Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre by Cynthia Baron

By Cynthia Baron

Everyone has heard of approach appearing . . . yet what approximately glossy appearing? This publication makes the straightforward yet radical idea that we recognize the fashionable performing rules that proceed to steer actors’ paintings within the twenty-first century. advancements in sleek drama and new stagecraft led sleek performing ideas to coalesce by means of the Nineteen Thirties – and Hollywood’s new position as America’s fundamental appearing arts supplier ensured those recommendations circulated generally because the migration of Broadway expertise and the calls for of sound cinema created a wealthy alternate of principles between actors.
Decades after Strasberg’s dying in 1982, he and his technique are nonetheless recognized, whereas debts of yankee appearing are inclined to put out of your mind the contributions of recent performing lecturers resembling Josephine Dillon, Charles Jehlinger, and Sophie Rosenstein. Baron’s exam of performing manuals, workshop notes, and oral histories illustrates the shared imaginative and prescient of contemporary performing that connects those little-known academics to the landmark paintings of Stanislavsky. It finds that Stella Adler, lengthy linked to the tactic, is healthier understood as a contemporary appearing instructor and that smooth appearing, now not process, should be noticeable as significant to American appearing arts if the Actors’ Lab in Hollywood (1941-1950) had survived the chilly warfare.

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Andrew White, “Introduction: Stanislavsky: Past, Present, and Future,” in The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky, ed.  Andrew White (New York: Routledge, 2014), 1. 11. , 3–4. 12. Rosemary Malague, An Actress Prepares: Women and “the Method” (New York: Routledge, 2012), 48. 13. There are still some who see screen performers as behaving, rather than creating and laboring. Screen actors are—to use “industry parlance”— “above the line,” but they do not fit the white-collar model of professionals who direct below-the-line workers whose bodies or technical skills are supervised by the thinking-people who “create” the product.

I do not have sufficient evidence to say, but would imagine, for example, that the well-known performances of actors such as Groucho Marx and Ginger Rogers relied on other skill sets. Yet, I would also propose that the transition to sound cinema made Modern acting techniques especially useful for dramatic performances, because they facilitated actors’ ability to function as independent artists, able to build characterizations without rehearsals, maintain concentration in chaotic production settings, work with little direction, and create a coherent portrayal (which effectively A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY PERSPECTIVE 11 conveyed the character’s changing thoughts and feelings as the narrative evolved), regardless of how or when scenes were filmed.

While it is difficult to depict the scope of recent scholarship even in film and media studies, it includes research by feminist scholars who are shedding new light on the work of costume designers, casting directors, television showrunners, and female film directors. The spirit of this work is encapsulated by anthology titles such as Reclaiming the Archive: Feminism and Film History (2010) and Indie Reframed: Women Filmmakers and Contemporary American Cinema (2016). Today’s expanding avenues of research should facilitate inquiries into the lost chapter of American acting, when Strasberg worked in the same obscurity as the Modern acting teachers of the period.

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