9 Acting Techniques All Actors MUST Know

Studying the art of acting and acting techniques does take a long time, it’s all about commitment and being open to learning important techniques. You will want to continually learn and develop, and it makes you step out of your comfort zone to really improve as an actor and become the best possible actor you can imagine.

There is no one technique or path an actor must follow. Many follow multiple and hone their skills to develop a unique acting ability to themselves.

What is an Acting Technique

An acting technique is a tool / technique that an actor can use to help them create a character. There are many different techniques, and each actor will find their own favorites. Some techniques are based on physical movement, while others focus on the mental aspects of performing. However, all of these techniques can be useful in creating a believable and compelling character.

Some are classical acting techniques, modern acting techniques and there are even shakespearean acting techniques.. but we won’t go into those. We shall delve into the more famous acting techniques that are known.

Tips on Acting with Matthew McConaughey

Here’s a great video by Matthew McConaughey on when to read your lines, regardless of the type of acting you are working on.

The 9 Acting Techniques All Actors MUST Know:

While there are probably dozens of various techniques out there, the 9 acting technique we will be focusing on will be:

  1. Classical acting – Stanislavski’s acting technique
  2. Uta Hagen’s realism technique
  3. Meisner technique
  4. Lee Strasberg’s technique
  5. Michael Chekhov technique
  6. Method acting
  7. Stella Adler
  8. Practical Aesthetics technique
  9. Viola Spolin’s – “theatre games”

Have you ever thought of becoming a voice over actor? 

Let’s dive in!

1. Stanislavski’s Acting Technique

Classical acting is an acting technique created by Constantin Stanislavski. This method is very much a systematic approach to acting which focuses on voice, physical, dramatic analysis, emotion, memory, and observation.

Stanislavski’s style of theatre was very much of the idea that you pick and choose the areas of focus to mold to your own acting ability and really mould your own style picking and choosing different aspects to add to your skillset.

The Stanislavski acting method is known for using the actor’s feelings and experiences to put into the character, to really portray the character’s feelings to the truest level.

Some of the key aspects of the Stanislavski technique include:

Living the life of your character:

In order to create a believable and relatable character, it is important that you understand their background, motivations, and objectives. This means delving deep into the script and developing a three-dimensional characterization.

Making bold choices:

Once you have fully fleshed out your character, it is important to commit to bold choices and risk-taking in order to bring them to life on stage or screen.

Acting with intention:

Every action you take as an actor should be done with a specific purpose and intention. This will help to ensure that your performance is focused and believable.

Constantin Stanislavsky
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What are the 7 pillars of Stanislavski acting techniques?

The 7 pillars of Stanislavski’s acting technique are:
1. Relaxation
2. Concentration
3. Imagination
4. Sense memory
5. Emotional memory
6. Substitution
7. Physical actions

2. Uta Hagen’s Realism Technique

Another popular technique is Uta Hagen’s realism technique, which is based on the idea that actors should aim to be as real and naturalistic as possible in their performances. This means creating a believable character by drawing upon your own personal experiences and emotions.

The realism technique is an interesting one, submerging yourself within acting methods. It’s all about building deeper connections with your character and building a much deeper truth. This means you as an actor will transfer your open thoughts, feelings, and experiences into the characters building a realistic view and performance of the character. 

Some of the key aspects of Hagen’s realism technique include:

Honesty:

In order to create a believable and relatable character, it is important that you are honest in your performance. This means being truthful to both yourself and the character you are portraying.

Imagination:

While it is important to be honest in your performance, it is also important to use your imagination to create a three-dimensional characterization. This means delving deep into the script and developing a rich backstory for your character.

Emotional memory:

Another important aspect of Hagen’s technique is emotional memory, or the idea that actors should draw upon their own personal experiences to inform their performances. This will help to create a more believable and realistic character.

What was Uta Hagen known for?

Uta Hagen was known for her work as an actress and acting teacher. She was a pioneer of the realism technique, and her book “A Challenge for the Actor” is considered to be one of the most important books on acting ever written.

3. The Meisner Technique

Sanford Meisner
Sanford Meisner

The Meisner technique is another popular method, created by Sanford Meisner. This technique is based on the idea of “repetition” and encourages actors to get out of their heads and into the moment.

The Meisner technique is also based on the truth of acting. Meisner created this around the actor living truthfully when portraying an actor’s internal and external actions, to give a lifelike, believable character that the audience would love to see more of.

The most memorable exercise from Meisner is the repetition exercise. Where two people face each other and repeat a sentence. The sentence changes in tone and it allows the actors to respond in a unique, and natural way as there are no line readings or forgetting lines – it’s a simple sentence repeated back and forth.

Some of the key aspects of the Meisner technique include:

Repetition:

The Meisner technique is based on the idea of “repetition” and encourages actors to get out of their heads and into the moment. This means repeating actions and words over and over again in order to develop a natural rhythm and flow.

Improvisation:

Another important aspect of the Meisner technique is improvisation. This means allowing the scene to unfold in the moment and reacting truthfully to what is happening.

Listening:

The Meisner technique also emphasizes the importance of listening. This means being fully present and aware of your fellow actors and reacting truthfully to what they are saying and doing.

4. The Lee Strasberg Technique

The Lee Strasberg technique is another popular method, created by Lee Strasberg. This technique is based on the idea of “method acting” and encourages actors to use their own personal experiences to inform their performances.

Lee Strasberg’s method is all-around actors intensifying their connection to their character within their day to day lives, slowly adding little parts as they go on, submerging their character. By doing this the actor will have a greater understanding of their character, how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, and how they interact.

Some of the key aspects of the Strasberg technique include:

Method acting:

The Strasberg technique is based on the idea of “method acting” and encourages actors to use their own personal experiences to inform their performances. This means delving deep into the script and developing a rich backstory for your character.

Emotional memory:

Another important aspect of the Strasberg technique is emotional memory, or the idea that actors should draw upon their own personal experiences to inform their performances. This will help to create a more believable and realistic character.

Sense memory:

The Strasberg technique also emphasizes the importance of sense memory, or the ability to remember and recreate specific sensory details from your past experiences. This can be helpful in creating a more believable and realistic performance.

What was Lee Strasberg known for?

Lee Strasberg was known for his work as an actor and acting teacher. He was a pioneer of the method acting technique, and his book “A Actor Prepares” is considered to be one of the most important books on acting ever written.

5. Michael Chekhov Technique

The Michael Chekhov technique is another popular method, created by Michael Chekhov. This technique is based on the idea of “psychological gesture” and encourages actors to use their bodies to express the inner psychological life of their characters.

Chekhov’s “psycho-physical” technique draws the physical actions of the body to the mind and develops a sensual approach to acting.

With the Chekhov acting technique, the actor focuses on the internal problem the character is experiencing, rather than the outward-facing expression of the emotion in terms of movement. The actor physicalises the internal need, allowing the physical expression to be performed on an unconscious level. This method brings out a lot of truth and realism to the character.

Some of the key aspects of the Chekhov technique include:

Psychological gesture:

The Chekhov technique is based on the idea of “psychological gesture” and encourages actors to use their bodies to express the inner psychological life of their characters. This means finding ways to physically represent your character’s thoughts and emotions.

Imagination:

Another important aspect of the Chekhov technique is imagination. This means using your imagination to create a vivid and realistic world for your character to inhabit.

Atmosphere:

The Chekhov technique also emphasizes the importance of atmosphere. This means creating an environment that is conducive to your character’s inner life and emotional state.

Who uses the Chekhov technique?

The Chekhov technique is used by actors all over the world. It is particularly popular in Europe and has been used by some of the most famous actors in history, including Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn and Clint Eastwood.

Fun fact, Chekov was actually a student of Stanislavski’s and Chekov’s method of acting has been added to the Stanislavski system.

READ MORE: The best acting books: 5 books all actors MUST read

6. Method Acting

Method actingMethod acting sits close to the teachings of Sanford Meisner and Lee Strasberg. It’s credited to Lee Strasberg but it is a stalwart in the way Meisner and Adler both teach.

Method acting is all about drawing personal connections from your feelings and experiences to the character. This creates a lifelike and realistic portrayal of the character using sensory memory.

The method acting technique will force actors to imagine themselves as the character and develop the thoughts and actions of the character in intricate detail for their performance.

Some of the key aspects of the Method acting technique include:

Emotional memory:

The Method acting technique is based on the idea of “emotional memory” and encourages actors to use their own personal experiences to inform their performances. This means delving deep into the script and developing a rich backstory for your character.

Sense memory:

Another important aspect of the Method acting technique is sense memory, or the ability to remember and recreate specific sensory details from your past experiences. This can be helpful in creating a more believable and realistic performance.

Who uses the Method acting technique?

The Method acting technique is used by actors all over the world. It is particularly popular in America and has been used by some of the most famous actors in history, including Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Al Pacino.

7. Stella Adler Technique

Stella Adler’s acting method of teaching is linked to the above (Method acting) as she was a student of Strasberg. However, her method does differ. Stella’s was focused on imagination, creating a world within the actor’s mind. The emotional recall is included but imagination overcomes that.

It’s about using personal experiences and actions but then adding to them, exaggerating and growing what has happened to you to create a heightened performance.

The Adler acting method one of the powerful acting methods but gets impressive results.

Some of the key aspects of the Stella Adler technique include:

Substitution:

The Stella Adler technique is based on the idea of “substitution” and encourages actors to use their imagination to create a believable and realistic performance. This means finding ways to replace your own personal experiences with those of your character.

Sense memory:

Another important aspect of the Stella Adler technique is sense memory, or the ability to remember and recreate specific sensory details from your past experiences. This can be helpful in creating a more believable and realistic performance.

Who uses the Stella Adler technique?

The Stella Adler technique is used by actors all over the world. It is particularly popular in America and has been used by some of the most famous actors in history, including Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Al Pacino.

What exercises are associated with Stella Adler?

There are many different exercises associated with the Stella Adler technique. One popular exercise is called “affective memory”, which involves recalling a past experience and then trying to recreate the emotions associated with that experience.

8. Practical Aesthetics Technique

Practical ActingPractical Aesthetics acting technique is split into two pieces. Think before you act and act before you think. The classes focus on the analysis of the script and breaking it down into smaller pieces.

As an actor you break down the script into the following:

  • Literal
  • Want
  • Essential Action
  • As If

This method is to highlight the action and is based on the actor rather than the character.

9. Viola Spolin’s – “Theatre Games”

Viola Spolins “Theatre Games” method is all about living in the moment, to act and react spontaneously. Viola’s method is focused on self-direction and spontaneity, it’s often used at the start of acting classes as a warm-up to get everyone focused a ready. The idea around the spontaneity is to give realism to the character that the actor is portraying, acting and reacting with real conviction and realism.

Read this book: Improvisation for the Theater

What technique do most actors use?

Among the various styles of acting, Method acting is the most popular as it gives the actor the change to really immerse themselves into the role and thus output a more realistic performance.

Acting Techniques Conclusion

There are many different acting techniques out there, and it’s important to find one that works for you. These three methods are just a few of the most popular techniques used by actors today. So, do some research, experiment, and find the technique that helps you to create the best performances.

Now that you know about some of the most popular acting techniques, it’s time to start putting them into practice! Experiment with different techniques and see what works best for you. There is no one “right” way to act, so find the methods that work best for you and your own unique style.

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Jay Neill

Jay Neill is the founder, owner, and managing editor of iFilmThings and believes everyone should have access to the film resources they need to plan their filmmaking project, which is why he’s dedicated iFilmThings to helping all filmmakers.

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