As John Gielgud has said, style is knowing what kind of a play you are in. The idea of style tended to have a bad press during the naturalistic period, especially in the United States, to the degree that a respected member of the profession, Uta Hagen, could call it the dirtiest word in the business. Style became associated with artificiality, and thus dishonesty, because of the actor's failure to understand and respect the demands and dynamics of given circumstances which revealed the nature of a text. The received perception that an actor had to be him- or herself (as opposed to creating a mask of character by selection and adaptation), led to the idea of style as artificial embroidery rather than the warp and woof of the text. Actors spent time upon emotion memory to make themselves sweat on stage if the 'day' were hot, but failed to take into account the structure and rhythms of the language, theatrical and social conventions, and the tone of the play as inculcated by the social, political and moral energies of the playwright, all of which are intrinsic to the play's structure. Text not only provides the actor with the impulses to action but the shape of that action: the signs and signals that communicate a particular style in accordance with the given circumstances of the text.
The recovery of mask, both as dramatis persona and physical process, was both demanded by and made possible the broad spectrum of stylistic endeavours, such as absurdism, and the work of Brecht and Artaud, which distinguished the post-realist period of the 1950s and 1960s. The determination of style, the final vital and concrete nature of the mise-en-scène has, in our century, become the prerogative of the director. But the actor must realize this by