Crisis in American Acting?
Acting styles are a reflection of the culture of the times and the presuppositions of those that teach. I read an interesting article the other day which was a response to another article in The Atlantic. bemoaning the fact that American actors were being eclipsed by non-American actors playing Americans. The author explains that maybe one of the reasons why American acting is suffering is the sense of entitlement and non professionalism of the current generation of actors.
I hate to make generalizations BUT, I remember when I was a young actor in a play being directed by Herbert Berghof. One time, he yelled at me for 15 minutes straight, in front of the entire cast, regarding the way I was performing a minor piece of stage business. It was hard, but I tell you what… he completely eradicated this sloppiness from my work. Thanks to Herbert.
It’s hard to imagine something like this happening today in this culture of lawsuits, fragile self esteems, and fragile egos. I swore when I started my workshop that any actor that was not completely off book , and who hasn’t asked some preliminary questions about the scene in homework, would not be permitted to put up work.
This is about professionalism pure and simple. Yet if a culture promotes entitlement, then it’s no mystery when entitled actors emerge from that culture. We need to be a culture that is about the work. When we get that attitude right, the rest will follow.