Random Acts

The Method and Nonrealistic Theatre
  • Paul S. Kassel


In 1984, during my first year in New York City, I was cast in a very odd piece called Chaturanga (Sanskrit for “chess”). The plot was nonlinear, the characters mostly chess pieces, and the text vague and confusing—at least to me. I have particularly strong memories of using our bodies collectively to create an elephant. It was fun, interesting, audiences seemed to like it (whatever it was), and we received a decent notice in the New York Times.1 But I was at sea—I didn’t know what to do. Fresh out of graduate school, where the Meisner technique was taught and the theatre was classic rep, I was completely unprepared—or so I thought. The experience forced me to confront my training, to ask whether it would serve me as an artist in this kind of material. That is the question posed by this chapter: Can traditional actor training in the Method and/or its variants serve the contemporary theatre artist?


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  1. Portions of this chapter, and the ideas presented herein, were first published in Paul Kassel, “The Four Fundamental Verbs: An Approach to Playing Actions,” Theatre Topics 10.1 (Fall 1999): 181–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Viewpoints is a technique for working on stage created by Mary Overlee and developed by Anne Bogart. Instead of action, the Viewpoints emphasize relationships—actor to actor, actor to environment, and so on. See Anne Bogart: Viewpoints, Michael Bigelow Dixon and Joel A. Smith, eds. (Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus, 1995)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harold Clurman, On Directing (New York: Collier, 1972), 147.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    The difference between performing and not performing is important but cannot be discussed in a short chapter. I refer the reader to Alice Raynor’s, To Act, to Do, to Perform (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  5. Bert O. States, “The Actor’s Presence,” and Michael Kirby, “On Acting and Non-Acting,” in Acting (Re)considered: Theories and Practices, Phillip Zarrilli, ed. (London: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    See Michael Cole and Shelia R. Cole, The Development of Children (New York: Scientific American Books, 1989)Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Robert Cohen, Acting Power (Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing, 1978), 68.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957), 171.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Arthur Holmberg, The Theatre of Robert Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 13.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Laurence Shyer, Robert Wilson and His Collaborators (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1989), 7.Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    Richard Schechner, Performance Theory (New York: Routledge, 1988), 175.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    Charles Marowitz, The Other Way: An Alternative Approach to Acting and Directing (New York: Applause, 1999), 174.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Krasner 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul S. Kassel

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