Approaching character study
There are multiple ways to approach character study, outside in, inside out, method, Meisner, Grotowski, just to name a few. Each way is in itself an entire lifetime of study and we cannot dive deeply in to all of these in one short workshop. What we can do is make you aware of each one and how it works so you can test for yourself, to see which fits best on your person.
Chekov – Central to his method is an image of the the Ideal Actor who, as a human being, is himself a two-fold instrument. As an embodied being, he has corporeality: “I have a body.” As a conscious being with thoughts, feelings, and will impulses, he has an inner self (psyche/soul): “I have an inner life.” In Chekhov’s vocabulary, the term “psycho-physical” is shorthand to indicate the actor’s whole instrument, which by its essential parts is both physical and psychological. Understandably then, the first goal of the method is for the two component parts of the actor’s whole to develop together in the direction of their highest potential. In this technique, the actor physicalizes a character’s need or internal dynamic in the form of an external gesture. Subsequently, the outward gesture is suppressed and incorporated internally, allowing the physical memory to inform the performance on an unconscious level. The Checkov Technique is a psycho-social approach to acting. The Chekhov Technique focuses on transformation, working with impulse, imagination and inner and outer movements.
Stanislavski – Stanislavsky’s “system” is an acting technique that has a systematic approach to training actors. Areas of study include concentration, voice, physical skills, emotion memory, observation, and dramatic analysis. Stanislavsky’s goal was to find a universally applicable approach that could be of service to all actors. Yet he said of his system: “Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”
Method – Strasberg’s teaching emphasized the practice of connecting to a character by drawing on personal emotions and memories, aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory and affective memory. Stanislavski’s system of acting was the foundation of Strasberg’s technique. Followers of Strasberg’s technique are now commonly referred to as “method actors”.If one listens to either its critics or supporters Method Acting is described as a form of acting where the actor mystically ‘becomes’ the character or tries to somehow literally live the character in life.
Meinser – The Meisner Acting technique is closely related to Method Acting technique. It requires the actor to focus not on themselves but totally on the other actor as though he or she is real and only exists in the moment. This type of acting method makes the actors scene seem more authentic to the audience. The basic exercise that Meisner invented to train actors’ responses is called the Repetition Exercise.
Practical Aesthetics is based on the practice of breaking down a scene using a four-step analysis that entails the following:
- Literal – The most basic description of what is happening
- Want – What does one character ultimately want the other actor to say or do
- Essential Action – What the actor wants within the scene. It is essential to understand that what the character is doing and what the actor is doing are separate.
- As If – As if relates to the “essential action” to the actor’s own life. For instance: “Essential Action” – To retrieve what is mine. “As If” – It’s as if my mom has taken away my favorite piece of candy that I was going to give as a gift. I need to retrieve it because it is mine.
- This step is a memory device, a spark to involve the actor in the scene. It helps the actor escape the fiction, find the truth, and apply it elsewhere.
- This acting technique is used to highlight the experience of acting and is based not on the character but on the actor. What does the actor want to accomplish in this scene? What would the actor do in this situation?
Which one is right for you?
Do your homework.
Try something new.
Take a risk.
Allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to succeed.