Learning about the foundation of acting should be fun—and what’s more fun than GIFs? So we’ve boiled eight different acting techniques down to their GIF-y essence. From Stanislavsky’s System to Uta Hagen’s techniques, these are the methods every actor should know. (And if you’re interested in a more thorough introduction, check out our in-depth guide to 13 major acting techniques.)
One of the world’s most frequently taught acting techniques, Stanislavsky inspired scores of future teachers including Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, and Lee Strasberg. Think emotional memory recall, spiritual realism, and self-analysis.
Lee Strasberg’s Method
Lee Strasberg’s actors intensify their connections to the work by mimicking characters’ experiences within the context of their own (real) lives, and reaching deeper connections and understandings of their characters’ emotional worlds.
Stella Adler’s approach is also built on that of Stanislavsky, but imagination is emphasized over emotional recall; in her words, “You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences.”
Famous for his “repetition” exercise, Meisner teaches actors to “live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The work emphasizes openness, honesty, and listening above all.
Michael Chekhov created a famous “psycho-physical” technique which draws on physical actions and mind-body connection to create a sensual approach to the character.
Developed by actor William H. Macy and playwright David Mamet, this analytical approach emphasizes the simple pursuit of an action above all else. Actors’ attention goes to text-analysis, script work, and a literal understanding of a scene’s driving events.
It’s all about realism for Uta Hagen. Students are taught to “substitute” or “transfer” their own memories into the experiences of their characters, building deep connections based on their own personal truths.
Viola Spolin’s “theater games” approach inspires students to respond immediately and live in the moment. Her technique focuses on self-direction and improvisation, and she’s considered a driving force of improv as we know it in the United States.
*This post was originally published on June 9, 2015. It has since been updated.
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