Stanislavski Techniques Essay Checker

The Stanislavski System (Basis Of Method Acting)

Constantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), a Russian actor and director, devised a system which would allow an actor to "make the audience suspend their disbelief and believe utterly in the character on stage" by way of hard work and constant study. His System, the basis of the American "Method", is built around the theory that to completely deceive the audience, the actor must suspend their own disbelief and onstage become the character they are portraying. This he claims is made possible by training the actor, analysing the script, answering the Fundamental Questions and using creative imagination - the "Magic If".

The actor must train their body and voice, as even the strongest emotions can be conveyed by carefully judged, subtle movements. They must be strong and flexible if they are to respond to all the demands of the role, as physical movement and control is the key to an accurate representation. One such example is Marlon Brando, who in preparation for the stage (and later film) production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" underwent a rigorous and demanding physical regime and diet, in order to best represent the chauvinistic, aggressive Stanley.

Concentration, both mental and physical, is also extremely important under the System as it leads to a state of heightened awareness. In Drama class, I applied the `circles of attention' exercise, in which I focused on one spot on the ground and then slowly widened my focus until I was super-aware and conscious of the room. The actor must be an acute observer, so that they can act and react genuinely, creating the illusion of reality.

In An Actor Prepares, Stanislavski states "The actor must first of all believe in everything that takes place onstage, and most of all, he must believe what he himself is doing. And one can only believe in the truth." He proposed that this was possible through `emotion memory'. The actor must be able to recall past experiences which will allow them to understand and represent `naturally' the sensations (eg. sight, touch) and events the character undergoes. In "Life After George", my character Lindsay has to try and `get through' to an emotionally cold and distant Beatrix. To understand how Lindsay is affected, I physically tried to push myself through a wall of people in order to talk to the girl playing Bea. When being the character Lindsay, I remember how it felt and the mental anguish and frustration, and try to convey these emotions in relation to the action. "The more an actor has observed and known, the greater his experience the clearer his perception of the inner and outer circumstances of the life in his play and in his part." Brando, for his role in "The Men", prepared by spending a month in a physical therapy ward, immersing himself in the emotions that he would later recall when portraying the embittered paraplegic.

In order to truthful, the actor must understand at all times what is happening in the play. To help...

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From Travis Lee Ratcliff comes a video essay that explores the influence of Constantin Stanislavski, the Russian theatre director whose "system" of actor training shaped a generation of iconic American actors. Here's how Ratcliff sets the stage for his video essay.

In the 1950s, a wave of “method actors” took Hollywood by storm.

Actors like James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift, brought a whole new toolset and perspective on the actor’s craft to the films they performed in.

The foundation of their work, however, was laid in Russia more than fifty years prior to their stardom.

Stanislavski’s conception of “psychological realism” in performance challenged ideas about the essential features of the actor’s craft that had been held for centuries.

In theatre before Stanislavski, acting was defined as a craft of vocal and gestural training. The role the actor played was to give life to the emotions of the text in a broad illustrative fashion. Formal categories such as melodrama, opera, vaudeville, and musicals, all played to this notion of the actor as chief representer of dramatic ideas.

Stanislavski’s key insight was in seeing the actor as an experiencer of authentic emotional moments.

Suddenly the craft of performance could be about seeking out a genuine internal experience of the narrative’s emotional journey.

From this foundation, realism in performance began to flourish. This not only changed our fundamental idea of the actor but invited a reinvention of the whole endeavor of telling stories through drama.

Teachers would adopt Stanisvlaski’s methods and ideas and elaborate upon them in American theatre schools. The result, in the 1950s, would be a new wave of actors and a style of acting that emphasized psychological realism to a greater degree than their peers in motion pictures.

This idea of realism grew to dominate our notion of successful performances in cinema. Stanislavskian-realism is now central to the DNA of how we direct and read performances, whether we are conscious of it or not.

I think it is important to know this history and consider its revolutionary character. Understanding the nature of Stanislavski’s insights allows us to look at other unasked questions, other foundational elements of our craft that we might take for granted.

Beyond this, Ratliff also provides a list of Stanislavski’s books, which still provide "fascinating explorations of the craft of performance." Check them out:

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