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 theater and film is an unlikely saga that has never before been fully told.
Butler writes with such awe, compassion, and conviction about [Kim] Stanley that despite having only seen a few of her performances, I felt deeply connected to her artistry, cheering her triumphs, empathizing with her struggles, wincing at her failures. That he achieves this effect not only in his portrayal of her but also with the cavalcade of characters both famous and forgotten in The Method is nothing short of extraordinary. Every vignette springs from the page ... As an author, Butler accomplishes what the Method’s devotees sought to do in their performances, bringing color and dimension to figures who might have been boxed into archetypal roles (omniscient godhead or exploitative charlatan) and presenting them to us in all their brilliant, infuriating complexity. The scope of the book is sweeping, the figures entering and exiting the narrative often larger-than-life, but each quote and anecdote Butler chooses to include draws them close enough to touch.
Thoroughly engrossing ... [Butler] handles his material deftly, like a biographer ... Butler makes an airtight case for the Method as an artistic revolution on par with other mid-century advances, from improvisation in jazz and stream-of-consciousness in fiction to the flourishes of abstract expressionism in painting ... Butler’s book revives the memory of plenty of the Method’s most estimable proponents.
The Method proved fascinating. The story of the philosophy’s growth and evolution plays out in the same manner as any good biography, with each high point explored with scholarship and thoughtfulness. A book like this could have easily read as dry and/or academic, but instead, Butler has woven his thorough research into a compelling narrative, one with heroes and villains and misunderstood figures from the nebulous middle space. All this while also producing a work of theatre history ... The Method will be of great interest to fans of history and the theatre, of course, but the truth is that anyone can read this book and engage with it. Butler has crafted an impressive and engaging work of nonfiction, a book that will prove fascinating to anyone who picks it up.