The Difference Between Method Acting and Classical Acting

As an actor, in addition to getting those lines memorized, you’ll come to a very important crossroads in terms of how you will bring the character you’re playing to life. What follows is a comparison of two of the principal acting styles in use today: method acting and classical acting. The style you will follow will depend on the nature of the play you’re a part of and will also drastically affect the way you embody your role.

Tact and Poise: Classical Acting

Sometimes called “the Shakespearean style,” classical acting has its roots in the British theater. More focused on control and precision in performance, classical actors are action-oriented, rather than emotion-oriented, the latter being the goal of method actors. Of course, this doesn’t mean that classical actors deliver their lines in a bland or flat way! Instead, a key difference between method acting and classical acting is that classical actors bring to life their character by combining their own interpretation with a meticulously crafted script.

Where method acting can allow for quite a bit of improvisation, classical acting demands a degree of exactness, which is why they always memorize all of their lines. In other words, you are much less likely to want to deviate from the script when classical acting is called for. This style can seem a little bit over-the-top at times, but solid delivery of well-written lines can make a terrific impact on audiences all the same. After all, classical acting has been around since the 18th century. It must have gotten something right!

The Mind and Mood: Method Acting

Method acting is all about the actor dredging up real, powerful emotions in order to breathe life into a character. For example, a tragic scene in which a character is brought to his or her knees might require tears on the part of the actor. To make the magic happen, the actor is tasked with focusing intently on a sad or painful experience from his or her own life. The tears welling up will therefore be real and, at the same time, the character will feel all the more real. This is called “sense memory,” and it’s the primary tool of method actors around the world.

This style of acting was developed by Lee Strasberg, who was an instructor at the Actors Studio in New York before founding the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. The operating theory is that the actor should “live” the character he or she is playing even when not on stage. For this reason, many method actors refuse to break character before the last scene of the film is shot, or the final performance of the play is given. Some performers will go to great lengths to fully inhabit the role, including changing their sleeping, dietary and other habits and more.

To Conclude or Not to Conclude

So, will you play a broken anti-hero in an urban setting, or a triumphant conqueror? Should you slip fully under the skin of your character, refining those half-submerged emotions, or embrace the sweeping movements of the play as a whole and deliver resounding lines with panache? Now that you know the differences between method acting and classical acting, it’s time to get on stage and into character, and deliver the performance of a lifetime. For acting opportunities, check out our upcoming auditions or contact us today!

Comments are closed.