Tacoma Actors Repertory Theatre

Intimate Theatre, Accessible Art

The Robotic Mumble Corps: Or, What Classical Acting is Not

What is classical acting, anyway? There may be a variety of definitions you’ve gleaned from your interaction with theater and theater people. We’re here to set the record straight as to what the definition of classical acting is—as it pertains to us folks at Tacoma Actors Repertory Theatre.

First we’ll start with what classical acting is not. It is not ‘method’ or overwrought. It is not unnatural. It does not encourage quick, undecipherable delivery of lines. It is not inaccessible.

It is accessible. It is intentional. So what else is it?

Classical acting finds the perfect balance between naturalism and presentation. (Because being onstage is not a natural thing.) Classical acting respects the text—the word—of the playwright and emphasizes clarity of speech.

How does classical acting differ from method acting?

With method acting, you put the character into you, yourself. You view your current world with the lens of your character and their experiences and react accordingly. You use this in your daily life and this implementation continues into your work on the stage or screen.

Classical acting has you put yourself in the character. Your life and your experiences serve as a launching point for letting the imagination run wild to create the world for the character. You decide where the character came from and where they are now; you decide the fantasy future they wish to attain. You decide how the past affects their physicality.

Here’s a quote that’s true, but an oversimplification of classical acting from the esteemed Morgan Freeman:

"I don’t get attached to the character. I’m only attached when I’m on the stage. When I walk off stage, I’m unattached. I leave it right at the line of where you cross from stage to backstage.” [source

Classical acting respects communication. There’s a perfect balance between over-done and under-done that means that a line spoken upstage can be heard clearly in the last row.

There’s a certain way of carrying yourself if you’re a classically trained actor. Urgency and specificity are the major characteristics. While precise, gestures are never robotic.

At Tacoma Rep, we will use these guidelines in our work to create fantastic theatrical presentations for our patrons. We hope to see you at our events later this year to see classical acting... in action.