Penny was recently asked to be part of a panel of professionals who were asked this question by BACKSTAGE.
We thought you’d like to read her answer.
Yes: idolatry. Acting is a craft, not a religion. I disagree with any philosophy that claims it is “the way”—the only way.
All of us who endeavor to help actors develop as artists owe an undying debt of gratitude to Stanislavsky and the great master teachers who came to us from the Group Theatre. They gave us the tools and techniques that today’s teachers draw on when creating what they feel is the best approach to help the actors they are working with master the craft.
The tragedy is that as these great master teachers developed their own specific techniques, they became entrenched in their methods. This created a rift in the industry, as actors were forced to choose which way was the “right” way. Today this has left us with legions of actors and teachers who worship their particular god of Strasberg, Adler, or Meisner, et al. This causes many actors to feel afraid, ashamed, or disloyal if they dare to explore any other techniques—techniques that in fact could be valuable in helping them to become more complete artists.
The truth is, we need all of these approaches. Each is filled with valuable tools that actors draw on to develop and create their craft. In standing alone, each of these schools of thought has gaping holes that can only be filled by looking at the totality of what these great teachers gave us.
This worship of a particular philosophy presumes that a true artist is the result of that technique or teacher. I believe true artistry is the ability of actors to draw on their creativity, uniqueness—and all the valuable techniques—to fulfill the potential of their talent.