BJAS and International Methods
At Barry John Acting School, we employ exercises, scene work and projects derived from a number of international methods. These form the basis of the Barry John Method, which is tailored to the needs of Indian actors.
Any technique or method is only to help you grow as an artist. In class everyone will use the same technique, but on a real world shoot no one cares what technique you are using as long as you are doing the work as required by the script and director.
The modern Method madness began with Russian Konstantin Stanislavsky, who introduced psychology to the craft of acting. Western film and theatre acting became more than representation. A performance had to be above all a ‘believable truth’. In Stanislavsky’s method, actors use real life situations to create an ’emotional memory’, drawing on past situations to recreate emotions needed for a scene. Using repeated actions, among other physical methods, actors access emotions and ‘become the role’.
This “Method Acting” was further developed in the United States into different schools, all with an intention of creating truthful behaviour in acting. Stella Adler explored the use of imagination and how it can help the actor to create firm decisions. Meisner focused on finding the right activities and behaviour which has personal meaning to the actor. Viola Spolin used improvisation and games to unleash an actor’s creativity and sense of play which in turn would open up new ways of self expression. Some highlights of these methods:
Lee Strasberg Method
Strasberg’s method is probably the closest to the Stanislavsky method. In its most basic form Stanislavsky asks of the actor “If I were in this circumstance what would I do?” whereas Strasberg asks “What would motivate me, the actor, to behave in the way the character does?”
The Meisner Technique
Sanford Meisner believed that Strasberg’s Method caused the actor to focus too much on themselves. Meisner’s technique teaches the actor to fully immerse in the moment and concentrate on their partner in a scene. Meisner wanted to teach actors how to “live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” The Meisner technique and training is based on ‘actions’, constantly reminding actors to “doing” than focusing on the dialogue. At BJAS we have Meisner exercises and projects because this method works best with younger actors in India who may not have a wealth of experience to draw on. We have found that working on improvisation and spontaneity makes scenes on film ‘come alive’.
The Stella Adler Technique
Stella Adler actually studied directly with Stanislavsky in 1934. When she studied with Stanislavsky his theory had been revised and he was looking at how an actor must use imagination, not memory, to create emotion on stage. Strasberg’s method used an actor’s personal emotional memories, much like the early teachings of Stanislavsky. Agreeing with Meisner regarding actions, Adler taught actors to be able to justify every action on stage or screen.
The Spolin Technique
Stanislavsky in his later years believed that improvisation was really the only way for an actor to reach their subconscious through their conscious and be able to deliver true emotion.
Viola Spolin created theatre games which assisted the actor in focusing on the present moment. She was the first to consider the audience, they too became a player, nobody was passive in her technique. Spolin developed exercises and games which would fool spontaneity into being. Some of Spolin’s games have found their way to BJAS courses, while we have many others with similar goals.
The exercises, games, projects and scene work we have adapted from these international methods have proven to work–to help you to ‘Become an Actor’.