Long, unfamiliar articles are natural in most reading-intensive university classes. But when the topic of interest involves the renowned Actors Studio, the reading suddenly feels less mandatory.
Studies in Twentieth Century Performance Styles provided me the opportunity to brush up on my theatre knowledge this year. Maurice Zolotow, an American show business biographer, gave this course the boost it needed with his 1957 article in The Saturday Evening Post, “The Stars Rise Here.”
In his article, Zolotow explains how the Actors Studio not only transformed the lives of amateur actors, but also engulfed the very essence of their roles. The Method, the controversial technique conjured from Konstantin Stanislavski’s “system,” was under high scrutiny in the early 20th century. Training under The Method allows actors to dig into their subconscious thoughts in order to activate deep feelings. This process allows actors to cultivate the essence of their emotional experiences. The belief was that delving into certain triggers and forcefully bringing back these reactions had an impactful response on American theatre.
“The Stars Rise Here” touches upon the foundations of theatre training. Since the Actors Studio efficiently normalized The Method and its principles, its teachings have become a blessing to young actors and playwrights.
According to Zolotow, any drama student or theatre fanatic could tell you the gist of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Lee Strasberg, AKA “the father of Method acting,” required members to meet twice a week. The Actors Studio didn’t charge actors who worked under the Studio, however no one was allowed to participate in the Studio’s exercises until they acquired a full membership.
Zolotow inspects Marilyn Monroe, explaining that Monroe grew tired of playing seductive, lustful characters. Wanting to change her audience’s mentality, Monroe sought help from The Actors Studio. After the Studio made her a star, critics raved about her performances in films such as Bus Stop and The Prince and the Showgirl.
Like Monroe, many other amateur actors at the time—Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, and James Dean—would emerge swiftly out of the Actors Studio. This convinced civilians of the Studio’s popularity.
To acting students, actors, and those interested in theatre, the Studio is where the real magic happened.