Lee Strasberg (November 17, 1901 – February 17, 1982) is one of the most reknown directors in film acting. Strasberg undertook his studies in Moscow under the directorship of Konstantin Stanislavsky. He had visited Moscow Art Theater in 1920. In 1924 after staying for three years in Moscow he decided to become a professional actor and developed the method acting theory. He founded the group theater which is regarded as the first true American theatrical collection. In 1951, he became the director of non profit actors studio located in New York City. He also founded the lee Strasberg theatre and film institute in New York and in Hollywood to teach the work that he had developed. He revolutionalized the art of acting and made great impacts in American theatrer performance and movie production.
The method acting theory was first expounded by Konstantin Stanislavsky. The method theory applies natural rules in acting. This has the objective of assisting the actor in playing of a particular role. It forms an antithesis to cliché or unrealistic acting. The process propagated by this method incorporates various ideologies, for example, substitution and the emotional memory. The method has similar teachings to those that were propagated by the Stanislavski System (Rose 238).
In his teachings Strasberg required great discipline from his actors. Another aspect that he concentrated on in his philosophy was a great depth of psychological truthfulness. He held that an actor is supposed to respond to stimuli constantly. These stimuli are imaginary. According to him this should happen as in real life situation, but in this case it is supposed to happen in a more expressive and actual way. He holds that its possible for an actor to perform most things very easily in life, but when it comes to the stage which has factious conditions it become difficult because he or she is not equipped. This makes it necessary for the actor to convince himself that what he or she is doing is right so that he can do full things on the stage. (Allan and Peter 80-83).
He required that an actor when doing preparation of a role he or she is not only supposed to indulge in a character’s life in the play but the most important thing is to indulge into a character’s life before the curtain is raised. In this way, they play becomes the climax of characters existence. The actors try to create within themselves thoughts and emotions of their characters. They do this in order to create lifelike performances. The actors form their own emotions and memories in the way they portray themselves aided by a set of exercises and practices including sense memory. The actors immerge themselves in their characters in a way that they do so even when they are offstage. This assists in making the actions to be real even to the audience. This is one of the qualities that a good play should have.
This theory has revolutionalized American theater. It has continued to evolve with many modern actors and acting teachers use the theory. This method was first popularized by Group theatrer in New York in the 1930s. Strasberg used some of the ideas of the system theory which was pioneered by Stanislavski. One of the areas that he borrowed Stanislavski’s ideas is in the quest of theatrical truth. This is where the actors deeply analyze the motivations and emotions which their characters have in order to copy or personify them. This is done with psychological realism and emotional authenticity. In this case the actor is supposed to recall emotions in respective to his or her own personal life experiences. The actor is supposed to use this in order to identify with the character portrayed in a certain play. The above ideas that Strasberg formulated were borrowed from Stanislavski’s system. Generally the method acting theory incorporates actors careful consideration of the characters psychological motives and personal identity with the character in the play. (Allan & Peter 80-83).
The method acting had started in Russia. It had been developed by Konstantin Stanislavski and the Moscow art theater. His ideas found their way to America. Lee Strasberg was the proponent of this theory in United States of America. The method then became established as the style of American actors. Method acting is now the most popular strategies to acting in the United States of America. It has shaped most of the schools of acting. It is frequently used in American acting. (Allison 129-133).
Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was one of the most popular American actors who performed for almost half a century. He is known for using Strasberg method acting theory. He was famous known for his role in Stanley Kowalski in A Street Named Desire and also because of his academy winning performance in On the Waterfront in the 1950’s. He made great significance in film acting. He was an example of those actors who used the method acting style. He had mercurial performances that were highly regarded by many people. He was not a method actor and also did not rely on guts instincts on all his performances. In the year 1951 to 1954 American acting was reviolutionalized by many actors who had been trained by Brando. This made him be called the ‘God father’ of American acting.
According to him nobody is evil but environment contributed to the behaviors that people exposed. He had a feeling that the world was not a black and white world, but it was a gray world in which, people who were once decent would do things that are horrible. This is demonstrated, by the way that he portrayed the Nazi officer Christian Diest in a sympathetic way in one of the film that he made before shooting “One eyed jacks” in 1961. His performance was criticized by many writers, but the audiences proved the critics wrong because the film was a major hit. This was the last film that he produced in more than a decade. He continued to produce films that were great hits to the audience. (Richard 11-12)
After reaching the peak of his career, he essentially walked away which was one of the rare atmospheres that are not reached by many actors. He decided to quit acting after the film “The last Tango in Paris that embarrassed him”. He held that acting at its best was nothing special because everyone engaged in it in every day life in order to get what they wanted from others. In his acting he used the principle of biomechanics system of acting. (Richard 11-12)
Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold (1874-1940) was one of the most famous actors in Soviet Union. He is known for using the systems theory in his works. This makes him remain to be a seminal force in modern theatre. He founded Meyerhold theatre in 1922 which lasted until 1938. He was a critic of principles of theatrical academicians as he claimed that they were unable to find a common language with the new reality that was dawning. In most of his work he used scenic constructivism and circus style effects.
His acting techniques had fundamental principles at odds American method acting. He connected psychological and physiological processes. He also focused more on learning gestures and movements as a way of emotional expression in an outward manner. He employed Stanislavski ideology that the emotional state should have a connection with his physical state. He had great opposition to social realism, which led to his work being claimed as antagonistic and alien to the soviet. The government felt threatened by the contexts of his work. This is due to his intention to educate the masses. This led to the closure of his opera theatre in 1938.
The Strasberg method acting theory has been deemed to be dangerous by many people. This is mostly in regard of intellectual controversies about American cultural states and also its values. The public interest to this theory indicated areas of possible rapprochement between the tastes of most of the American audience and the elite values of national cultural establishment. According to most of the intellectual this theory threatened the categorical distinctions between the popular and the prestigious ways in which the entire aspects of the nature culture depended. This is because the theory has a combination of high cultural purpose and a popular commercial ethos. This led to its rejection to be incorporated into the official canons of the national culture both ideologically and I aesthetic grounds. (Allison 129-133).
This resistance can be understood well in accordance to the history of the cultural hierarchies I America. This is mostly in reference to the special attentions which the post war intellectuals had in regard to the strata of taste which they termed as middlebrow.
The group theater used Strasberg method theory in its works. This is a group that was established by Lee Strasberg in 1931. This is where he created the method of acting theory. He taught the actors how to employ this method in acting using Stanislavsky book “method acting”. This was the first American true theatric group at that moment. The group theatre had mission that were self determined in connecting theater to the real world ideas ad actions. They staged plays that were critical to the social and moral issues that existed in the society at that moment. The group grew to become a team of actors who had great creativity I their works. This group offered the foundation of the use of the method acting theory in United States of America Strasberg method acting which is the one that is mostly used in America unlike Canada and Europe where the system theory is the most used one (Rose 238). This is enhanced by the fact that most of the acting schools which were established first in the two countries taught the specific theories. In America most of the schools used the Strasberg method of acting which most of the ones established in Europe and Canada used the System theory.
Despite the differences that exist in some aspects of the two theories of acting they share most of their characteristics. This is due to the fact that Strasberg borrowed much from the systems theory in creating the method acting theory. They have commonalities in their focus and also in their principles. They try to bring an aspect of realism in the art of acting. They aim at making acting as an art that represents the real picture of the world in its social, political and its economic perspectives. The two theories have been reconstructed to make them move with the situation or in accordance to specific plays.
The above discussed theories i.e. the method acting theory and the system theory have been of great help to other actors who have developed other theories in acting. They have been used as the foundation of the new theories that have been developed. Despite the new theories that have been developed most actors still use the two theories in their work.