I loved getting classical training in terms of acting. I would’ve stayed in acting school for the rest of my life if i could have. It was this amazing period of my life where everything was so safe.Dane DeHaan
Are you interested in classical acting or wondering how it is done? Well, there is no handbook or an actor who will give you the same guide and instructions on how classical acting is and how it’s done. It can be likened to rock music due to the tradition and the complexity of variations. Classical acting is no different, it can be done through different variations and it is fluid too in the sense that it has many comparisons.
In the 19th century, movie directors started having a consensus that the acting scene at the time had become too melodramatic and offered untruthful scenes and they sought to come up with a different way of acting and that is how classical acting was born. It started just like rock music started which was a reaction to the rigidity that the musicians of that time were perceived to have had. Therefore, in the same way you can characterize rock musicians as a group of who play music in bands and create music that helps people manage anger, frustration, classical acting can be looked at from the same angle. It is just a bunch of actors who choose to break the acting rules to provide viewers with a different experience.
Classical Acting Defined
Classical acting is the word used to refer to acting techniques that can be combined and used together. It entails actor’s use of their whole bodies, quality of the voice and full range, the imagination of the actor, the personalization ability of the actor, the use of external stimuli, and the ability to analyse the normal scripts.
The history of classical acting cannot be written without talking about the main developers and custodians of the main basis of the techniques who are Constantin Stanislavski and Michel Saint-Denis. The two gentlemen were both actors, theorists, and directors of movies back in their time. Constantin wrote a book with the title �’The Actor Prepares” which was a famous book at the time and was translated into English before it’s publication. Denis on the other hand started a drama school where he taught some famous actors such as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and several other actors of high repute. At one point in his career, he became a co-director for the Shakespeare company. Due to their influence on the methods used in classical acting, people sometimes refer to it as Shakespearean acting.
The basis of classical acting is based on the concept that the actor must identify with the character to enable the audience to identify the actor. The actor can ensure that this is done in a number of ways. He or she can use memory, experience that utilizes research and analysis of the play, he or she can break down the play into smaller units or he can focus on the main objective of the character. Also, the actor can rely on the idea that he can be transported from the real world to one that is imagined. Either way, the actor will have achieved the ultimate goal of identification that is the core of classical acting. All these ideas as mentioned earlier were brought about by the 2 men who are deemed to be the founders of classical acting.
Classical Actor Training
Most drama schools teach actors how to actively focus on the harnessing and control of the actors’ bodies for use in their expressions during a movie or play scene. They use exercises and stretches which ensure that the body’s awareness is increased and its ability to perceive new concepts is harnessed as it should according to what the acting teacher wants. In summary, training an actor on classical acting can be summarized as a way in which he is trained on how to use the body for the expression of action and character. The best example of this training is combat and dancing were practices of the same requirements that the body has a heightened control so that it is able to tell a story without using words.
The understanding of a trainee actor’s vocal ability, expressiveness, and quality is a key theme and issue that is important in classical training drama schools. The teachers who teach voice variation and tone use certain excises to ensure that the ranges of voice are increased and strengthened to ensure that the voice is clear and to help actors have a greater range and view for the engagement of performance. Also, the teachers have a focus on the use of voice in the expression of emotion that is clear and truthful as opposed to what is common in melodrama.
In today’s time, one can use Olivier Othello’s looks which some deem to be racist and vulgar but is still a good depiction of the way a classical actor is able to change all aspects of their body, their voice during a performance that is informed and is able to communicate with the character successfully. If you can skip through its version and take note of the way, he walks with the still upper body through the first acts you will have an idea of what we are talking about. On a later time while on the bedchamber, he is seen rolling his moving shoulders with flings in his arms as his voice falters from a beast-roaring commanding shout. This provides an example of how one can use the body and the projection of voice to tell powerful stories.
The actors who followed Stanislavski’s ways have had a great influence on classical drama theory in so many ways that the terms they have used have become part of the acting vocabulary. There are certain words that had not been used by the British and American classical movie directors prior to the 20th century and later became part of the most the game. They are words like objective, unit, and motivation that now form today’s language ways.
In classical acting, the script is revered so much so that it must be located and the actor must play the character’s objective to the book without going outside the norm. In other ways of acting, actors have leverage and freedom to change the script in areas where they feel there is a need for change. In classical acting though, there is no right way to describe what it is which makes the actor and director make the decision together. Also, objectives can be stretched over during the duration of the play or it may only exist during the moment in the sense that objectives that are shorter in nature sometimes serve one main objective.
There is a unit of classical training that provides a description of an action within a written down the script. In this one, there is no right and wrong answer and it is left to the actors and directors to make decisions during rehearsal debates. A classical actor does not have to make a composition of scenes in the units just as Shakespeare did not do it. It is therefore the responsibility of the actor and the director to ensure that the scene is chopped into smaller segments that can be named and individually rehearsed. Regardless of what you may make out about the process, the truth is that it allows for a better and closer examination for easier character management as they move through the play’s action time.
Some acting schools take this practice and combine it with the program that actors are trained with. However, most classical actors of repute usually prefer drawing on memory and experience that is personal to ensure better care and precision during an act. The fact that an actor is able to identify with a character in real life is a big part of the comprehension of the story behind the act. Therefore, there is a need to carry out a search of the path of how events that are similar to those of a person’s own life can be used for the identification with a response to provide a better understanding of action. This is common in love stories where actors are recommended to draw lines in their personal lives and where it is not possible, they can try and imagine it.
Ensuring that there is personalization is the process in which the actor may find feelings that are shared and have sensations with a character that can draw the acting process on them. This means that an actor draws experiences from real-life situations and creates a reality while he or she is on stage. The downside of this way of acting is that it has the potential of alienating other actors who may not have had the experience and may thus leave a scene in an unbalanced way.
During a performance chance of making any improvisation from the original script are minimal. However, improvisation can be a good technique to use to test how well prepared an actor who is playing a certain character is and the director’s understanding of the actor’s behavior relative to the part he or she is playing at a certain scene. To enhance good techniques, it’s essential to carry out exercises that might involve games that the actors play as if they are in character and on the scene and putting them in more extreme conditions and versions that the actual event as it may play out on the screen.
Also, one can bring in some external reference stimuli that show how characters might be influenced by external factors and objects such as worldly emotional and intellectual capabilities. It is not lost to the world that at one point or the other during a play, the viewer’s intellect and emotional conditions will be brought into play and they will question some parts of the play and the actions of actors. For this reason, a good actor should take this in mind and ensure that there his or her actions are able to navigate between the world as experienced by his viewers and what he or she is acting on the screen.
To teach the awareness of language demanded in classical acting, drama schools take Shakespeare and have a strict system that approaches dialogue in its plays for the teaching of the awareness of language. Actors are asked to learn the understanding of the verse structure and the prose used in modern plays taking the generality of patterns of the Shakespearean lines to reinforce the need for the provision of an exact memory and a performance text during an act. This process can carry the modern classical performances in instances where acting lines are treated with similar references just like it happens in poetry. The plays that come from modern classical movies and plays usually tend to be the ones similar to the ones played in the early 20th century.
Difference between Method Acting and Classical Acting
A Method system of acting is the self-indulgent meaning that it has more freedom and can get deeper to the core. Classical acting on the other hand does not get deep enough whenever there are situations that are heightened. Method acting is best suited for what the American theater is common for and was popular between the 1930s and 1950s when it was fashionable to write about extreme characters who were in similar circumstances. The actors who focus on classical action on the other hand are known to focus more on action and precision while those that focus on method acting think about emotional responses and realism more. Some people think that classical acting is too respectful. Method acting on the other hand was once described as street acting due to the broadness and carefree nature and is loved by people who have zero chills and little care in the world.
Classical actors can bring the character they are playing to life by analyzing the writer’s words and do not deviate from the way the script is set in their performance at the stage. On the other hand, method actors bring up a character to life by improvising the character or trying to live the character. They are more likely to deviate from the main character and over time, the main character’s behavior is changed completely. For instance, in their depiction of certain characters of yesteryear’s in their performances in modern times, are a complete distortion due to years of changes being made from the original script.
The one main advantage which is the strength and variety of the skills set that are used in classical training provides meaning for actors who can make an impression about the audience regardless of the size of the role he or she is playing. This means that there is a high likelihood that they may perform in a wide range of projects where they can play roles that are way beyond the normal casting methods.
Classical Acting and Specific Medium Acting
It is common for classical actors to work on stage through longer rehearsal times that comprise of discussions that are extensive regarding their parts and the circumstances under which the play is made.
For this reason, it sometimes appears as if classical actors are limited to Shakespeare with the classics and ancient plays depicting the Roman and Greek cultures. However, this is not entirely true of the real situation because most classical actors of repute have good training and can perform well in any circumstances including new plays of the current era. In modern film and TV scripts, editing is done on the fly when an actor has trouble with a line or phrase while classical actors on the other hand just make lines to work regardless of how complex it is since that is what they have all been trained to do.
Training to become a classical actor
While good actors are born, great actors are made. You can be born with a certain talent but it has to be trained and worked on for it to be harnessed properly and become great on stage. For this reason, any person who wishes to engage in classical training must go through some training to enhance their skills and use them in a controlled manner that will ensure a great success on the acting stage and scene.
You can engage in either short term classes or a long-term drama program which can take a long time to engage with. Also, there are trainers who offer private training that are tailor-made for each person and each program is unique to the person who is receiving the training. You could also pursue another route of following an education plan through receiving university or college education in this field. The decision you make should be based on your aspirations and what exactly you want to achieve once you become an actor. However, it is important to note here that formal training or any training is not a substitute for your individual effort that you are required to put. Ultimately, becoming a good classical actor requires hard work, commitment, and sacrifice.
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