Acting Techniques from famous teachers

If you want to become an actor you will find acting techniques from many teachers on your way. These are simply disciplines that help train you to be an actor. Usually they are named for the acting instructor that made it famous. You do not necessarily have to use one of these techniques to be successful, but any class you take is bound to have taken something from the techniques listed below.

Meisner Technique

Many actors use the acting techniques from Sanford Meisner. He was a famous acting coach for over 60 years, until his death in 1997 and developed the Meisner Technique. One of the best known exercises of this technique is called Repetition, where one person spontaneously makes a comment based on his or her partner. The comment would be repeated back and forth between the two actors in the same manner, until it changed on its own. The object was always to react truthfully, allowing the repetition to change naturally rather than by manipulation.

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Stanislavski's system

You will find the most influencial of all acting techniques from Konstantin Stanislavski. The Stanislavski system is an approach to acting developed right before 1900. All the techniques trace their pedigrees to Stanislavski and his theories. The system is based around an actor being "in the moment" but always staying one step away from complete belief.

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Method Acting

Method acting usually refers to the teachings of Lee Strasberg. The term is also applied to the teachings of his colleagues from the Group Theatre, which includes Stella Adler, Robert Lewis, and Sanford Meisner. The method is derived from Stanislavski's system and each of those mentioned above takes a slightly different approach. Among the concepts and techniques of Method acting are substitution, "as if," sense memory, and affective or emotional memory.

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Michael Chekhov Technique

Sometimes you find acting techniques from students of the master. The star student of Stanislavski, Chekhov developed the use of the "Psychological Gesture." This is where the actor uses physical action to get a character’s need in the form of an external gesture. His book, On the Technique of Acting, was written back in 1942 but not published until 1991. It's a must read for those interested in acting.

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Stella Adler

Many students developed their skills with the acting techniques from Stella Adler. She claims that theatre is different from most other professions because it requires its dedicated practitioners to struggle toward a brutally honest, creative way of life. The need of a young actor to act is stronger than an intelligent nonprofessional can comprehend. The world may think that an actor’s ambition is focused on an appetite for money, success, and fame. Even those actors who admit to these aims tell only part of the story.

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Meyerhold's methods helped to redefine modern theatre by keeping in touch with the changing trends of drama – trends which were initiated by Anton Chekhov, Henrik Ibsen and Eugene O'Neill. Meyerhold was a big advocate of symbolism in theatre and his methods reflected this. His 'circusization' of the theatre was hugely successful but drew many critics. His acting technique was the complete opposite of Konstantin Stanislavski's Method Acting, with Meyerhold's method using psychological and physiological processes along with gestures and movements as a way of expressing emotion. He argued that making these physical movements would, in turn, elicit emotion within the actor rather than the other way round.

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Viola Spolin

Viola Spolin is considered by many to be the grandmother of improvisational theatre. Through her Compass Theater, she formed the country's first improvisational acting company, creating with it a new form of stage comedy. To effect this, Spolin created theatre games in which complicated conventions and techniques follow the form of games. A technical problem is provided and the actors go about solving this problem, self-consciously creating roles and personalities for their characters.

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Keith Johnstone

Acting techniques from famous teachers all include improvisation. Improvisation is the practice of acting and reacting in the moment and in response to the actor's immediate environment and inner feelings. Think of it as an "on the spot" or "off the cuff" spontaneous activity. Keith Johnstone has developed exercises for actors to be more vigilant in their role. All those exercises appeared to be so interesting that they became a form in itself, called theatresports, which is now a worldwide phenomena. Basically every actor needs to be able use improv. Improv is usually, but not always, associated with comedy.

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Brecht was a fervant advocate of epic theatre – the theory that plays should not cause the spectator to react emotionally with characters or identify with certain actions, but to provoke self-reflection and critical views in the spectator. Rather than wrapping up all the loose ends at the climax of a play and leaving the audience with a conclusion, he would often leave thoughts hanging; giving the audience something to think about and provoking reflective thoughts through hi epic drama.

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Jerzy Grotowski

A complete different approach in all acting techniques came from Jerzy Grotowski. He was a Polish actor and theatre director who revolutionised the art through his methods of contemporary experimental theatre. He argued that theatre could not and, therefore, should not compete with film and should return to its roots of co-creating events and action through the emotional participation of the audience. Grotowski-based actors are highly attuned to their bodies and imaginations and possess extraordinary sensitivity through understanding of human behaviour.

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Augusto Boal

The acting techniques from Brazilian-born Augusto Boal are based on his politically and socially motivated idea in the 1950s in an attempt to use acting to diminish the social injustices he saw in the world around him. Through his Theatre of the Opressed, he sought to 'use the stage to empower the disempowered'. Boal believed that by applying certain acting techniques, everyone could rediscover their inner actor. Boal's method favoured dialogue over monologue, using the device to create a relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed, consciously enacting what every individual wants to express. The spectator thus becomes an actor and participant.

Learn more about Augusto Boal As you can see, many if not all of these acting techniques are intertwined in some form or another. The differences are just the interpretations of each individual teacher. You will find if you study one of these acting techniques from famous teachers you will end up with your own interpretation as well. In the end, that is what being a good actor is all about.

Learn about great teachers.

The Great Acting Teachers and Their Methods by Richard Brestof.

"Actor training should be broadly humanistic, involving the study not just of dramatic literature and theatre history, but of languages, literature, and history generally, and should be centered on acting in plays rather than just exercises, improvisations, monologues, or even scenes." - Richard Hornby