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The fundamental philosophical debate over approaches to actor training and of the strategies utilized in performance lies in the distinction between Emotional versus Rational based acting. It boils down to the question of whether the actor should actually “feel” the emotions of his or her character before and during a performance. Should the actor allow voice, gestures and actions to follow from that experienced emotion; or should the actor be able to construct a characters voice, gestures, and actions through learned and practiced techniques? The emotional actor feels every emotion of the character and does not plan out his or her vocal intensity, movements, or gestures. In fact, each performance or take may be very different from the last one since the actor can get “lost” in the character and respond differently each time. The rational actor will plan out every detail of movement and gesture. Now clearly, most actors do not always perform at the extremes of this continuum but find a comfortable place in between; but there are actors who do fit into to one of these two approaches.

 

A useful distinction for our study is to describe the continuum as one between the Technical approach and the Method approach. Historically, the Technical style has been identified with the British theatrical tradition and the Method with an American style that developed out of the teachings of the Russian actor, theorist, and teacher, Constantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavski’s greatest discovery was the nexus. The nexus is a concept that describes how the actors body can function as the link that brings all of his or her past experiences of taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound together. This link enables the active retrieval of one’s inner emotional life at will. As Lee Strasberg would say in his private classes: “The emotions are hung on the strings of the five senses.”

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