Method Acting: “Acting Gone Too Far”

Renewal means creation, making something out of nothing. Actors and actresses do this on a daily basis, giving a scripted character life on stage. Such acting creates a toll, as the stakes are high to give the best performance every night, six days a week. A look into the life of a Broadway actor or Hollywood star details the effects of the Lee Strasberg acting method called, “method acting.” This method requires performers to create a realistic performance by becoming intensely in-character to the point where the performer substitutes their personal thoughts and emotions with the character’s. For some performers achieving this level of acting means getting into character as soon as they arrive at the theater, for others it means never completely getting out of character. The latter occurs when “method acting” reaches a psychologically and emotionally damaging level. Research shows fatigue, anxiety, personality changes, and psychotic disorders follow an intensive role on stage. Such cognitive challenges negatively affect a performer’s problem solving, reasoning, memory, and perception in their common life. My research raises awareness for folks not connected to the theater role on what can be at risk when partaking in the Lee Strasberg Method.

  • Paper Presentation
  • Psychology and Theater
  • Lee Strasberg’s theory, “method acting,” requires performers to create a realistic performance by becoming intensely in-character to the point where the performer substitutes their personal thoughts and emotions with the character’s. Method acting causes cognitive distress, physical damage and even death. How far is too far in terms of entertainment?

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8 thoughts on “Method Acting: “Acting Gone Too Far””

  1. Very interesting work, Gloria. Thank you for your research here, as well as sharing your personal experience with this difficult phenomenon.
    CS

  2. Amazing work! I love the two very relevant examples of people who have had their own experiences with method acting. I participated in theatre for 5 years, but luckily I never had a character that I had to go to the “extreme” with, but I definitely saw firsthand what that looks like. Implementing these coaches would be a wonderful way to take the stressors of the director and the actor into one very important role. Great job.

  3. I really like this topic! I had never thought about consequences of actors trying to portray roles with negative emotions before. The psychological and physiological affects are really fascinating too! And unfortunate. I’m glad you discussed the stigma surrounding mental health. I think it really says a lot about our views toward mental health when the film industry, who should be able to easily afford therapy services, aren’t addressing these concerns. If actors and the industry addressed this, I think it could have a very positive affect with views toward mental health in America, as they’re a spotlight in American culture.

  4. Great presentation — thanks so much for sharing it!

    I’m imagining an objection that someone might raise, and I’m curious what you would say in response to it. Here’s the challenge: “Method acting is the best way for an actor–or for me, at least–to perform her craft at the highest level. But by definition, it requires total immersion in a character. The safeguards you’re recommending, by their very nature, would force an actor to break character… Or in other words, to give up method acting altogether. And I’m not willing to do that.”

    Any thoughts?

    1. I guess my response to that would be more towards the actor in regards of how much they are willing to “give.”
      The Mental Health Coaches are more there to monitor and make sure it never becomes too drastic for an actor in terms of self harm or a detrimental amount of mental health concerns while partaking in method acting.

      I would more or less maybe create a place for a signature at the bottom of the written report stating the actor hash seen it and read it. The signature then leaves it fully up to them to progress with the tips and support given in the document. If they feel it will only hold them back in terms of acting they can progress on (mental help coaches still making sure it’s not too out of hand) but hopefully the mental check in forms will also serve as a note to the actor to keep themself healthy in the progress.

      That’s a hard question, but definitely one that would come up in the industry.

      Thank you so much for your response!

  5. Such a thought-provoking presentation, thank you for sharing Gloria! Also, thank you for your willingness to share your own story and how method acting personally impacted you.

  6. Gloria,
    While I am late to this discussion, I would like to thank you for putting this presentation together. Sharing your personal experience adds a level of reality to this topic by providing someone that we can more directly identify as affected by the damage of method acting. While I am someone that appreciates method acting, I have a better understanding of the dangers of taking it too far.

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