Ask Veleka Question, "Acting Schools and Methods"
- Hi everybody!
Johnny Rock here....The rumors are not true. I am alive and well. Please forgive my absence since the 1st. I hope that everyone else has had a Great New Year so far. I really wanted to kick off the New Year with our much inticipated "Ask Veleka Question".... however......without further delay......
Gulf South Actors:
Q). How many legitimate, established, or at least respected acting
schools / methods are there out there, and how does an actor know
which one to study?
A). Johnny, as you know, there are dozens of methods. No single school
or method is going to suit every actor. I studied with four wonderful
teachers, but only with Warren Robertson did I study eight hours a week
for six years because only the techniques he developed out of his
training at the Actors Studio were best for me.
Actors may need to explore a lot of methods before they find the best
for themselves. Only three months before his death in 1938 Konstantin
Stanislavski, the father of our modern acting training, said: "One must
give actors various paths. One of these is the path of action. There is
another path: you can move from feeling to action, arousing feeling
One excellent way to introduce students to the "various paths" KS
suggested is to examine the odd history of the Americanization of the
Stanislavski System as it evolved from the American Laboratory Theater
in the 1920s (Boleslavsky and Ouspenskaya) to the work of their
students, Strasberg ("The Method") and Stella Adler ("Given
Circumstances") in the '30s, then in turn to Strasberg's and Adler's
pupil, Sandy Meisner, whose discoveries in the '50s and '60s ("Creative
Daydreaming") are now so popular.
Another "path" is to examine the Sovietization of the KS System from The
Method of Physical Action at the Moscow Art Theatre in the 1940s, which
in turn led to Grotowski's post-war work in Poland, and eventually to
the present-day importance of outer physical rather than inner
psychological action that we see in the work of so many Americans such
as Anne Bogart.
To begin your research, here is a list of well-known teachers. You have
the works of:
Viola Spolin / Paul Sills
and David Mamet / William H. Macy (A Practical Handbook for the Actor).
That's just to begin, and that list can be broken down into several
different branches according to teachers that split off with their own
styles and methods. During the '60s and '70s, there were many directors
of experimental theatre who designed exercises in sound and movement...
folks like Joe Chaiken of the Open Theatre and Richard Schechner of The
Performance Group. Arthur Wagner worked transactional analysis into his
actor training. And Michael Green parodies bad acting in his classic,
"The Art of Coarse Acting" (a text that was required reading when my
friend Bill Smith taught MFA acting at Cornell.) Of course, Michael
Shurtleff gets an honorable mention for his book "Audition" and his
workshops, which made Stanislavski practical.
There is also the work of:
And you have body training:
Dance (modern and classical, and there are splits in those branches)
Yoga, which has many variations: Hatha, Lyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini
(and I know there are more!)
And what about acquiring such skills as fencing or horseback riding or
learning dialects? Does the actor's training ever end?
Frankly, I never touch on any of this with my students. I don't think
they need it, and if they do require special training like scuba diving
or piloting a plane for a production, I can't give them that. What I
can do is teach them the art and craft of acting as developed over a
lifetime of my own work as an actress in film, on television, and on
Broadway. Then I support their development until they are adept at it.
This training I developed came out of my work in soap opera where I had
to give a good performance quickly. Since I was hired in starring roles
on six soaps consecutively over a period of fifteen years, I have
confidence that what I teach makes it possible for my students to access
their creative centers in the fastest and simplest way. Nearly all my
work with actors is designed to help them find and clear their center,
which is one of Four Steps basic to my system. Starting with the first
step that I call Going Home, actors learn how to tune into their
creativity, and it's a process that is as available to the beginner as
to the experienced professional just looking to conquer blocks. You,
among others, have watched that process, Johnny, in the workshop you
took last December 3rd. You saw that even fledglings were able to grasp
most of it in four hours and begin to give credible performances. In
the twenty years I've been training actors, I have seen that once you
have mastered my technique, accessing your creative center is easy and
However, I can't put into writing what clearing and accessing your
center means anymore than I can tell you what spinach tastes like.
Going Home and progressing through the Three Stages of Artistic Eminence
is something you must experience. No amount of description can give
someone a fair report. But once you have found your way into that
internal labyrinth and know how to go in and out at will, everything is
available to you, and you can then do exceptional work time and time
again and enjoy it.
Can anyone teach my method? I doubt it. I cannot teach exactly what I
learned from Bobby Lewis or Warren Robertson. But what works for the
individual is all that's important, and how successful you are with any
method or school depends on your relationship with your teacher, not on
the method they teach. If you can trust your teacher and find that they
truly support your education and advancement, you're lucky. Stick with
them, and you'll go far.
If you are interested in studying with me, there are a few slots open in
a class starting in Metairie on Tuesday, January 10th. Contact me at
ActorsAlliance@... for more info or call (504) 812-3379 and
leave me your number.
Internet Movie Database: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0336999/
Personal Web site: http://www.Veleka.com/
Actors Alliance Web site: http://TheActorsAlliance.com/
For more reading on this topic of schools and methods, check out two
texts, both of which survey and define the most influential artists in
acting theory: 1) "Actors on Acting" by Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chonoy
and 2) "Twentieth Century Actor Training" by Allison Hodge.
(Special thanks to Norman Schwartz, Annie Lower, and Bill Smith for
their input for this question.)