AT FIRST GLANCE it might seem that style is not properly the concern of the actor, except in so far as he must acquire the technical facility to execute a performance in any style demanded by the author and dictated by the director. Many persons, however, insist that the style of a performance is largely, if not exclusively, determined by the methods or the techniques of the artist; and since the actor, in addition to being an artist in his own right, is also the instrument of both the author and the director, the student of acting would do well to give thoughtful consideration to the complex and confusing subject of style.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists twenty-eight different meanings of the noun style, so that there would seem to be little hope of arriving at one ultimate definition which would be acceptable to everyone, but there are several concepts which recur frequently in the various definitions and which the actor may profitably examine. A study of these concepts should help him achieve a better understanding of his own art, as well as of both the aims and the methods of the other artists with whom he is in constant collaboration -- the author, the director, the other actors, the scene designer, and the costume designer. Ever since the revolution, or evolution, which occurred in the theater during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth -- bringing with it an increase in the importance of the scene designer, the advent of the director in the modern sense of the word, the ideal of ensemble playing, and the modern emphasis on careful artistic integration of all the elements of a production -- actors have been required to achieve a technical facility which permits them to adapt, not only their methods, but also their aims to the methods and the aims of their collaborators.
One of the most persistent concepts involved in the various definitions of style is the idea that style is closely linked to the personality of the artist. According to one definition, for example, style is "the manner of expression characteristic of a particular writer, or of a literary group or period." It should be noted that, in defining style as "the manner of