The Way or, “dream work”, is an acting technique using Jungian psychology in which actors study and play the characters in their dreams; they mine their unconscious for clues to understanding their character.
The technique grew out of Method acting, and it is now being taught in New York in Los Angeles.
In the past 10 years has spread into actors studios and classrooms across the country, taking its place among the ever expanding techniques of actor training and in the long-running debate over what leads to the most authentic performances.
Kate Walsh: “When you’re hooking into your unconscious or working on a dream, you’re connected in a real way that you are not manufacturing or trying to force.”
Harvey Keitel: “I see a place for this in all the acting schools across the country once they come to know about it. I see a place for this in all the acting schools across the country once they come to know about it. Actors are always searching for ways to get close to the psychology, the life, the experience of the characters they are creating. And we investigate all these situations, looking high and low for the experience that will bring us closer to this mysterious character we’re trying to create, we’re trying to know, to understand and to be. The dream work brought to the actor another tool — we stage our dreams, we put them on their feet.”
Acting teachers using dream work instruct their students to use dreams to help them connect their own personal struggles with the struggles of the characters they are playing. An actor preparing to play Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” might write a letter to herself asking her “inner self” to reveal in a dream how her own emotional experiences may be similar to those of the tortured Blanche.
Jung’s theories were first adapted for actor training in the early 1980s by Sandra Seacat, an actress and acting coach, who went on to work with Ms. Ryan, Mr. Keitel and many others. “They are really living the part,” said Ms. Seacat, 72, who continues to coach in New York and Los Angeles. “I believe that the artist is a wounded healer, that they are healing wounds of their own, and when they do that truthfully they heal the audience.”
Dream work has much in common with the Method, the approach to acting championed by Lee Strasberg, who taught his interpretation of Konstantin Stanislavski’s “naturalism” for the stage.
The difference is that while the Method also seeks to draw on the unconscious, it involves actors reaching back into their life experiences and real memories, both happy and traumatic, to evoke emotion in their roles, rather than taking inspiration from their dreams.
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