Art & Culture

‘Culture Crash’ Episode One: Tracing The Origins Of American ‘Method’ Acting

Though the topic of immigration has been controversial throughout much of our nation’s history, there is no denying how much immigrants have added to American culture. On that topic, “City Lights” begins a new series called “Culture Crash” with director Adam Koplan of Flying Carpet Theatre Company. The first episode looks at the history of method acting.

“We don’t have any pure acting culture here [in America] devoid of all of the inputs that have come from other places. The main source of most American film acting and most American theatre acting comes from Russia from the turn of the century in the 1900s,” said Koplan. He continued, “Method acting and modern performances are often traceable within three or four degrees of separation to Konstantin Stanislavski or someone at the Moscow Art Theatre.”

Stanislavski was a Russian actor and director who created the “method” technique, which helped actors create believable characters on stage. By embodying their character and putting themselves into the character’s shoes, this made them more realistic to audiences.

Examples provided by Koplan: 

  • Marlon Brando studied with Stella Adler, who studied with Stanislavski.
  • Meryl Streep studied with Robert Lewis, who was part of the Group Theater with Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, all of whom studied with Stanislavski.
  • William H. Macy came up via David Mamet, who studied with Sanford Meisner, who studied with Stanislavski and with Herbert Berghof and Uta Hagen–also both Stanislavski devotees.
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