“Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art.”
One of the more difficult things about being an actor is how to get into the character and, more importantly, how to stay in character. It is a subject of much debate in the theater world; the reason for this is that there are various ways, or methods, to perform this task.
And that’s where people can get a little heated. “My school of method could beat up your school of method.” However, that really is beside the point of the whole thing, isn’t it? What people really want to know is “which is better, more effective, and above all, easy?”
I like to relate it to kung fu. Yeah, yeah, I know. Sounds sort of cheesy. Hear me out.
In many kung fu movies, there is always the central character, utilizing techniques and principles from a certain school of kung fu. Now, there are many different styles of fighting in kung fu: Southern Boxing, Five-Star Kung Fu, Wing Chun, and the Shaolin Animal styles which are unique and comprehensive unto itself (tiger, mantis, monkey, etc.). In the movies, there is always a clash of schooling, a clash of technigues, i.e. “My Tiger technique will defeat your puny Mantis leg!” and so on and so forth.
With theater, it is much the same way. People prefer “The Method”, relating to Stanislavsky. Even his distant relative, Michael (alive today, I believe) boasts a system where one imagines an object, and replaces it with the three primal areas, i.e. head, chest, and pelvis. I am of the school of Meisner and Adler, where one must be honest with the circumstances and include ones self with the characterization.
This is all well and good, but the funny thing is: everyone is right, and nobody is wrong. Just like kung fu teaches universal principles of integrity, courage, and discipline, all of the acting methods teach the same things. A connection to the character on an emotional, physical, and intellectual level, a way of maintaining that connection, and a way of expression of intent, information, and above all, truth. However, you as an actor must pick what suits you best. What method plays to your strengths? Try them all out, research them. Which one was the most effective, the most believable? What was quicker? What was not so effective, but still helpful?
It’s all part of the craft. Just be sure to practice one that fits you, not one that is popular or which one your favorite celebrity does. You are not them, and they are not you. You are unique, and that is your strength. Embrace it.
Now go train, grasshopper. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)