The New York Times just ran a piece about the gaining popularity of “Dream Work” as a way for actors to move deeper into their characters. Apparently Harvey Keitel is all about it, as well as Kate Walsh from Grey’s Anatomy.
How does it work? Like the original “Method Acting” that was popularized by passionate performers such as Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro, dream work encourages actors to delve into their personal histories to uncover intense emotional storms. But instead of rekindling childhood traumas, dream work uses the actors’ dreams as the prima materia.
Based on a combination of Jungian psychology and Gestalt therapy, actors work a dream together, each playing different characters in the dream. As the Times noted, Jung once wrote, “The dream is a theater in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the author, the producer, the public and the critic.”
I have done dream theater before and, despite my initial hesitancy/horror about acting out my dreams in front of people, the experience was transforming and a lot of fun. Once, it was even cathartic.
So I am happy to hear that dreams are actively shaping movies from the inside out, especially since Hollywood is shaping our dreams from the outside in.
Antero Alli is the best source on this kind of thing I know of. His focus is more on rituals, but his ritual work naturally shades seamlessly into theatre; I imagine many of the principles overlap or are the same.
Drew Levin says
Very interesting post. Thank you
‘ “Method Acting”…encourages actors to delve into their personal histories to uncover intense emotional storms…rekindling childhood traumas’ … this article shows above all, a very poorly informed mind on The Method. To say it is largely the training of the actor to “rekindle childhood traumas” isn’t correct, infact it is not even close to the true teaching of a Method Actor. The “rekindling” of any trauma doesn’t necessarily come into practise during training whatsoever, and it is never indeed encouraged! Imagine how dangerous that could be! Method acting involves using emotional memory of the actor, but memories analytical memories… can involve even using our memory in remembering what a match-box feels like when acting with a match-box onstage, to carry a match-box with truth, as a match-box would be carried in reality. (Poorly explained example, I know)
I’m sorry to moan but ignorance only breeds ignorance, and much of The Method is misunderstood and taken from context to the extent that some disregard it altogether, which is a tragedy in itself. Only doing what I can for Lee!
Ryan Hurd says
Thanks for your comment; trauma really was too strong a word to use. Emotional memories can be powerful without being traumatic. But would you not agree that some of the most salient work resulting from the Method may deal with core existential concerns like what it feels like to lose a father, to be devastated by love, or shamed from financial ruin?
I’m happy to learn more, especially if you refrain from using words like “ignorance” in your quest to spread the integrity of Lee’s method.