Stanislavski Method by vSTnB6


									Stanislavski Method

Although most filmgoers readily form opinions about acting, the subject of
performance is one of the least analyzed aspects of film aesthetics. What exactly do
actors contribute to film artistry, and how do they do it? Lee Strasberg (1899-1982),
a teacher and theorist of acting and a leader of the Actors Studio, suggested that the
most effective film performers were those who did not act. “They try not to act but to
be themselves, to respond or react,” he said. This may be a debatable proposition in
the sense that performers' images and roles are invariably constructed by such
factors as studio publicity and genre codes, but it does relate to a central tenet of the
Stanislavski Method: actors were not to emote in the traditional manner of stage
conventions, but to speak and gesture in a manner one would use in private life.
Konstantin Stanislavski, who was, director at the Moscow Art Theater, wrote a
number of books on acting, the first of which, An Actor Prepares, was published in
English translation in 1936. Before then, however, one of his students, Richard
Boleslawsky (1889-1937), opened an acting school in New York and began teaching
Stanislavskian principles (Boleslavsky went on to Hollywood and directed a number
of films in the 1930s)”

The first significant performance work drawing on Stanislavski's ideas was carried
Out by the Group Theater, formed in New York in 1931. The Group's most famous
Production was a play expressing the militant radical spirit of the 1930s, “Waiting for
Lefty” (1935), by Clifford Odets (1903-1963), who became a Hollywood scriptwriter
and occasional director. The Group did not last beyond the 1930s, but its influence
continued in Hollywood and through the formation of the Actors Studio.

After World War II, in the context of the Actors Studio, the Stanislavski Method was
shorn of its radical Political connotations (the Group Theater became a particular
target of anticommunist investigators) and emphasized an individualized,
psychological approach to acting- The “Method” required a performer to draw on his
or her own self, on experiences, memories, and emotions that could inform a
characterization and shape how a character might speak or move. Characters were
thus shown to have an interior life; rather than being stereotyped figures
representing a single concept (the villain, the heroine), they could become complex
human beings with multiple and contradictory feelings and desires. it was the ability
to convey the complexity-indeed the confusion of inner feelings that made the Actors
Studio-trained Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean such emblematic
                                                     figures for the Postwar era.

                                                    The most celebrated two character
                                                    exchange in the history of
                                                    American movies, a historian of
                                                    Method acting, Steve Wineberg,
                                                    has called the taxicab scene in “On
                                                    the Waterfront”, with two Actors
                                                    Studio alumni, Marlon Brando as
                                                    Terry Malloy and Rod Steiger as
                                                    Charley, his older brother. Terry
                                                    discovers his brother's past
                                                    betrayal, “I coulda been a
                                                    contender” and Charley faces his
own imminent death.

                                             Konstantin Stanislavski (1863- 1938)

                                             by Trevor Jones and Bradley W. Bishop

                                             As founder of the first acting "System", co-founder of

                                             the Moscow Art Theatre (1897-), and an eminent

                                             practitioner of the naturalist school of thought,

                                             Konstantin Stanislavski unequivocally challenged

traditional notions of the dramatic process, establishing himself as one of the most pioneering

thinkers in modern theatre.

Stanislavski coined phrases such as "stage direction", laid the foundations of modern opera and

gave instant renown to the works of such talented writers and playwrights as Maksim Gorki and

Anton Chekhov. His process of character development, the "Stanislavski Method", was the

catalyst for method acting- arguably the most influential acting system on the modern stage and

screen. Such renowned schools of acting and directing as the Group Theatre (1931- 1941) and

The Actors Studio (1947-) are a legacy of Stanislavski's pioneering vision.

Like all pioneering thinkers however, Stanislavski stood on the shoulders of giants. Much of the

thought and philosophy Stanislavsky applied to the theatre derives from his predecessors.
Pushkin, Russia's original literary hero and the father of the native realist tradition, wrote that the

goal of the artist is to supply truthful feelings under given circumstances, which Stanislavski

adopted as his lifelong artistic motto. - Polyakova, Elena; Stanislavsky

                              Stanislavsky was born Konstantin Sergeyevich Alexeyev in Moscow

                              on January 5, 1863, amidst the transition from the feudal serfdom of

                              Czarist Russia under the rule of Peter the Great, to the free

                              enterprise of the Industrial Revolution. More than one hundred years

                              prior, Konstantin's ancestor Alexei Petrov had broken the chains of

                              serfdom that bound the family and gained immediate status and

wealth as a merchant. By the time Konstantin was born, the Alexeyev business of gold and silver

thread production had made the family name well known throughout the world.

Silver and gold were not the only interests of the Alexeyev family. While Konstantin was still very

young, the family organized a theatre group called the Alexeyev Circle. Throughout his ascent to

a major role on the stage, Konstantin maintained obligations to his family business, organizing

shareholder meetings and keeping the accounts in order. However, his preoccupation with all

aspects of theatrical production eventually made him a leading member of his family's theatre


Reared by a wealthy and generous father, Konstantin was never short of funding in his early

stage performances. Ultimately, in order to escape the stereotype of the prodigal son and to be

mindful of the reputation of his family, at the age of 25, Konstantin took the stage name

Stanislavski. In the same year he established the Society of Art and Literature as an amateaur

company at the Maly Theatre, where he gained experience in ethics, aesthetics and stagecraft.
As he progressed independently, Stanislavsky began to further challenge the traditional stage

approach. In 1898, in cooperation with Vladimir Nemirovich- Danchenko, Stanislavski founded the

                         Moscow Art Theatre, Russia's first ensemble theatre.

                         "The program for our undertaking was revolutionary. We protested
                         against the old manner of acting and against theatricality, against
                         artificial pathos and declamation, and against affectation on the
                         stage, and inferior conventional productions and decoration,
                         against the star system which had been a bad affect on the cast,
                         against the whole arrangement of plays and against the poor
                         repertoire of the theatres." - Stanislavski

Using the Moscow Art Theatre as his conduit, Stanislavski developed his own unique system of

training wherein actors would research the situation created by the script, break down the text

according to their character's motivations and recall their own experiences, thereby causing

actions and reactions according to these motivations. The actor would ideally make his

motivations for acting identical to those of the character in the script. He could then replay these

emotions and experiences in the role of the character in order to achieve a more genuine

performance. The 17th Century melodrama Tsar Fyodor was the first production in which these

techniques were showcased.

"How does an actor act? ... How can the actor learn to inspire himself? What can he do to
impel himself toward that necessary yet maddeningly elusive creative mood? These were
the simple, awesome riddles Stanislavksi dedicated his life to exploring. Where and how to
'seek those roads into the secret sources of inspiration must serve as the fundamental life
problem of every true actor' ... If the ability to receive the creative mood in its full measure
is given to the genius by nature", Stanislavski wondered, "then perhaps ordinary people
may reach a like state after a great deal of hard work with themselves - not in its full
measure, but at least in part." - A Method to Their Madness: The History of the Actors

Using this system, Stanislavski succeeded like no producer or director before him in translating

the works of such renowned playwrights as Chekov and Gorki, whose writings were aptly suited

to his method. With their social consciousness and emphasis on the importance of imagery and

theme rather than plot, they were blank canvasses on which Stanislavski could exercise his artful

Stanislavski clearly could not separate the theatre from its social context. He viewed theatre as a

medium with great social and educational significance. During the civil unrest leading up to the

first Russian revolution in 1905, Stanislavski courageously reflected social issues on the stage.

                             Twelve years later, during the Red October of 1917, Bolshevism had

                             swept through Russia and the Soviet Union was established. In the

                             violence of revolution, Lenin's personal protection saved Stanislavski

                             from being eliminated along with the Czardom. The USSR

                             maintained allegiance to Stanislavski and his socially conscious

                             method of production and his theatre began to produce plays

containing Soviet propoganda.

"The revolution thundered in and made its demands on us. There began a period of new
explorations, of reappraisal of the old and the search for new ways. At a time when the
new for the sake of the new and the negation of everything that had come before held
sway in the theatre, we could not reject out of hand all that was fine in the past ... This link
with the past and the eagerness to move to an unknown future, the searching quests of
the new theatre - all this helped to keep us from succumbing to the dangerous 'charms' of
formalism ... We did not succumb; instead we began our quest for new ways, cautiously
but doggedly." - Stanislavski

In 1918 Stanislakski established the First Studio as a school for young actors and in his later

years wrote two books, My Life in Art and The Actor and His Work. Both have been translated

into over 20 languages. Through his earnest professional and educational leadership,

Stanislavksi spread his knowledge to numerous understudies, leaving a legacy that cannot be


"It was with a feeling of deep emotion and joy that we entered Stanislavski's house: a tall
old man with snow white hair rose from the arm chair to greet us. It was enough for us to
converse with Stanislavski just 5- 10 minutes to come away feeling like a new born person,
cleansed of all that might be 'bad' in art." - Khmelyov
In 1938, just before World War II, Stanislavski died holding on to the ideal of a peaceful, socially

responsible world. A world completely engulfed in the experiences and interchange of works of

art that people of every nation would identify with and cherish.

"Let the wisdom of the old guide the buoyancy and vitality of the youth; let the buoyancy
and vitality of the youth sustain the wisdom of the old." - Stanislavski

         The Stanislavski System
                       A Technique for Realistic Acting
                       (taken from the book, "Theatre, The Lively Art")
     Before the realistic drama of the late 1800s, no one had devised a method for
     achieving this kind of believability. Through their own talent and genius,
     individual actresses and actors had achieved it, but no one had developed a
     system whereby it could be taught and passed on to future generations. The
     person who did this the most successfully was the Russian actor and director
     Constanin Stanislavski.

       All of our acts, even the simplest, which are so familiar to us in everyday life,
        become strained when we appear behind the footlights before a public of a
        thousand people. That is why it is necessary to correct ourselves and learn
        again how to walk, sit, or lie down. It is essential to re-educate ourselves to
                       look and see, on the stage, to listen and to hear.
To achieve this "reeducation", Stanislavski said, "the actor must first of all
believe in everything that takes place onstage, and most all, he must believe
what he himself is doing. And one can only believe in the truth." To give
substance to his ideas, Stanislavski studied how people act in everyday life and
how they communicated feelings and emotions; and then he found a way to
accomplish the same things onstage. He developed a series of exercises and
techniques for the performer which had the following broad aims:

              1. To make the outward behavior of the
              performer - gestures, voice, and the rhythm of
              movements- natural and convincing.

              2. To have the actor or actress convey the goals
              and objectives-the inner needs of a character.
              Even if all the visible manifestations of a
              character are mastered, a performance will
              appear superficial and mechanical without a deep
              sense of conviction and belief.

              3. To make the life of the character onstage not
              only dynamic but continuous. Some performers
              tend to emphasize only the high points of a part;
              in between, the life of the character stops. In real
              life, however, people do not stop living.

              4. To develop a strong sense of ensemble playing
              with other performers in a scene.
    Let us now take a look at Stanislavski's techniques.

         When he observed the great actors and actresses of his day, Stanislavski
         noticed how fluid and lifelike their movements were. They seemed to be in
         a state of complete freedom and relaxation, letting the behavior of the
         character come through effortlessly. He concluded that unwanted tension
         has to be eliminated and that the performer at all times attain a state of
         physical and vocal relaxation.

Concentration and Observation
         Stanislavski also discovered that gifted performers always appear fully
         concentrated on some object, person, or event while onstage. Stanislavski
         referred to the extent or range of concentration as a circle of attention. This
         circle of attention can be compared to a circle of light on a darkened stage.
         the performer should begin with the idea that it is a small, tight, circle
         including only himself or herself and perhaps one other person or one
         piece of furniture. When the performer has established a strong circle of
         attention, he or she can enlarge the circle outward to include the entire
         stage area. In this way performers will stop worrying about the audience
         and lose their self-consciousness.
Importance of Specifics
         One of Stanislavski's techniques was an emphasis on concrete details. A
         performer should never try to act in general, he said, and should never try
         to convey a feeling such as fear or love in some vague, amorphous way. In
         life, Stanislavski said, we express emotions in terms of specifics: an
         anxious woman twists a handkerchief, an angry boy throws a rock at a
         trash can, a nervous businessman jangles his keys. Performers must find
         similar activities.

         The performer must also conceive of the situation in which a character
         exists (which Stanislavski referred to as the given circumstances ) in term
         of specifics. In what kind of space does an event take place: formal,
         informal, public, domestic? How does it feel? What is the temperature?
         The lighting? What has gone on just before? What is expected in the
         moments ahead? Again, those questions must be answered in concrete

Inner Truth
         An innovative aspect of Stanislavski's work has to do with inner truth,
         which deals with the internal or subjective world of characters - that is,
         their thoughts and emotions. The early phases of Stanislavski's research
         took place while he was also directing the major dramas of Anton
         Chekhov. Plays like The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard have less to do
         with external action or what the characters say than what the characters are
         feeling and thinking but often do not verbalize. It becomes apparent that
         Stanislavski's approach would be very beneficial in realizing the inner life
         of such characters.

         Stanislavski had several ideas about how to achieve a sense of inner truth.
         one being the magic if. If is a word which can transform our thoughts;
         through it we can imagine ourselves in virtually any situation. "If I
         suddenly became wealthy..." "If I were vacationing on the Caribbean
         Island..." "If I had great talent..." "If that person who insulted me comes
         near me again..." The word if becomes a powerful lever for the mind; it
         can lift us out of ourselves a give us a sense of absolute certainty about
         imaginary circumstances.
Action Onstage
         What? Why? How? An important principle of Stanislavski's system is that
         all action onstage must have a purpose. This means that the performer's
         attention must always be focused on a series of physical actions linked
         together by the circumstances of the play. Stanislavski determined these
         actions by asking three essential questions: What? Why? How? An action
         is performed, such as opening a letter (the what). The letter is opened
         because someone has said that it contains extremely damaging information
         about the character (the why). The letter is opened anxiously, fearfully (the
         how), because of the calamitous effect it might have on the character.
         These physical actions, which occur from moment to moment in a
         performance, are in turn governed by the character's overall objective in
         the play.

Through Line of a Role
         According to Sstanislavski, in order to develop continuity in a part, the
         actor or actress should find the superobjective of a character. What is it,
         above all else, that the character wants during the course of a play? What is
         the character's driving force? If a goal can be established toward which the
         character strives, it will give the performer an overall objective. From this
         objective can be developed a through line which can be grasped, as a skier
         on a ski lift grabs a towline and is carried to the top. Another term for
         through line is spine.

         To help develop the through line, Stanislavski urged performers to divide
         scenes into unit (sometimes called beats). In each unit there is an
         objective, and the intermediate objectives running through a play lead
         ultimately to the overall objective.

Ensemble Playing
       Except in one-person shows, performers do not act alone; they interact with
       other people. Stanislavski was aware that many performers tend to "stop
       acting," or lose their concentration, when they are not the main characters in a
       scene or when someone else is talking. Such performers make a great effort
       when they are speaking but not when they are listening. This tendency
       destroys the through line and causes the performer to move into and out of a
       role. That, in turn, weakens the sense of the ensemble - the playing together
       of all the performers.
Stanislavski and Psychophysical Action
         A character's actions will lead to his / her emotions.

         (This is a tough one.) Stanislavski began to develop his techniques in the
         early part of the twentieth century, and at first he emphasized the inner
         aspects of training: for example, various ways of getting in touch with the
         performer's unconscious. Beginning around 1917, however, he began to
         look more and more at purposeful action, or what he called pyshophysical
         action. (An action which has a purpose, and leads to feelings about the
         action taken.) A student at one of his lectures that year took a note and
         noticed the change: "Whereas action previously had been taught as the
         expression of a previously-
         established 'emotional state,' it is now action itself which predominates and
         is the key to the psychological." (Read this next line carefully) Rather than
         seeing emotions as leading to action, Stanislavski came to believe that it
         was the other way around: purposeful action undertaken to fulfill a
         character's goals was the most direct route to the emotions.

         Example 1: A character is sitting at a dinner table. All of a sudden the
         character quickly stands up and throws the plate at the wall, thus causing
         more anger in the character. Rather than just trying to be mad, the
         character made an angry motion, throwing a plate, that made the anger
         Example 2: Character A gives Character B a hug. Character A may now
         feel closer to the other character, and happier, since giving a hug.)
         Example 3: If you have ever seen the football player before a game who
         shouts, lifts weights, yells, or gets angry to psyche himself up before a
         game, that is psychophysical action.

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