The madness behind Method.
Method acting has provided us with some of the greatest performances of the past century – think Marlon Brando and James Dean. But that kind of preparation just doesn’t seem to cut it in today’s film, television, and alternative media markets (and let’s face it, that’s why you either schlepped out to LA, or are thinking of doing so, right?).
The Method, I found, was just peachy if you had four weeks of rehearsal, a superb cast, a wonderful director, and a trust fund, but not so spiffy for real life. What happens when you finally get the perfect audition, but only have a couple hours to “find” your character? What about when you have to do your scene with a French-speaking script supervisor because the star — who has already shot his coverage — is vacationing in Venezuela? What happens when your “muse” is nowhere to be found…when you just don’t “feel it”?
When I was under the spell of Method acting alone, I felt nothing and wondered what was wrong with me. Or I felt every single little thing acutely, intensely, interminably, all the time. And? No one seemed to notice. I could feel the crap out of it and still not book; I could not feel anything and book the crap out of it anyway.
Aha! I thought. What I was feeling didn’t actually matter! What mattered was that the audience felt something! (After all, they paid for the ticket. Or the cable. Or the Netflix.)
Acting should be effortless.
In addition, everything was out of my control: would I ever GET an audition? If so, when? How? Would the role be right for me? Would “They” think it was right for me? What were “They” looking for? Who were “They” anyway? How should I look? What should I wear?! Would I have to sneak out of my day job to get there? Would I get fired? (Probably.) Should I get fired? (Probably.) Should I quit my day job? (Absolutely.) Could I quit my day job? (Absolutely not.) Would “They” notice if I threw up in their garbage can?
Of course, I couldn’t do anything about any of it. Still can’t. Neither can you. But if you’re willing to try some stuff, I can probably fix it so that, at the very least, you can always count on your acting. Wouldn’t that be a relief?
Acting, I think, should be effortless – like breathing. You should be able to act brilliantly, whether you’re on location in the freezing cold desert at 4:00 a.m. with an octogenarian director chasing you around the make-up trailer (yup, that happened; I’ll tell you about it some time), cold reading Shakespeare at the Public Theatre, or auditioning for yet another FAST AND FURIOUS sequel.
That’s what I needed to be able to do — and couldn’t do — when I was acting. (I’m still pretty irritated about that. Can you tell?) So that’s what I want you to have: total and complete (and justifiable!) confidence in your own acting.
Acting is, after all, just behaving like a person. And I think you’re already one of those. Most – if not all – of you get better instantaneously (which is very cool to watch, by the way). But the real thrill is watching the even more dramatic changes and seeing the confidence . . . and independence . . . and the jobs . . . you get over time.
I can’t wait to get started.
I’ve been in love with acting since I was a three-year-old klutz and fell off the lip of the stage into the arms of the audience.
I went to Cornell University, got a BFA in Acting from NYU, and an MFA in Acting from The Yale School of Drama. That was followed by some regional theatre, tv and a nomination for an Outer Circle Critic’s Award while I ran the BFA Program in Acting at Marymount Manhattan College. There I created the Senior Showcase, which introduced a number of now well-known actors to the Business. I then moved to LA, booked a couple guest shots, some movies-of-the-week and a pilot and was, nevertheless, hopelessly miserable.
One bright, Sunday morning my friends and I were breakfasting at the Farmer’s Market, bemoaning the fate of the LA actor. “Have you ever been happy?” Inquired one particularly sensitive friend.
“Yup,” I said, inhaling a bagel. “When I was teaching acting in New York.” I said.
We stared at each other.
And started a class.
The rest is history, thanks to Josh Rosenzweig, Pamela Adlon, Stephanie Davis and Susie Balaban. Special thanks to the greatest acting teacher in the world , Barbara June Greener Patterson.Love, LES