Understanding your own method acting techniques
You think, think and think. No matter how much you think, unless and until you have given it a try you won’t know what it feels like to be an actor. Unlike any other profession, acting is learned only by doing it. You may gulp down hundreds of books on method acting techniques or in general acting, but it’s all useless unless you put it in action.
So the first step is to just act. Be it your own video, or in front of your family or friend. Just Act! But you must also know what to do after you have performed for the first time. And that is to test your method acting techniques.
Test Your Method Acting Techniques
Konstantin Stanislavsky’s An Actor Prepares is considered as the bible for method actors. The first chapter in the book is “the first test.”
The first chapter in this book describes the first day of the method acting students under director Torstov. On first day of acting class he asks his students to prepare bits from the plays of their choice. And it must be performed with all necessary make up, costume, lighting and background. He stated the reason for that was to check their dramatic quality.
“Dramatic quality will tell you lot about yourself as an actor.”
What dramatic qualities you should look for in your performance?
Here are the parameters you must consider to check your dramatic quality:
When you first take a scene just read it. Remember, not play it. Do a cold reading and try to find what emotions are being touched in the scene. What emotions your character is experiencing in this scene. Don’t complicate by applying some method acting techniques. Just try to identify one basic emotion. For right now keep your emotional range up to anger, happiness, sadness and fear.
While playing the scene, try to keep true to the given emotion. After the scene evaluate yourself, how true the emotion was. Shoot your performance and evaluate yourself. Take note of what you felt while you played the scene and what it looked from the point of view of the audience.
“Basic requirement for an actor is that he must be able to identify the emotions in the given scene.”
Often acting coaches, choosing right physicality brings about the required emotions for the scene.
These parameters include makeup, costume and body language. Choose a costume and make up that you think your character might be wearing for that scene.
For example it’s the early morning scene and your character has just woke up. Wear clothes that your character might have slept into. Keep your hair messy. If your character is sleep deprived, make your eyes red and puffy.
In addition, add the body language. You will have to look the age of the character, any deformity, and energy level of the body. Don’t worry much about the method acting techniques you can use right now. Just go with your instinct.
After the performance, evaluate whether the physical parameters added any value to your performance or not. If they added then, you where able to get what character was and if not, probably you were off the course. Change the parameters and do it again.
Heath ledger, Daniel day Lewis, and many other method actors talk lot about finding the right voice for the character. Finding voice mean change of dialect, pitch or pace of the dialogue.
Evaluate whether you were able to give a different voice then your own. Even if you deliver the dialogue in a way you speak in real life is also acceptable but emotions, demands of situation presented in the scene must be reflected in your voice.
For example if the character is sad voice may be deep and dialogue may have slow pace. Experiment with what you feel appropriate.
In the end, the most important factor you must see if you were able to play the scene from start to finish without hiccup. Often, first timers may feel like laughing or may find themselves blank. Don’t worry. Start over but try to finish the scene. Best way to play the scene is find the objective of the scene and try to achieve it during the scene. If required, improvise but achieve the objective.
In order to learn the craft, yes it is necessary to start collecting all the method acting books but first see how much acting is “inbuilt” in you. So, for that you must test yourself to know how good or bad of an actor you are. And simplest way is to prepare a scene and perform.
And these four parameters will help you grow your method acting techniques and somewhere down the line you will feel these above mentioned dramatic qualities are your most powerful tools for your acting.