Acting techniques Grouptheatre

When looking for the most influencial acting techniques Grouptheatre founders The Group Theatre Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg made a turning point in 1931. They were three young idealists, who were inspired by a passionate dream of transforming the American theater. Their vision was of a new theater that would mount original American plays to mirror — even change — the life of their troubled times. Over its ten years and twenty productions, they not only met these goals, but altered the course of American theater forever.

The acting techniques Grouptheatre worked with were first seen in the work of the Moscow Art Theater. The ensemble approach proposed a highly personal and cooperative method. Inspired by the revolutionary theories of Russian director Konstantin Stanislavski , the Group Theatre, was composed of a collection of Theater Guild talent, who bonded to create a theater with a closer relationship to "art" than the Guild represented. That individual actors played individual parts was no longer important. The acting techniques Grouptheatre used set the focus was on a cast that was familiar and believable as a whole. If the actors had relationships off-stage, then the relationships on stage would not only seem, but be more “real.”

Though it started idealistic, in using these acting techniques Grouptheatre seemed to have succeeded in their attempt of changing the industry.

The Group included Elia Kazan, Harry Morgan (billed as Harry Bratsburg), Stella Adler, Robert Lewis, John Garfield (billed as Jules Garfield), Canada Lee, Franchot Tone, Phoebe Brand, Ruth Nelson, Will Geer, Howard Da Silva, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Paul Green, Clifford Odets, Paul Strand, Morris Carnovsky, Sanford Meisner, Marc Blitzstein, Anna Sokolow and Lee J. Cobb, Roman Bohnen and many others. As the members of the ensemble grew to know each other, this familiarity was successfully reflected in their work.

In the ten years of its existence, using their succesful acting techniques Grouptheatre produced works by many important American playwrights, most notably Clifford Odets and Irwin Shaw. Its most successful production was the 1937-38 Broadway hit Golden Boy, starring Luther Adler and Frances Farmer.

The company's first production was Paul Green's The House of Connelly on September 23, 1931, at the Martin Beck Theatre. It was an immediate critical success and was recognized for the special ensemble performances which the Group would further develop. Playwright Green, however, was not happy with the more hopeful, upbeat ending that the Group had imposed on his brooding work. The Group's production of John Howard Lawson's Success Story, which chronicled the rise of a youthful idealist who sacrifices his principles as he rises to the top of the advertising business, won generally favorable reviews for its script, and enthusiastic praise for Luther Adler's starring performance. Later, during the first full season (1933–34), Men in White, written by Sidney Kingsley and directed by Lee Strasberg, became the Group's first financial success and also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Although using their highly developed acting techniques grouptheatre also knew disaster. They took on novelist Dawn Powell's dark comedy Big Night, rehearsed it for close to six months and asked for extensive revisions from the playwright. The result was a critical and box-office disaster that ran a scant nine performances. Harold Clurman, who took over the production late in the rehearsal period, later admitted the Group's role in the fiasco. "The play should have been done in four swift weeks — or not at all. We worried it and harried our actors with it for months."

On the night of January 5, 1935, the Group gave a benefit performance of the one-act play Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets at the Civic Repertory Theatre in New York City. The play reflected a kind of street poetry that brought great acclaim to the Group, and to Odets as the new voice of social drama in the thirties. Odets became the playwright most strongly identified with the Group, and its productions of Awake and Sing and Paradise Lost, both directed in 1935 by Harold Clurman, proved to be excellent vehicles for the Group's Stanislavskian aesthetic. The following year they produced the Paul Green-Kurt Weill anti-war musical Johnny Johnson, directed by Strasberg.

Their plays in their 10 years of existence ;The House of Connelly (1931 by Paul Green), Success Story (1932 by John Howard Lawson), Condemned (1932 by Marc Blizstein), The Black Pit (1933 by Albert Maltz) Men in White (1933 by Sidney Kingsley), Gentle Woman, (1933 by John Howard Lawson), Awake and Sing! and Waiting for Lefty (1935 by Clifford Odets), Johnny Johnson (1936 by Paul Green and Kurt Weill), The Cradle Will Rock (1937 by Marc Blizstein), My Heart's in the Highlands (1939 by William Saroyan, Casey Jones and Thunder Rock (1938 and 1939-40 by Robert Ardrey, directed by Elia Kazan) in and Native Son (1941 by Richard Wright and Paul Green).

Real life drama

Wendy Smith's view on the GroupTheatre. An insight in how they changed the acting-industry.


Quote of famous directors

"A true priest is aware of the presence of the altar during every moment that he is conducting a service. It is exactly the same way that a true artist should react to the stage all the time he is in the theater. An actor who is incapable of this feeling will never be a true artist." -

Konstantin Stanislavisky


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