allows you, as an actor to reveal your creativeness. Viola Spolin believes that through a number of improvisation work, word games and other types of activities, you will be able to improve your talent and skills.
Two actors are asked to face each other. While one actor mirrors the other actor’s gestures, he has to conceal his actions so the audience will not recognize who is imitating and who is initiating. Mirror exercise is an excellent way to improve an actor’s concentration.
This is an interesting and unique acting method that is rooted from a combination of Greek and Japanese theater, plus a bit of ballet and martial arts. Tadaki Suzuki came up with a technique following the Viewpoints Method (which will be discussed below), that focuses on the body, with the lower body and the feet as the actor’s ‘roots’.
Since you would go through a rigorous training with this approach, there are times that you would think you are enrolling in a martial arts class and not an acting workshop. You would undergo a series of stomping and walking exercises to improve your concentration and all the necessary qualities needed for acting.
During the training, an actor is asked to stomp his feet to a strong, pulsing beat. While doing this, he has to bend his knees slightly so he can focus all his energy in his lower body.
Why is this important in an acting training? It’s simple. While doing the activity, you will recognize how you are still able to produce a strong stomp with your upper body completely relaxed and still.
During moments when are asked to dance and do things you think you can’t, this kind of method will mold you as an actor. This technique is strongly rooted from every movement of an actor’s body. As a matter of fact, you will be strengthened by these 9 different viewpoints named below:
This activity is so simple that you can even try this at home. During this exercise, you will take advantage of the basic Viewpoints Space activity. You will have to walk and then stop. As you pause for a period of time, it is crucial that you will use your senses to observe the dimensions and the distance between yourself and the objects all around you.
With this approach, you have to keep in mind that in acting, it is vital for you to maintain a special relationship with the other actors in the set.
A number of actors find this method as an excellent tool in analyzing a scene. As a matter of fact, there are 12 guideposts can be very useful to you whenever you go to an audition. Below are Shurtleff’s guideposts:
Once you uncover these guideposts, you will be able to uncover new discoveries that will help you unravel your skills and talent in acting.
A simple exercise that will allow you to improve your skills in acting is to pick a scene that you are having problems with. All you need is to explore and discover how the relationships and emotions are juggling in the scene. Begin to ask yourself a couple or more questions about ‘feelings’.
The idea is to unveil the true essence of your relationship with the scene.
Although many people would say that experience is the best teacher, the acting techniques above have already been proven to help you in developing your talent further. And, you don’t even have to follow or apply them all to your own brand of acting. You just pick out one or two that work best for you and just let them guide you into becoming better.
As you improve your acting chops, you will a partner like ExploreTalent.com to help you find acting auditions and casting calls.