The internationally acclaimed Atlantic Acting School has helped aspiring actors fulfill their dreams for over 25 years. Founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy, the Atlantic has the only conservatory program in the world that offers in-depth training in Mamet and Macy’s unique and influential approach to acting: Practical Aesthetics, the Atlantic Technique. The school’s mission is to ensure that each graduate masters the essential analytical and physical disciplines of acting and to empower every student with skills necessary for success in the profession.
Simple, honest and straightforward, the Practical Aesthetics is both an acting technique and a philosophy. The technique gives actors an empowering set of analytical and physical tools. The actor learns to analyze scenes for tangible, physically-playable objectives, and to use his or her imagination, voice, body and sense of play to bring the character and the story to life. The philosophy teaches self-reliance, professional work habits, and mutual support and respect between artists.
Mamet said, “Acting is a craft.” The Atlantic Technique treats acting as a learnable skill. As in any other craft, acting has guidelines which are consistent and repeatable. When students apply themselves to these guidelines, they will learn to act. Actors trained in Practical Aesthetics are both analytic and spontaneous, proficient in thinking before they act and also acting before they think.
Most acting training is based on shame and guilt. If you have studied acting, you have been asked to do exercises you didn’t understand, and when you did them, as your teacher adjudged, badly, you submitted guiltily to the criticism. You have also been asked to do exercises you did understand, but whose application to the craft of acting escaped you, and you were ashamed to ask that their usefulness be explained.
As you did these exercises it seemed that everyone around you understood their purpose but you – so, guiltily, you learned to pretend. You learned to pretend to “smell the coffee” when doing sensory exercises. You learned to pretend that the “mirror exercise” was demanding, and that doing it well would somehow make you more attuned on stage. You learned to pretend to “hear the music with your toes,” and to “use the space.”
As you went from one class to the next, two things happened: being human, your need to believe asserted itself. You were loath to believe your teachers were frauds, so you began to believe that you yourself were a fraud. This contempt for yourself became contempt for all those who did not share the particular bent of your school of training.
While keeping up an outward show of perpetual study, you began to believe that no actual, practicable technique of acting existed, and this was the only possible belief supported by the evidence.
How do I know these things about you? I know them because I suffered them myself. I suffered them as a longtime student of acting, and as an actor. I suffered them second hand as a teacher of acting, as a director, and as a playwright.
I know that you are dedicated and eager – eager to learn, eager to believe, eager to find a way to bring that art you feel in yourself to the stage. You are legitimately willing to sacrifice, and you think that the sacrifice required of you is subjugation to the will of a teacher. But a more exacting sacrifice is required: you must follow the dictates of your common sense. It is this sense of truth, a simplicity, and feelings of wonder and reverence – all of which you possess – that will revitalize the Theatre. How do you translate them onto the Stage?
Stanislavsky once wrote that you should “play well or badly, but play truly.” It is not up to you whether your performance will be brilliant – all that is under your control is your intention. It is not under your control whether your career will be brilliant – all that is under your control is your intention.
If you intend to manipulate, to show, to impress, you may experience mild suffering and pleasant triumphs. If you intend to follow the truth you feel in yourself—to follow your common sense, and force your will to serve you in the quest for discipline and simplicity – you will subject yourself to profound despair, loneliness, and constant self-doubt. And if you persevere, the Theatre, which you are learning to serve, will grace you, now and then, with the greatest exhilaration it is possible to know.
–David Mamet, Cabot, VT 1985