What is the Classical Acting Technique?

Over the years, theater practitioners have developed a wide range of approaches and techniques. Techniques like the Stanislavsky method and Meisner involve following a specific set of steps in actor training and character creation. Many people assume that Classical Acting is an outdated approach to acting. You may envisage classical actors using refined British accents and spewing out Shakespearean text. However, the Classical Acting technique is a little harder to pin down. 

What is Classical Acting?

Classical acting is an approach that developed using the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Michel Saint-Denis. The technique is used to train actors to use their bodies, voices, and minds to create their characters. Many people are under the misconception that the technique is inferior to the famous Strasberg Method, which aims to create real, fully-felt emotion within the actor. 

However, classical acting training does not result in an overly exaggerated acting or feigned emotion. Instead, the technique ensures an actor is physically prepared to embody a character, regardless of how distant this character may be from their own self.

What is Classical Acting Training?

Training as a classical actor is a rigorous and physically demanding process. Practitioners of the technique believe that in order for an actor to embody a character, they must have an open, flexible body and voice that is free from tension and inhibition. Most classical acting training programs begin by using a series of exercises to break down the actor’s natural tensions and habits, teaching them to find a state of neutrality.

The body

Classical acting programs place a huge amount of focus on fine-tuning the actor’s body. Actors go through a series of classes designed to make them hyper-aware of their bodies. Emphasis is placed on heightening the actor’s awareness of their body’s relation to the space they are in and the other actors around them. This awareness ideally leads to a physical openness and freedom that allows the actor a full range of physical expression, as well as the ability to transform into another character physically.

The voice

A huge amount of emphasis is placed on vocal freedom in classical acting. The technique was primarily developed for theatrical acting, so vocal exercises are designed to teach an actor to naturally and safely project his or her voice. Actors begin their training with a series of breathing exercises that remove tension and strain from the vocal tract. They then move onto a range of exercises designed to create clarity and emotional versatility in the voice.

Textual analysis 

The third main section in classical training is textual analysis. Actors learn a range of analytical tools, most of which are taken from the Stanislavski Method, that help them to understand their character’s words, actions, and emotions. Actors begin by identifying an objective for their character, which is the driving desire that lies behind all of their actions. The text is then broken up into a series of beats. Some teachers use the actioning method, where actors choose descriptive actions to help motivate them for each line.

Final Thoughts

Classical acting is a full-body technique that results in actors who are physically, vocally, and emotionally prepared to embody any role in any medium.