Challenges and problems of Method Acting in the context of postmodern characters as in Samuel Beckett´s "Rough for Theatre I"

Essay, 2012

10 Pages


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Method Acting - History and Principle

3. Method Acting in “Rough for Theatre I”

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

Having talked in class about the peculiarity of Samuel Beckett´s plays I started wondering about one special issue. Beckett´s characters, although acting in greatly diverse contexts, have one certain thing in common. They do not equal ordinary, everyday persons one can easily identify with. However, this statement is not driving at those characters being unhuman or some kind of fairy tale figures. Beckett´s characters are definitely featured with human attributes and characteristics. Most of them are aged people who failed to fulfill their wishes and desires in life, as can be perfectly seen in Waiting for Godot or Endgame. Not for nothing Beckett once said: “My mistakes are my life.” 1

The specific I am going to analyze lies rather within the partially ominous acting and reacting and the highly odd way of communicating between Beckett´s characters. As a consequence an identification or at least empathy between reader and character is severely reduced and hindered. Furthermore the reader is not able to grasp meaning, motivation and background of certain scenes at once. By this point the moment is reached when an actor, who actually has to impersonate those characters, is of high interest. The question arises: Is the actor capable of understanding and associating with the character´s emotions, feelings and thoughts at all?

In order to answer that question I will examine Method Acting and analyze which problems and challenges this acting theory, established by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Lee Strasberg, has to face when being confronted with Samuel Beckett´s postmodern characters. The play Rough for Theater I will serve as a basis for my analysis.

2. Method Acting - History and Principle

Konstantin Sergejevich Stanislavsky was born to a merchant family in Moscow in 1863. He refused to follow in his family´s footsteps and joined the Society of Art and Literature in 1888. There he met V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko with whom he developed a program for a new theatre which later made history as the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT). Soon significant artists such as the famous Russian playwright Chekhov or his companion Maxim Gorki were associated with the MAT.

There Stanislavsky started to work on an extensive acting theory he would later call the System. Unlike some Stanislavsky-oppositionists claim, the System was not meant to be dogmatic. Sharon Carnicke explains:

There is nothing absolute about his compendium of theory and techniques for the ephemeral art of acting that he so loved. He saw his System as offering advice to actors of different temperaments who wished to speak through different aesthetic styles. He called his System ´universal´ for these two reasons. Only three months before his death, he cautioned his directing students that, `One must give actors various paths` (Vinogradskaia 2000:498). 2

Until today the System has influenced several acting schools and has been developed further by other theoreticians and practicians such as Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner or Eric Morris. Lee Strasberg, actor and trainer, analyzed Stanislavsky’s System, configured and extended it and made it popular as the Method. By 1969 when the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute was founded, Method Acting was distinctively associated with Lee Strasberg and Stanislavsky.

Although Carnicke argues that thereby an Americanization of the System has taken place 3, the basic direction or aim remained the same. It was directed against “…false pathos, […] against the exaggeration in acting, against hollow stylization in staging and scenery, against the star system that destroyed any ensemble, against the whole structure of performances and the poor repertoire of the contemporary theatre." 4

That said, the inevitable question must follow of how Strasberg´s Method tries to achieve its goals. In other words: Which principles lay behind the theory?

Strasberg´s work “A Dream of Passion” depicts the development from Stanislavskyan ideas and procedures to the principles of the Method. Strasberg takes up several acting methods and teachings of Stanislavsky as “the conscious training of the senses, leading to the unconscious creative means.” 5 as well as “practical exercises in relaxation, concentration on objects, the circle of attention, etc.” (Strasberg 62). As the most important of Stanislavsky´s teachings, Strasberg considers “the use of the soul of the actor as the material for his work” (Strasberg 62).



2 Sharon Marie Carnicke, Stanislavsky In Focus, (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009) 3.

3 Carnicke 7-13.

4 Bernd Stegemann, Stanislawski Reader, (Berlin: Henschel, 2007)10 [Translation Alexander Löwen].

5 Lee Strasberg, A Dream of Passion, (New York, NY: Davada Enterprises, Ltd, 1987) 62.

Excerpt out of 10 pages


Challenges and problems of Method Acting in the context of postmodern characters as in Samuel Beckett´s "Rough for Theatre I"
University of Bayreuth
Reading Samuel Beckett in the context of "post" theories.
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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701 KB
Die Arbeit ist unbenotet, da das Modul nur einen bewertenden Kommentar der Dozentin vorsah: "Convincing and relevant points are touched upon in Method Acting. The features of it are defined well and applied to the play properly."
Method Acting, Samuel Beckett, Rough for Theatre I, Absurdes Theater, Literaturwissenschaft, Literatur, Warten auf Godot, Waiting for Godot, Theaterwissenschaft, Postmodern
Quote paper
Alexander Löwen (Author), 2012, Challenges and problems of Method Acting in the context of postmodern characters as in Samuel Beckett´s "Rough for Theatre I", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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