Methods and styles of Acting

Acting is an art of storytelling by gesture and body movement combined with conversation between enacting people. It can also be portrayed by characters in running audio visuals in a universal accepted format. There are several visual formats of storytelling such as theatre, Films, TV series and the most glorified among them is storytelling. It originated in India- The street theatres of India Nautanki’s. These groups displayed the various Indian folklores and great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata in a semi dance musical form on street theatre moving from city to city, state to state all across India. Various Indian dance forms are also very famous internationally in portraying characters when enacting on stage. It’s all about gestural presentation of emotions in its own unique format accompanied by music and lighting to glorify the emotions. Be it about war or love story, an epic or village folklore, we had it all in India. But with modernization taking place, the theatre evolved with Shakespeare’s work laying the real foundation of the art of modern acting techniques. There were several other artists/actors who invented their own form of acting which was later so successful that today they comprise of the most glorified and sought after actors of the century.

The most successful of all was Constantin Stanislavski whose technique were influenced and developed by Lee Strasberg as a method known as Methodic Acting, classic example being Al Pacino..

Let us now see the various techniques of acting invented by various great artists…

Acting Techniques by Shakespeare.

Shakespeare has a body of work that is by far one of the most difficult acting styles to pull off successfully, it is also one of the most sort after and a serious thespians dream. Attempting to learn ‘Old English’ is comparable to learning a foreign language and remembering your lines is terribly difficult, especially lengthy monologues. However there are a few acting techniques for Shakespeare that will help ease the complexity of your role.

Firstly watch the film of the play, that you have been cast in and make extensive notes. Delivery, pronunciation and projection needs to be practiced frequently. Think about just how old the play is and how different society was in Shakespearean times. Think about the plays content, message and your characters purpose to the play and the feelings your character would be experiencing. Spend some time learning old English, knowing what you are saying will bring with it conviction rather than just reeling of a few memorized words meaninglessly. Practice in front of a mirror; check your posture, breathing and reaction stance.

Method Acting

Method acting involves adopting the lifestyle, habits or traits that are a reflection of the character you are trying to portray. Immersing yourself heavily into your characters mindset, will enable you to understand their motives or actions and gain a better understanding of how they feel. As a result you portray them with greater accuracy; many successful actors and actresses have adopted this particular method and as a result gained awards and praise for performances using method acting.


Constantin Stanislavski influenced the acting world so greatly that most modern acting techniques stem from Stanislavskian approaches. Stanislavski acting involves analyzing the script and segmenting it. Looking at what method a character resorts to, to overcome obstacles and reach their objectives. Which of the three path’s of action would they pursue, would they give up when faced with an obstacle, find a way to solve their problem or carry on regardless of their plight? His emphasis was on realism and accurate reflection of reality by using exercises like the ‘magic if’ what would you do if this happened to you and why do you think your character would act in this way.

Brecht Acting Techniques.

The Brechtian approach includes acting formats such as stereotypes, using placards, ensemble and montage. Bertolt Brecht was the father of epic theatre; his goal was to influence the audience into thinking about society and encouraging change within it. He placed great emphasis on gesture for the demonstration of emotion. He believed message was superior to character, the story and situation itself to be more important than the personal challenges within the situation. Brechtian theatre demonstrates and allows for various acting styles to co-exist.

Artaud Acting Techniques.

Artaud thought very differently to Brecht, his thinking placed heavy emphasis on invoking deep routed feelings through acting. He believed the theatre was about action and the element of surprise. His theatre of cruelty approach, of which he is better associated with, takes acting to the subconscious level, using painful memories and strong feelings to invoke strong emotion. Antonin Artaud thought less of words and more of profound impact. Whereas Brecht wanted the audience to go out and change society Artaud wanted them shaken to their soul and to look within and make Changes within themselves.

Meisner Technique.

Sanford Meisner’s technique is predominately placed on self, circumstances and affect on and reaction to others. Repetitive dialogues are used as an exercise; these enable actors to play on action and reaction, depending on how the line is delivered at that moment. It’s about considering the characters objective, reading tone and body language. Meisner’s cause and effect type teaching helps the actor to attune themselves to the community of the performance, who is friend and who is foe. What is the catalyst of change and how as a character you deal with change and the chain reaction that follows it?

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