By Jill Place, The Acting Intuitive
I read a lot of articles and blogs about acting. The other day, I happened upon a movie blog with the title “The Decline of High Caliber Actors and Accepting Mediocrity as Greatness”. You can read it here. I was intrigued by the topic, as I’ve always thought that performance ethic is definitely declining. The reasons are twofold: first, there has yet to be a refreshingly new approach to the realistic acting paradigm made famous by Stanislavski a hundred years ago.
Those of us who were lucky enough, like me, studied with that bevy of celebrity coaches like Strasberg and Meisner who found their own way to interpret Stanslavski’s teachings and make them their own. They sparked a generation of great actors. These once-magical techniques worked like gangbusters then; I’m not so sure they do today.
The second reason is the decline of live theatre and the preponderance of film and television. It’s not a bad thing; it’s just that theatre is the ultimate training ground for the young actor. It’s a thrill ride that starts with your first entrance and becomes a glorious boulder rolling downhill until your final curtain call. If you’re skilled, you can guide the trajectory to spectacular ends on the way down. I can’t think of anything more taxing or transforming! Even at those times when I never quite got my fast costume changes on before I was forced back onto the boards in Our Town. The arduous process of rehearsal, too, gives us the skills we need to shine.
“Jawsome,” the bright lady from Australia who wrote the blog entry, said,
To be a great, powerful actor, you need the intensity within yourself to capture the audience’s attention to the point they cannot look away. Intensity can be subtle but effective, or it can be so over the top it feels like you are getting hit with a sledgehammer. Either way it works for all the right reasons. Some of the most intense actors are Method actors and actors who are known not just for the silver screen but also for the stage. You have to possess an extraordinary talent to be consistently amazing on stage. You have to practice to the point that you are living the character’s life, so when you are on stage, the audience isn’t even there, the script you have memorized is embedded into your brain, heart, flesh, just your whole being.”
In an upcoming Reader’s Digest article, Sir Ian McKellan also laments that
Today’s young actors will never develop into fine middle-aged performers because they have not honed their talents in repertory theatre.”
I agree with both. How could I not! I’m a Method-trained stage actor. There was a golden time when actors were so well-trained from the stage up that they could do just about any role. Not only that, they were revered for their craft. The iconic generation that spawned Streep, DeNiro, Pacino, and Hoffman is in its 60s and beyond. The next generation, also theatre-trained, are now in their 40s. Where is the respect and rigor we had then available today?
So I think now is the ideal time for a new paradigm. Let’s rethink this outdated training and find a brand new way to embrace our craft that encompasses our new venues in the best of all possible ways. I don’t know what it is yet, but demand often leads to new solutions. I can’t wait to see what will transpire!