Acting Techniques

Practical Aesthetics Acting

Created by William H. Macy and David Mamet, practical aesthetics is an acting method that is based on the ideas of the likes of Sanford Meisner, Stanislavski, and Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher from Greece. Basically, this technique involves the breaking down a scene into four steps as show below:

  • Literal- this is the most basic description of the happenings of a scene
  • Want- this is what one character wants the other character to say or do
  • Essential action- It is what an actor wants in a particular scene. It is important to understand that what the actor does is separate from what the character does.
  • As If- this relates to the so called “essential action” to the life of the actor. This step sparks the actor’s involvement in a scene, helping him to find the truth and escape fiction.

The followers of this acting technique include Jessica Alba, Scot Parker, Clark Gregg, Rose Byrne, Felicity Huffman, Camryn Manheim, etc. Practical aesthetics is useful in highlighting the acting experience, and it is based on the actor rather than the character. What is the actor looking to accomplish in a particular scene? What would they do in a particular situation?