• The Method

  • How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act
  • By: Isaac Butler
  • Narrated by: Isaac Butler
  • Length: 14 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (90 ratings)

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The Method

By: Isaac Butler
Narrated by: Isaac Butler
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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Method by Isaac Butler, read by Isaac Butler.

From the co-author of The World Only Spins Forward comes the first cultural history of Method acting - an ebullient account of creative discovery and the birth of classic Hollywood.

On stage and screen, we know a great performance when we see it. But how do actors draw from their bodies and minds to turn their selves into art? What is the craft of being an authentic fake? More than a century ago, amid tsarist Russia’s crushing repression, one of the most talented actors ever, Konstantin Stanislavski, asked these very questions, reached deep into himself and emerged with an answer. How his 'system' remade itself into the Method and forever transformed American theatre and film is an unlikely saga that has never before been fully told.

Now, critic and theatre director Isaac Butler chronicles the history of the Method in a narrative that transports listeners from Moscow to New York to Los Angeles, from The Seagull to A Streetcar Named Desire to Raging Bull. He traces how a cohort of American mavericks - including Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg and the storied Group Theatre - refashioned Stanislavski’s ideas for a Depression-plagued nation that had yet to find its place as an artistic powerhouse. The Group’s feuds and rivalries would, in turn, shape generations of actors who enabled Hollywood to become the global dream-factory it is today. Some of these performers the Method would uplift; others, it would destroy. Long after its mid-century heyday, the Method lives on as one of the most influential - and misunderstood - ideas in American culture.

Studded with marquee names - from Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and Elia Kazan, to James Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn and Dustin Hoffman - The Method is a spirited history of ideas and a must-hear for any fan of Broadway or American film.

©2022 Isaac Butler (P)2022 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"Elegantly written, filled with remarkable detail and incisive commentary, Isaac Butler’s sweeping historical epic is the literary equivalent of an irresistible binge-watch, propelled by emotional twists and turns, surprising cliffhangers, and a cast of the greatest actors, directors, writers, and teachers of the last two centuries. The fact that he has done all that while also writing what I think is the best and most important book about acting I’ve ever read is a major achievement. This is an essential book for anyone in the acting profession as well as for anyone who’s ever wondered ‘How did they learn all those lines?'" (Nathan Lane) 

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What listeners say about The Method

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!

Well researched, beautifully written, clearly narrated. As a theatre professional who trained up at the end of the 20th century, I recognized a lot in here, from texts to teaching methods to teacher dispositions (and less than ideal scene partners). Even though the history of the Method starts in the 19th century, it feels like my own history. I'm sure many theatre folk will feel the same. I enjoyed how the author balanced respect for the System and the Method with honesty about their shortcomings, and a recognition that actors (and all theatre artists) have always and will always have more than just one tool in their toolboxes. I'd love a follow-up from Butler that examines more 21st century techniques, including Anna Bogart's Viewpoints, Suzuki, and even Boal's contributions to the form. Definitely a must-read for students and their teachers.

2 people found this helpful

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Where is the Thesis?

It is strange that as a reader of his own book, Mr. Butler mispronounces words (slavishly, solace) and names (Guy de Maupassant, Boris Godunov), since presumably he chose them himself. But perhaps the mispronunciations get to the larger point that the material seems to be a chronological summary rather than a text designed to present a single premise. Possibly this is what Mr. Butler means when he calls himself a cultural historian. Readers will not find elucidation of how the twentieth century learned to act nor a guiding hand in understanding another theme put forth, that the Method took various forms under various teachers. Biographical material about Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando and a summary of some of the characteristics of the studios during the golden age give an idea of how far the text strays from either idea. The value of this book might be that many bits and pieces associated with Method acting are in one place, but readers who would like a coherent purpose will need to look somewhere other than in this book.

1 person found this helpful

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METHOD TO MY MADNESS

I'm usually not a fan of authors reading their own material but this one did well. The narrator stuck to the text and did not riff or improvise as so many author narrators often do.

The narrator was also evenly paced. So many of the author narrators I have heard in the past rush the passages of important text to read one of their more august sentences in their most sonorous pretentious voice. This isn't fair to the listener. I paid good money to listen to complete texts not to indulge the author narrator's fanciful whims of what a real narrator should sound like.

I am also pleased the author narrator did not introduce material from past works as so many author narrators will do if you are not listening carefully. After listening to so many audiobooks I am adept at picking out intentionally misplaced text, i.e. advertising unpublished works.

My biggest pet peeve with the narrator was with the pronunciation of certain key names in the book like Lee Strasbergs last name. It's Strasbourg--BOURG...like THE UMBRELLAS OF CHER--BOURG. Wasn't there an editor or director in the recording studio with him? Shouldn't they have told him the correct pronunciation?

Another small problem I had with the author narrator were some of the long pauses he took to drink water. These long pauses occurred toward the end of the book as his voice became more and more strained and occasionally cracked. Isn't there a way to stop the recording process long enough to allow the narrator to have some water without me having to hear him reach for it, pour it, and swallow it during certain crucial parts of the book? I'm just glad these long breaks did not happen at the beginning of the book or I would have stopped listening. I'm also glad the narrator sounded did like a nonsmoker.



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Brilliant

Compelling and well written. A history of acting but also of memorable personalities and our culture. A “real page turner.”

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To listen or not to listen

I enjoyed this book, but I'm an acting geek with a degree in it. I'm not sure if I could recommend it to a non-actor, or non-film/theater buff that's why I only gave it 3 stars but for me personally it's 4½ star book.

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Wordy and annoying. Disappointed

Was genuinely interested in the subject, but found the writing to be stuffy and the delivery irritating.
Will be returning this title for something more engaging and accessible.
Not a voice or style I want to spend 14 hours listening to. (Sorry.)

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thorough and inspiring

I very much enjoyed this long comprehensive history of the method, beginning 19th century Russia and proceeding to the early 20th century. it was particularly helpful understanding the differences between the American method acting teachers, Adler, Meisner, and Strasburg.

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  • jb
  • 05-31-22

Highly illuminating

Terrific to have an inside view of the mechanics of acting from when it became a bona fide thing. Isaac Butler post back the curtain on what motivates actors over the ages, not in a gossipy way, but in more of a factual and academic style. It really puts a lot into perspective.
Worth the read if you’re interested in the mechanics of this craft.

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Good information, needs different narrator

I loved learning about some of this history.

I am surprised, however, that the narrator is the author. The mispronunciation of words (mostly proper names) is astounding. By the last hour, the proliferation of mispronunciations led me to think the narration must be an in- joke. Can whoever produces audiobooks for this company please do an audio version of copy editing?

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Extensive History but at what cost?

I was really looking forward to this but the entire time, I was bored out of my mind. Maybe it would be better physically reading it? Still, much respect for the writer, because writing a book is an ambitious task, but this did not get my excited about the method or the history of acting.