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Advantage of British Actors Over American Essays

Updated August 9, 2022

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Advantage of British Actors Over American Essays essay

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No one can deny that Hollywood has been casting British actors over American actors for the last several years. One need only look at the latest movies with Tom Holland in Spiderman Homecoming, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars, and Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. But in all honesty, the list could go on and on. It is not to say that these actors are untalented or did not deserve the part, but it does raise the questions, “Why are the thousand American actors that are available not being casted in many of these roles? What is making the British actors more marketable and wanted in the industry?” True, it could be for many various reasons, and sometimes in casting, it does come down to who fit the part the best.

However, there is a key aspect that comes into play and that is actors’ training. It has been stated that British training is wildly different from American training. British training recognizes the importance of the outer body like voice, speech, movement, and versatility, where as in American training, there is a strong focus on the inner emotion of the actor/actress. The truth of the matter is that compared to American training, the British culture finds that actors need more than one method of training and strive to push their actors to become true artists through their classical acting methods. The British culture also has a stronger appreciation for the artistry of theatre and film.

Training is a key aspect when it comes to becoming an actor. Many people believe that they can move out to LA, get signed by a top agency, and become the star in the next blockbuster hit without any form of actor training. However, one quickly learns the chances of that happening are about one and a million. In America people search more for fame than the artistry of acting. It is interesting that people often think acting is not necessarily an art form, which is a very common misconception. Honestly, it is like any form of art; you must train in the skills that are required to become good at it. And this is where British actors collectively shine.

Jeff Labrecque from Entertainment Weekly has stated, “In order for the American actors to stem the incredible influx of the British, a commitment to developing the complete artist must become a priority. An understanding that craft and technique is essential, and a realization that talent by itself doesn’t mean a damn thing. Is a good place to start.” (A Crisis in American Acting). It has been said that it takes over twenty-five years to become well developed in your craft, and it takes a solid work ethic from anyone to pursue this artistry. It also takes training in all aspects of theatre and film, not just one method, which is something that training schools in the United States are strongly guilty of not pursuing and teaching.

When looking at actor training schools, one of the first things a potential student should do is to request to view the curriculum that will be taught. Having had the opportunity to explore the schools in the United Kingdom, I noticed they give a wide variety of training from yoga, neutral mask, several stage combat classes, Meisner, and Chekhov. Take a school like the United States’ NYU Tisch and London’s LAMDA to compare. Tisch is considered one of the top programs in the United States, but compared to LAMDA, Tisch’s graduate acting program focuses on mostly scene studies and does not give one an idea of techniques that will be learned. Looking at LAMDA’s program in comparison, they do not touch scene work until the second year, and even then, they are still pursuing skill sets like movement and voice work. They seek to give a wide variety of training that can give the actors a broader taste and then allow the actor to hone down on the skills that work best for them.

Joanna Read, the Principal at LAMDA says, “Our training will ask an actor to really play against type at time, to play a role that they wouldn’t necessarily be cast in in the profession, in order to work out and transform how they move towards that character. It’s almost like putting on a second skin” (Labrecque). Versatility is a key part of their training, because they want their actors to be able to take on any role necessary. Claudette Roche, a well-known dialect coach who works with famous actors, said, “British actors don’t look for fame, they look for work. They try to work in stage, television, radio, and film. Their desire is to have a well-rounded resume. Whereas here in Los Angeles, there’s a focus on what kind of actor do you want to be? Do you want to do film, do you want to do television, do you want to do sitcoms?” (Take Two). I wish this broader taste was more emphasized in American training/ I have been placed in one box of characters since high school. I always play the comedic relief characters. It is my strong suit, but since I am good at that character, most of my college training has focused on me homing in on comedic skills. Finding schools in America that will push oneself without breaking the bank account is a tricky task.

In an interview done with Edward Kemp who is the artistic director of Britain’s highly prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, we are given a better inside opinion on why he thinks British actors’ training is more competitive than their American counterparts. He shares that after auditioning potential students in America, there has been a noticeable improvement in their auditions, He states, “The word from several auditionees is that they are finding the studios based system on which much U.S training is based – where you study a particular approach to acting e.g. Lee Strasburg, Stella Adler – increasingly unsatisfying.” (Wicks). There are wide variety approaches to acting, and the truth is not every approach works for every actor. It takes time and work to figure out what works for one’s art, and if we stick to one method, we miss out on the vast variety of training that is available. It is important to explore the wide variety of methods of acting and not just in scene or monologue acting, but in the body, the genres, and media.

Kemp also agrees with this stating, “Broader-based U.K training offers a better foundation for acting in many genres and many media. I think this has coincided with improved training in the U.K.” (Wicks). He continues by saying, “There isn’t anything we teach which is exclusively for the benefit of any one genre; the emphasis is more on what in education-speak are called transferable skills.” (Wicks). Kemp later brings up an interesting point about the classical work they push on their students, “I am often struck by the ability of British trained actors to make ludicrous lines in space movies-I suspect this may be an interesting side effect of fretting over the more obscure lines of Shakespeare and Restoration comedy.” (Wicks). Due to the classical training, which is many U.K schools primary focus, they find that it pushes British actors to take complicated and complex writing and make it understandable to the public. Whereas in American schools, there is more of a modern focus with texts and shows. We forget to go back to our roots to where acting started.

Having experienced firsthand what training is like through several workshops abroad, I have a better understanding of what their training is like and why it is possibly more beneficial for actors. In Belfast, Ireland, I took two workshops: one was a movement workshop and the other was an acting workshop. I took the movement workshop first, and the first thing we did was play “Tag.” Though I have taken my fair share of movement workshops, never have I played the game “Tag” to start. However, our instructor informed us that he wanted us to get our bodies warmed up and loose. We continued playing games like “Red Light, Green Light and having dance-offs. It was almost like going back to being a child and not worrying with how you are presenting yourself. I felt more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin. There was no time for over thinking, because we were constantly moving and on our feet. You can learn a lot from watching, but in my opinion, you learn the most when you are doing.

Later, in the workshop he threw words out at us, and we went into poses that we thought portrayed that word. Then we would build on each other to create an ensemble. I learned how easy it is to take something so simple and create a story. In the acting workshop, we did not do any acting. We focused more on the body and how we need to be at ease when we are in a creative environment. We were constantly checking in with ourselves and finding ways to let everything happen naturally. I know from my past schooling, I would go an entire class period sitting and watch. But in almost every workshop I took in the U.K, we were on our feet learning, experimenting, and experiencing. It was an approach more on how to physicalize what we were feeling to get the emotions conveyed internally, something we Americans like to call the outside to inside approach.

One of the biggest differences in the British training and the American training is that the British focus more on the classical method of acting or the outside-in approach, whereas, Americans are rooted in Constantin Stanislavski’s naturalistic theories, or the inside-out approach. James Lipton, a pupil of Stella Adler’s teaching, explains it best, “The British stressed training in voice and posture and the physical attributes, whereas the American training is deep rooted in the actor’s emotions.” (Labrecque). In the inside-out approach, the actor tries to identify right away the personality characteristics, the psycho-emotional condition, and the character’s motives out of the emotions. The hope in the end is that the actor fully takes on this character and that the audience fully believes the actor is someone else.

In the outside-in approach, the actor works to first find the literal voice and language of a character and allows the words in that voice to act on the actor. Neither one of these approaches is wrong; however, the outside-in approach is the U.K.’s main focus when it comes to training their actors, and since the British seemed to be finding success in the industry, maybe their approach is becoming more effective towards audiences. Lipton says, “If you look at these English actors – David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth – they’re accustomed to playing character-roles, which is to say, they are very good at playing roles that are quite distant from themselves, physically, even emotionally.” (Labrecque). After spending time with schools like RADA and LAMDA, I can easily understand how their approach is becoming more effective.

At RADA we took a simple children’s story and walked around the room changing directions when we came to different punctuation. Doing this I noticed that not only did my voice and pitch change as I read the text aloud but so did my body. And all I was doing was walking around a room to negate the change. There was more convection and support from me then I realized. It was then that I realized that some of my training even now is switching to this outside-in approach. I recently took a Voice and Diction class at Belmont University with Santiago Sosa, and one of the main things we worked on was physicalizing our text and how using the outside of our body changes our intent and motive in speeches.

In several other workshops, I got to see this classical method come to life. At LAMDA we took a dance workshop and a Shakespeare workshop. The dance workshop was learning different styles of dance through the decades. It was fun to see how different cultures expressed themselves through dance. Physicality is a key part of the LAMDA training; their students mostly take movement classes since they believe strongly in the outside-in approach. The technique of the dances helps give the actor a better idea of how their body moves and what it can express. The Shakespeare workshop was probably the most eye-opening workshop I took. Rodney Cottier is the master of Shakespeare, and in just three hours of looking at a few pieces of text, he made me understand Shakespeare in a whole new light. Studying text is just as important as memorizing. After studying just the first scene in King Lear, I had a better understanding of punctuation and the character relationships. It made it easier for actors to find a connection to the characters and grasp the language they were saying. I wish I had more time to work with Rodney, because he truly has a gift for understanding and teaching Shakespeare text.

Something else that is very prevalent in the British training is the use of accents. British actors find the American accents easy. Famous dialect coach Claudette Rocke said, “The southern accent sings, there’s a beautiful melody to a southern accent that is reminiscent to an English example. The standard American example is very flat there isn’t much melody to it, so its actually easier for an English actor to do a southern accent and or a New York accent.” (Take Two). There are few acting schools that focus on dialect training in America, which limits their actors to certain parts that are available. This may be a key in U.K training that American acting schools need to take notice of and incorporate.

Moving on to a different view of why Britain may develop well trained actors is the culture aspect of the U.K. Theatre is respected and looked at as a true career path for people. Theatre is something that is enjoyed by a wide variety of people including their government. The U.K parliament gives funding to many professional theatres across the United Kingdom. They believe it is part of their culture, and therefore, should be part of who they are as people. In the United States, theatre is not fully appreciated by the public, and there is no government funding. Many theatres have to find donors to help keep their theatres afloat. Even with donors they are having to raise ticket prices to the public.

In America, to see a local professional theatre show, ticket prices cost approximately $30-$40, and tickets for a Broadway show can run from $75-$2,000, whereas in the United Kingdom, a ticket to the Globe Theatre cost only $5 for groundling seats. The British also have the built-in advantage of geography. American actors have to choose between going to New York to work in the theatre or move to Los Angles to find fame in television or film. The British community has film, theatre, and television all in close proximity, mostly located in London. They can switch between stage productions and film easier than Americans. (Labrecque). I experienced this firsthand; while I was in the United Kingdom, I saw seven plays with the highest ticket price only $25. There were so many shows that were easily accessible with high quality theatre. I remember leaving a Sunday night performance on the West End and seeing the streets filled with people who had just come from seeing a show. It was just so heartwarming to see theatre being appreciated.

In the end the truth about training is how much work the actor/actress wants to put forth. Any good actor needs to have a strong work ethic and be ready to work at any given opportunity. Talent is all over the world, and it should be recognized no matter where they are from in the world. Every program offers something just a little bit different, but if you are lucky to find one that fits you and you put the right amount of time and energy into your dream, then you will succeed in every way.

Advantage of British Actors Over American Essays essay

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