Which Acting Techniques Do You Teach?

Which Acting Techniques Do You Teach?

In the UK, we are a bit allergic to the idea of technique. We are suspicious of it. I’ve always said that the reason drama schools in the UK don’t teach systematic techniques is that it makes them responsible for their students being able to use it. Instead, we have a system that attempts to teach parts of several acting techniques in the hope that some element with rub off, what I call the bad Linguini effect - if you throw a plate of it at the wall, something will stick...

At Acting Coach Scotland, we would say that we teach an acting technique called Practical Aesthetics. And we are passionate about that. But Practical Aesthetics itself is just a name for a collection of tools and techniques. What is a technique but a way of organising the tools with which you hope to catch inspiration and consistently deliver a fantastic performance? Why would anyone be afraid of that?

Mainly because they are unconscious about their ability, they don’t know how or why they can do something and they are a bit afraid to fuck around with their talent. Technique isn’t meant to replace their innate ability, it’s to develop and extend it.

But in the end, this is why I think teaching one technique is better than teaching ten different ones. My experience of training actors tells me that if you want someone to do something well, exceptionally well - you need them to do it, to repeat it, many many many MANY times. For habits to form, and habits are what skill is based on, we must repeat those actions a hundred or maybe a thousand times to achieve mastery.

Now how exactly is that possible if you do two weeks of Brecht and three months of Stanislavsky, and a bit of Meisner? Technique cannot be dabbled with. Skill acquisition and development doesn’t work like that. If you are learning to do a card trick, you don’t do it twice and then you can do it, it takes hundreds, maybe thousands of repetitions to make it effortless. Why on earth would acting be any different from that, or music, or ballet?

So what would you prefer? To be a tiny bit good at 20 techniques and hope that you will be able to apply them alone when the time comes, or would you prefer to have developed solid habits and practises, which you know you can rely upon when the time comes?

And our technique isn’t really too complicated.

  1. Understand what you need to do in the scene for real.

  2. Go into the scene and do it.

  3. React to what happens when you get there.

Of course, when learning skills, it will take some time to be good at this, but that’s okay. What skill is worth learning if it can be learned very quickly?

What we teach is the fundamentals of professional acting technique, combined with monologue technique, improv, voice, stage combat and the inner game of acting work together under our unique philosophy.


Mark Westbrook is the Course Leader of the Professional Diploma in Stage and Screen Acting and the Course Director of the One Year Drama School Preparation Course at Acting Coach Scotland.

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