Isaac Butler’s “The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act”

February 25, 2022

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Isaac Butler joins co-hosts Kate Wolf and Eric Newman to speak about his new book, The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act. The book traces the dissemination of a style and way of thinking about acting that’s so prevalent, it’s hard to imagine the performing arts without it. Originally envisioned as the System by the great actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski, in Moscow in the late 1800s, the Method stressed the importance of emotional realism, research, a character’s motivation, and the actor’s organic experience. Stanislavski believed actors were meant to be truth-tellers and, to this end, he developed empathic and imaginative exercises to enhance the authenticity of their performances, such as “affective memory” and the “Magic If.” When the Moscow Arts Theater, which Stanislavski co-created, toured its productions in Europe and the United States in the early 1920s, it inspired a whole new generation of actors and teachers, including Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, who would go on to teach the Method to much acclaim and controversy.

Also, Lewis R. Gordon, author of Fear of Black Consciousness, returns to recommend three books: Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, Guilaine Kinouani’s Living While Black: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Racial Trauma, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.