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.

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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"The Universe Of Us" Has The Most Relatable Quotes

"The Universe of Us" by Lang Leav features all the feelings and emotions about that special one that we aren't able to admit to ourselves.


Listed below are 11 of the most relatable quotes within the poetry book, "The Universe of Us," by Lang Leav. It points out the mistakes and the aftermath of a breakup.

1. I Loved Him

"I loved how his eyes danced merrily, and the gentle way he spoke; the way he filled my aimless days, with bitterness and hope. I loved him as I fell to sleep, and each morning as I woke; I loved him with all my wayward heart - until the day it broke." Lang Leav

2. To Know Him

"If you want to know his heart, pay close attention to what angers him. If you want to know his mind, listen for the words that linger in his silence. If you want to know his soul, look at where his eyes are when you catch him smiling." Lang Leav

3. Today

"Today I am not in my skin. My body cannot contain me. I am spilling out and over, like a rogue wave on the shore. Today I can't keep myself from feeling like I don't have a friend in the world. And no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to pick myself up off the floor. My demons are lying in the wait, they are grinning in the shadows, their polished fangs glinting, knowing today, it will be an easy kill. But tomorrow, tomorrow could be different, and that is what keeps me going today." Lang Leav

4. Impossibility

"Do you know the feeling when you're so happy that you can't imagine ever being sad again? Or when you're so sad that you no longer believe you could ever be happy? When you tell me you love me, I always think of that strange emotion - that feeling of impossibility. You say you love me, and you can't imagine a future without me in it, yet all I can think of is how you must have felt the same way once about someone else." Lang Leav

5. The Longest Good-Bye

"The longest good-bye is always the hardest. Love for the sake of love is most painful of all protraction." Lang Leav

6. Still

"We may not be in love anymore, but you're still the only one who knows me." Lang Leav

7. A Lesson

"There is a girl who smiles all the time, to show the world that she is fine. A boy who surrounds himself with friends, wishes that his life would end. For those that say they never knew - the saddest leaves the least of clues." Lang Leav

8. Anything Else

"I want to plant a seed in your mind, some tiny particle of thought that bears a remnant of me. So little by little, day by day, you find yourself thinking of me, until one morning, you will wake up and realize you can't think of anything else." Lang Leav

9. Gone

"The sad thing is, she said, the moment you start to miss someone, it means they're already gone." Lang Leav

10. Salve

"You've made your choice, and there's nothing I can do, she said. I don't think you want me in your life anymore, and I have to find a way to live with that. You said you would still be there for me, but I don't want to be a mere courtesy - a salve for your guilt. You won't hear from me again after today, and I don't want you to worry. I'll be okay. Because I have to be." Lang Leav

11. Ravine

"I think maybe we were cursed or just plain unlucky. You had your ideas about love, and I had mine. And as much as we tried, we couldn't make it work. I don't think it was the lack of feeling or intention that broke us - it was one small misunderstanding after another. Isn't it strange how a minor disparity can grow into a ravine? In the end, it was enough to tear us apart." Lang Leav

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