The theater is a spiritual and social x-ray of its time.
Method Acting originated around 1900 with techniques pioneered
by Russian actor/director Constantine Stanislavsky. It became part of the American vocabulary with the politically charged performances of the Group
Theater in the 1930s and at the Actors Studio in the 1950s, both under
the direction of Lee
Mainstream media caught on to Method Acting during the 1950s with the films of Elia
Kazan and the revolutionary acting styles of Marlon Brando,
Shelley Winters, Paul Newman, Eva Maria Saint, James Dean
and of course, Marilyn Monroe.
In the 1960s and 70s it became associated
with the work of Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Al Pacino,
Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen, Sally Field,
Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda and Ellen Burstyn. It is now attached to the work of Daniel Day Lewis, Sean Penn, Charleze Theron, Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslett, Johnny Depp and Juilet Binoche, to name just a few.
During the 1960s and 70s over 200 Academy
award winners and nominees were members of the Actors
Studio under the direction of Lee Strasberg.
Other names connected with Method Acting are Sanford Meisner,
Harold Clurman and the incredible Stella Adler, all of whom were inspired by Stanislavsky's personal search for truth and the mystery as to why truth is central to great acting.
Method Acting is an excellent way to learn about dramatic acting, however
I do not believe there is a paint-by-numbers approach to becoming
a great performing artist. It's like rapping... you need talent, the blues, luck and time.
Techniques and insights from Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, Stella Adler,
Eleanora Duse and Peter
Brook are also a big part of my class.
For more details on my personal story please read 'Demystifying the Method'. SM
Shelley Mitchell teaches in Los Angeles and San Francisco at newly renamed business The Duse Studio of Dramatic Art (formerly The Actors Center of San Francisc)o. She also teaches master classes in New York, Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin and Rome.
"You can learn more in one of
Shelley's classes about improving yourself as an actor than
you can in a year with ACT or Berkeley classes. There is a
level of honesty and trust in her class which literally takes
your breath away. Combine this with Shelley's extremely accomplished,
astute and always constructive skill as an acting teacher
and you get, in my opinion, the best acting class in the Bay
Area." (click here for more
Her approach to acting training is inspired by the power of truth, the power of the present moment and the power of the human spirit. She encourages young actors to formulate a clear vision of what they want to say as and help them get a grip on the art of acting.
Each 3 hour class is divided into two parts. The first part
focuses on individual development of concentration, relaxation
and emotional response to imaginary situations. The technique
used to facilitate this is called the Sense Memory Exercise.
These exercises are the basic building blocks for an actor
as well as being a practical tool for use in performance.
The second part of the class focuses on scene work with a
partner and script.
The 8 week course is designed to introduce basic techniques.
Those who wish may continue with the class on a monthly basis.
Check the Schedule page for details.
Please prepare the exercise below if you have already enrolled in
Sense memory is re-living sensations that were experienced
through the five senses. Strasberg stressed the term re-living,
not just remembering, explaining that the difference lies
between knowing something and truly recreating it. That difference,
between mental activity - remembering- and reliving the experience,
Strasberg explained, was not made up by Stanislavski or his
modern interpreters but is substantiated by psychology. Please
prepare the following exercise for your first class.
please prepare for the first class
Remember, you are not doing this exercise in order to learn
to stage physical actions or mime! The things you do in practicing
this exercise you may never do when playing a role. The purpose
of this exercise is to experience and fix in memory the reliving
of all the sensory aspects of the breakfast drink. Choose
what you habitually drink in the morning (e.g. a cold fruit
juice or a hot drink like tea or coffee). Take the cup or
glass in both hands and concentrate on your five senses- one
at a time. Feel the texture, weight and balance of the container
and the heat, steam or cold. Smell the aroma. See the color,
size , shape, groves and nicks of the container and the liquid.
Hear the shloshing of the liquid, preferably several times.
While you are concentrating on the taste, also be aware of
the touch of the container against your lips and tongue, the
temperature of the liquid, the texture of the liquid and container
and all other sensory aspects. This whole procedure should
be done slowly watery investigation and exploration of all
sensations. Now set the container down, turn away and repeat
the entire procedure without the breakfast drink.
If you find that you are not able to recreate some of the
sensations experienced with the actual cup or glass in your
hand, go back to the physical object itself and explore it
again. Concentrate on weak sensory aspects as you work with
the container (for example, if you cannot relive the odor,
return to the drink and focus on the odor in particular).
By thus alternating between the actual drink and imaginarily
re-experiencing the drink, weak sensory aspects may be strengthened
and the experience relived. The exercise is now ready to bring
into class, without the real object. Subsequent exercises will
be prescribed at the end of each session. The observation
procedure outlined above is highly suggested for all the Sense
Memory exercises that will follow.
(quoted from Strasberg's Method by Laurie Hull)
In acting, you are the instrument; body, mind and spirit.
The second half of the class is focused on relationships with
other actors and the audience. The goal is to consciously
remove barriers to make us more sensitive to our own intuitive
powers. Barriers or 'blocks' as they are commonly called by
many actors, inhibit communication and emotional expression.
Freedom from convention lets a number of things happen...
namely authentic & spontaneous behavior that the audience
will buy into. It also allows insights and impulses from deep
within our sub-conscious to come forth and answer questions
we didn't even know we had!
In order to prepare for this part of the course it is essential
that you choose a five minute scene between two characters
or a monologue that personally means a great deal
to you. The scene can come from a play, film
or novel but the most important point is that the message
and circumstances of the scene are based on things you already
know a great deal about from your own life experience. You
must love the message in the scene. Also, you should be physically
believable as the character (i.e. no young women playing Hamlet,
no young men playing St. Joan etc...).
You will need to choose someone in the class to act the other
character for you, and get together for one or two rehearsals
before you bring the scene into class. You don't have to memorize
the scene. In fact, if you are new to acting and don't know
how to rehearse just bring the scene in and we will have the
first rehearsal together in class. Experienced actors are
expected to memorize. The purpose of this part of the course
is to train the actor's mind to look at the raw emotional
material that comes up while interacting with other people
... and to make creative choices that best illuminate the
Germany, Iceland, France, Ecuador, Native American, Sweden,
Canada, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines,
Mexico, Spain, Liberia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico,
England, Russia, Croatia, Norway, Romania, Korea, Japan, Italy,
Ireland, Finland, India, Hungary, Holland, Argentina, Turkey, Holland and China.
We have a growing circle of students who've gone to NYC and
LA. Almost all of our students have gotten
into the graduate or trade schools of their choice, including
the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Actors Studio
Master's program, UCLA, NYU, Circle in the Square and the
Neighborhood Playhouse. Almost all of the students who
are first time actors have been cast in local(San Francisco)
independent films after less than a year of working at ACSF.
Others have gone to Europe with a focus in both theater and
• How to focus your attention
• Script Analysis
• The evolution of 70s films into Indie films
• How to understand the impact of Stanislavsy and the Actors Studio around the world.
• Audition Preperation
Rita Moreno & Shelley Mitchell photo by