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Meyerhold and Stanislavsky
Transcript of Meyerhold and Stanislavsky
The actor uses past experiences or emotions to express what the character might be thinking. This utilizes techniques that express realism in the theater, which Meyerhold opposed fervently, believing that awareness of the body was superior to psychologically analyzing a character.
Stanislavsky produced, taught and directed while Russia was the Soviet Union. Because of this, he was required to produce a certain amount of Soviet plays yearly.
Co-founder of the Moscow Art Theater (MXT) and creator of the Stanislavski method of acting, AKA method acting.
A collaborator with Stanisavski, Meyerhold strongly disapproved of realism in the theater, maintaining that acting should come not from the inside out, like in Stanislavski's method, but from the outside in through regimented exercises
“the path to the image must begin not from emotional experience, not ‘from within’, but from without, from movement. Moreover, any movement, the tilt of the head, the turn of the body, the smallest gesture, even the fluttering of eyelashes, should ideally involve the whole body of the performer, who possesses musical rhythm and quick, reflexive ‘excitability’.”* Meyerhold therefore turned rhythm and movement into a component of the performance which created content as well as form."
Meyerhold and Stanislavsky
Method and Mechanics
Examples of this were, "Three Fat Men", "Bread", and "The Days of the Turbins"
Stanislavski & The Moscow Art Theater: A Timeline
Stanislavski’s Life & Times In Convenient Timeline Form:
1861: Serfs Liberated; Russian actors no longer the property of feudal lords.
1863: Constantin Sergeyevich Alexeyv (“Stanislavski”) born into wealthy merchant family.
1874: Vsevolod Meyerhold born in Penza Oblast, Russia.
1883: Stanislavski briefly attends drama school but leaves before graduating.
1888: Appears in Les Plaideurs of Racine and Gogol’s The Gamblers, founds the Society of Art and Literature. Stanislavski continues to perform in Russia and on tour in Europe, becoming more famous as an actor.
Stanislavski as Othello 1896
1896: Stanislavski famously appears as Othello in black face. He is now one of the most prominent actors in Russia. Meyerhold studies at the Moscow Philharmonic Dramatic School under Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, the eventual cofounder (with Stanislavski) of the Moscow Art Theater.
1897: Stanislavski meets Russian playwright Nemirovich. They found the Moscow Art Theater after a meeting that reportedly lasted from 2pm until 8am the next day.
Moscow Art Theater
STANISLAVSKI (Trigorin) & POKSANOVA (Nina) in The Seagull (1898)
1898: Moscow Art Theater opens on October 14th with Stanislavski’ production of Tolstoy’s Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich. In December, he directs and plays Trigorin in Chekhov’s The Seagull. Meyerhold appears as Konstantin.
Meyerhold preparing for the role of Treplev
The success of this production makes both Checkhov and MAT famous throughout Russia, and the MAT adopts a picture of a seagull as their emblem.
Stanislavskiy (as Astrov) & Lilina (as Sonya) in Checkov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ (1899)
1899: Directs and appears as Astrov in the premier of Uncle Vanya. Stanislavski cites his foremost concerns as a director as being the actor’s “punctuality and backstage drunkenness”. Meyerhold works as an actor with Moscow Art Theater.
1900: Directs and appears as Dr. Stockmann in An Enemy of the People.
1901: Directs and appears as Vershinin in the premier of Three Sisters. Directs The Wild Duck later that year.
1901: Directs the premiers of Small People and The Lower Depths.
1903: Plays Brutus in Julius Caesar. This production precipitates an artistic crisis for Stanislavski that leads him to the method and research underlying An Actor Prepares.
1906: German tour of MAT. Artistic crisis beginning in 1903 hits its high point. Stanislavski takes a summer holiday in Finland where he begins to lay out his eventual ‘System’. Research continues through 1912, although no book is written yet. New system focuses on both external and internal method by which actors can live their roles, places the actor as the foremost contributor to the creation of the character (in contrast to his earlier style of absolute directorial authority).
1907: Directs Knut Hamsun’s The Drama of Life. Meyerhold moves to St. Petersburg and becomes a prominent actor and director in the Imperial Theater.
1909: Directs A Month in the Country.
Stanisclavski as General Krutitski in Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man
1910: Appears in Enough Stupidity in Every Wise Man.
1911: Directs Hamlet at MAT. Widely hailed as a masterpiece. Designed by Edward Gordon Craig.
Edward Gordon Craig's set design for MAT's Hamlet
1915: Directs and appears in Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri.
1917: The Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin comes to power. Due to a close alliance with Lenin, MAT continues unperturbed. Many MAT actors win prestigious postings and awards from Soviet government. Meyerhold joins the Bolshevik Party.
1919: Meyehold diagnosed with tuberculosis. In vogue with 19th Century medicine, he is forced to head south where it is warmer. In his absence, and despite his close ties with Lenin, Meyerhold is replaced in his St. Petersburg post.
1922-23: American tour of MAT. Stanislavski becomes disenchanted with Chekhov’s plays and refuses to allow MAT to remount them. Meyerhold moves to Moscow and founds The Meyerhold Theater, focused on circus theatrics and a form of physical and emotional realism similar to Stanislavski’s system.
Founder of American Laboratory Theatre, Bolesław Ryszard Srzednicki February 4, 1889
1923American Laboratory Theatre founded by former students Moscow Art theatre Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya. Students included Harold Clurman, Lee Strassberg.
MARIA OUSPENSKAYA (1876 - 1949)
1924: American edition of My Life in Art, Stanislavski’s autobiography, published.
1926: Russian edition of My Life in Art.
Isaak Brodsky's portrait of Stalin, pre 1939
1927: Stalin takes power in Russia. Socialist Realism becomes the only permissible artistic style in The Soviet Union (the definition of which narrows considerably). MAT faces heavy censorship and the quality of their productions declines. Stanislavski’s nephew imprisoned in the gulags.
1928: Stanislavski suffers a heart attack on stage. This forces him to heavily cut back on the day-to-day work of MAT and leads him to begin seriously writing An Actor Prepares. However, he is unsuccessful in his attempts to quit smoking or drinking.
1931The Group Theatre founded. Heavily influenced by Moscow Art Theatre,
Photo of most members at the summer home at Pinebrook Country Club in Connecticut, circa late 1930s
Stanislavsky, and “method” acting. Included Harold Clurman, Lee Strassberg, Elia Kazan, Morris Carnovsky, Sanford Meisner.
1936: American edition of An Actor Prepares, translated by Jennifer Hapgood and published by Theatre Arts Inc. The war prevents the second two books of Stanislavski’s acting system from appearing; American Method Acting emerges for the assumption that Actor Preparesrepresents the sum total of the System. Awarded the People’s Order of the USSR, his system is absorbed by the Soviet arts world as a “realistic” method for theater, ignoring or censoring the spiritual and psychological aspects of Stanislavski’s system.
Konstantin Stanislavski in 1938
1938: Stanislavski hands control of MAT to Meyerhold, then dies of heart failure while rehearsing Tartuffe. Russian edition of An Actor Prepares.
1940: Meyerhold arrested by Soviet police. He is tortured until he admits to being both a British and Japanese Intelligence Officer (confessions he later recanted). He is sentenced to death by firing squad and executed the same year. MAT continues under heavy Soviet censorship but loses its artistic relevance until the 1970s.
1949: Building A Character – which focuses on the physical and external aspects of the system – released in the United States long after Method has incorporated only the psychological guidance of An Actor Prepares.
1961: Creating a Role released in the United States. Focuses on how the System can be applied to a variety of roles.
"His teaching practices explored the biomechanical process of theatricality, and he was one of the earliest advocates of the visual and non-verbal aspects of theatre. His approach was to sharpen the senses of his ensemble of actors by mixing opposites through an eclectic use of forms such as Commedia dell'Arte, Kathakali, Chinese Circus, and Kabuki Theatre. He achieved this in his training by exploring the emotional, muscular and intellectual capacities of his actors, enabling them and himself to discover new rhythms in the theatrical language of the 1920s and 1930s (Braun, 1995)."