Spring 2006

Inside-out to Outside-in: Approaches to Acting

Cantor,Daniel A.

01/23/2006 - 05/06/2006
Monday 07:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Theater East

Through the performance of exercises, scenes, and monologues, and through various readings, this course will examine a variety of approaches to acting, and will consider what each says about our understanding of ourselves. The dominant acting technique of modern Western theater is rooted in the system of Constantine Stanislavski. This system, largely articulated in our current conception of it by Lee Strasburg and the group theater in America in the 40s and 50s, approaches acting from the "inside-out." That is, it assumes that the truth of character (and therefore of human behavior) lies in our internal life. So, the technique works to first define a character's inner psycho-emotional condition and the personal motives born out of that condition. Our outward behavior, then, is merely the outward ripple born from these internal conditions and motives. This approach has become nearly a truism in actor training.

Students in this class will first explore this method--the Stanislavski system--and then work to challenge and perhaps even subvert it. After experimenting with the method through scenes and exercises, the class will go on to other approaches of acting as articulated by various acting theorists: Michael Chekov, Sanford Meisner, Augusto Boal, Keith Johnstone, and the physical/mask work of Commedia. Eventually, the class will study the techniques of Anna Deveare Smith, whose approach could be regarded as entirely "outside-in." Smith's method works to first find the literal voice and language of a character, and allows the words in that voice to act on the actor, penetrating their psyche, so creating the whole character.

This course will consider the compatibility of each of these techniques, and discuss what each technique seems to imply about our perceptions of human psychology and composition. In the end, students will choose which technique most resonated with them, and utilize that technique for their final performance project. This course is largely about doing. We will utilize each technique in the most practical way--by performing written material, or by engaging in acting exercises while adhering to each respective technique. We will also read selections from each theorist, and may augment our work with readings on psychology and philosophy.

Sources of study include Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, Selections from the writings of Sanford Meisner, Michael Chekov, Keith Johnstone, Anna Deveare Smith, Growtowski, Freud, Jung, and Alan Watts.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of their performance work in scenes and exercises, by participation in class discussion, a final scene project using the "technique" of their choice, and a journal that will chronicle their experience with each technique, noting their reflections on what each technique implies about our conceptions of ourselves.

No previous theater experience required; enrollment limited to 14.

Please have read for the first class meeting, An Actor Prepares, chapters 1-5.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Daniel Cantor (B.A. Wesleyan University; M.F.A. American Conservatory Theater) is visiting assistant professor of theater. He has performed in the independent films "The Auteur Theory" (Showtime), "Justice," "Strutting Into Chaos," "Alchemy," and on TV in various guest spots on "Law and Order," "The Sopranos," "Nash Bridges," "Loving," and in the Korean TV Movie "Asphalt Man." His theatrical performances include: Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight and Strictly Personal (Off Broadway); Tuesdays with Morrie (world premiere), and as Picasso in the national production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 14

Texts to purchase for this course:
Michael Chekhov, ON THE TECHNIQUE OF ACTING (Harper Collins), Paperback

Jerzy Grotowski, TOWARDS A POOR THEATRE (Touchstone), Paperback

Keith Johnstone, IMPRO: IMPROVISATION AND THE THEATRE (Theatre Arts Books), Paperback

Sanford Meisner, ON ACTING (Vintage), Paperback

Bari Rolfe, BEHIND THE MASK (Personabooks), Paperback

Anna Deavere Smith, FIRES IN THE MIRROR (Anchor Books), Paperback

Konstantin Stanislavsky, AN ACTOR PREPARES (Routledge), Paperback


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