A brand new approach to acting started appearing with greater frequency in Hollywood movies and on the Broadway state in the 1940s and 1950s. Personified by such legendary stars as Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Shelley Winters. This new style acting that sought to heighten the intensity of the realism of the actor’s performance directly challenged Hollywood’s perfecting of the star approach in which the personality of the actor took center stage. The Broadway stage presented less conflict between the more traditional approach and this new thing called simply the Method. As a result, most Method actors appeared on stage well before getting the call from Hollywood.
The bible of Method acting was a book published in Russia in 1936 by Konstantin Sergeyevich Alexeyev under the stage name he used as an acting teacher: Konstantin Stanislavsky. As a result, you may sometimes hear the Method referred to as the Stanislavsky System. First time readers who come to An Actor Prepares with an awareness of Stanislavsky are subject to the possibility of a little confusion when they begin reading a book that seems to be the journal of an acting student named Kostya. In fact, Kostya and his acting instructor Tortsov are both fictionalized autobiographical stand-ins for Stanislavsky.
The book unfolds as a personal narrative that follows Kostya’s education in the art of acting under the tutelage of Tortsov. That education serves as an excellent introduction—but only an introduction—into the process of becoming a Method actor. More surprising, perhaps, are the ways in which Tortsov’s techniques for improving powers of concentration and learning how to become more attuned to one’s own unconscious motivations can assist those with no desire at all to become an actor in Hollywood movies or on the Broadway stage.