A DREAM OF PASSION: The Development of the Method by Lee Strasberg

A DREAM OF PASSION: The Development of the Method

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KIRKUS REVIEW

When Strasberg died in 1982, he left behind the complete, if disorganized, manuscript of this memoir/treatise on the acting technique he taught and championed for decades at the Actor's Studio: ""the Method."" Morphos (Drama Dept., NYU's Tisch School) has edited and arranged this material into a neat, lucid volume, centered on one key question: ""How can the actor both really feel, and also be in control of what he needs to do on stage?"" Of greatest general interest are Strasberg's autobiographical opening chapters. He vividly recalls great performances he saw as a youth: Le Gallienne in Liliom, Jeanne Eagels in Rain, Duse in Ibsen (her smile ""seemed to come from the toes""). But some actors, he found, were brilliant at one performance, lifeless at another, raising the problem of inspiration: ""How do you stimulate the heart to be warm?"" The writings of Gordon Craig and Diderot--nicely summarized here--provided some hints to an answer. The turning point came, however, when Strasberg saw the Moscow Art Theatre's NY performances, featuring Stansilavsky, in 1924: ""I doubt that the minute, detailed, moment-to-moment aliveness. . .will ever be achieved again."" This led to study at the American Laboratory Theatre, where Stanislavsky's techniques--relaxation, concentration, emotional memory--were furthered by Boleslavsky and Ouspenskaya. And, moving on to the Group Theatre and the Studio, Strasberg (also influenced by Stanislavsky's disciple Vakhtangov) developed ""the Method."" The book's second half is largely devoted to describing such Method exercises as improvisation, the ""private moment,"" and ""the overall sensation""; though familiar from the many books about the Method and the Sudio, these techniques are particularly well outlined here, with examples from classroom experience. Intriguing, too, if not entirely convincing, are Strasberg's comparison of the actor's ""emotional memory"" with literary creativity (Wordsworth, Proust) and his discovery of much common ground between Brecht and the Method. Required reading for acting teachers and students, of course--but a wider audience will enjoy the reminiscences (which include a few sly, oblique put-downs of longtime Strasberg rival Stella Adler).

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1987
ISBN: 0452261988
Publisher: Little, Brown