‘Today’ show anchors, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie head back to school – this time to learn a thing or two about acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute. See which of the anchors has the thespian-gene!
The revolution of The Lee Strasberg Method™ was that it articulated a conscious process to reach the unconscious and ignite the actor’s inspiration.
Learn some of the key elements that Strasberg Faculty member, Geoffrey Horne, imparted to Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie:
Acting is Relaxed
Relaxation is a foundational tenant in all great acting and a relaxed mind and body should be the starting point of all acting work. It is important to have control over all of your muscles and eliminate the types of physical and emotional habits you have been conditioned into, in order to allow for full emotional and physical expression. Remember, the character may be tense, but the actor stays relaxed.
Acting is All You
Just like a painter’s toolbox is paint, so too an actor’s toolbox is his emotional and physical life. Fill that toolbox with experience. Watch movies, visit museums, listen to music, indulge in great art, read books, immerse yourselves in other cultures and observe the world around you. Log how these things make you feel and what they inspire within you. Become attune to the emotional complexities of your own life. Awaken all five of your senses and how they individually incite different emotions or activate different memories. These things are the palette from which you draw and “paint” for your work. Your unique life is your greatest asset as an actor. As Lee Strasberg said “The actor creates with his own flesh and blood all those things which all the arts try to describe.”
Acting is Responding
You may have heard “Acting is Reacting”, but really, acting is responding. From a craft point of view, acting is responding to imaginary stimuli with the same truth and behavior one would in real life–as though you would if you were in fact the character. In life our behavior is in response to external stimulation: It’s cold outside so I change my posture and warm my fingers; a mosquito flies by my head so I respond with an instant shooing; a family member has passed away and we respond with tears, laughter or anger depending on the relationship. The craft of acting is the ability to recreate these stimuli imaginatively with the same potency we experience them in life, in order to stimulate that same behavior (physical or emotional) called for by the circumstances of the script.
Acting is Personal
When preparing for a role, the first question to ask is how am I both like and unlike the character. Make a list. The ways you are like the character you should trust will be present when performing a role. The ways you are different is your homework. Those differences may require physical work, or they may require you to search inside yourself to find moments in your life when you behaved like the character. You may never have murdered someone, but you may have at one time tried to kill an invading fly with the same type of determination. All you need is a drop of the feeling to make it real.
Acting is Needy
All people, particularly those around which we write plays or make movies, want something. Usually they want that thing so bad that it, and the way the character goes about getting it, is the psychological fuel that propels the story forward. Identify that “need” and make it personal. Identify the obstacle preventing you from getting what you need. Make that personal as well. All of this will help activate inside you the character’s behavior and the actions he or she takes.
The revolution of The Lee Strasberg Method™ was that it articulated a conscious process to reach the unconscious and ignite the actor’s inspiration. Training is therefore about unlocking in a conscious way that inspiration, awakening the actor’s impulses to respond, and, consequently, the actor’s creativity. Here is a small sense exercise to begin exploring that process.
Close your eyes and walk into your childhood home. Remember in your mind’s eye all the things you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch. Explore that space in your imagination. The smells of your mother’s cooking, the feel of the carpet on your feet, the color of the walls, the hardness of the couch, the sound of your father’s voice, etc. Allow yourself to explore all the aspects of that home. Pick up objects and explore them with your senses. Take some time going into the various rooms and exploring what you remember. Be patient. It is not about creating a floor plan of the house, but experiencing once again being in that house in your imagination. Allow yourself to be surprised.
When you’re done, take note of the things you remembered that you forgot. Take note of what surprised you or perhaps what triggered some type of emotional response–happy, sad, or otherwise.
The Lee Strasberg Method™ is taught in its most consummate form only at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute®. Learn more about the programs and classes available here. Apply here.