The Emotional Dangers Of Method Acting

The Emotional Dangers Of Method Acting

Because sometimes you can't just screw your courage to the sticking place.

If you are at all a fan of Daniel Day-Lewis, Anne Hathaway, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, or the many other actors who employ it, you know about method acting. In its most widely known form, (though not quite what Strasberg meant when he coined the term), it is the idea that in order to play a character truthfully, an actor must ‘live’ the character or pieces of the character’s life. For example, if your character has just gotten back from living in the woods for six months, you might go camping. (If you’re Day-Lewis, you might actually live in the woods for six months.)

I personally employ this whenever my character has a habit that I don’t fully understand. For instance, I played Anne in a student-directed production of Noel Coward’s "Shadows of the Evening." Anne is a reticent, upper-class Englishwoman who chain-smokes. I am not a smoker at all and I had no idea how to motivate her smoking. So I took the two weeks of rehearsal and became a smoker in order to learn how to handle a cigarette naturally and to understand why people smoke.

I discovered two things: that I hate smoking (it smells bad, is needlessly messy, and I am ridiculously sensitive to nicotine), and that Anne smokes when she feels things that she does not want to feel or does not know how to express. This insight was helpful, because it allowed me to use the smoking to show her emotional moments. Without that, she falls flat and disappears behind Linda and George.

While method acting can be useful in that way, it can also be extremely dangerous. Physically, but also emotionally. Many of the great acting teachers theorized on how to best portray a character’s emotions. Some believed that it was more important to show the emotion than to feel it; others believed that feeling the emotion was the first step in showing it and thus created ways of accessing real emotion. Which, if either, you choose is largely dependent upon who you are as a person and as an actor. If you access real emotion, however, you should be careful. Especially if you are also a method actor.

This is because plays, television shows, and movies are generally about ‘special’ moments in their characters’ lives. The moments when things happen to them. Emotions usually run high. You have to be careful when using your own emotional memories to access levels for these scenes. There is such thing as going too far. For example, if you are playing a character who experiences a moment similar to one of the worst moments in your life, such as getting beaten up, it might not be a good idea to use that moment to motivate the scene because it might take a long time to re-recover from it.

I say this not because I want to dim your brilliance, but because I know that things happen that are difficult to recover from. There is a reason that many people believe that Heath Ledger's method acting for the Joker greatly contributed to his death. Is it worth your mental health to stir up terrible memories so that you can play the character with greater verisimilitude? Unless it is a really important, one time performance, probably not.

Granted, I am sure there are people who can dredge up terrible memories, put them on stage or screen, and leave them there when they go home at night. If you are one of those people, my hat is off to you. If you are not, I suggest you leave the extreme method acting at home and try a different technique with a less terrible, though still emotionally relevant, moment.

I get it. Believe me, I do. Theatre is important. Acting in whatever form is important. The show must go on and we must breathe as much life into the production as we can. However, you have to take your health into consideration, especially your mental health. “All the world’s a stage,” so make sure that you keep the production that is your life flowing smoothly and soundly so that you can do what you love.

Cover Image Credit: MoviePilot

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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