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Stanislavski and his 'system'.

A Presentation by Samantha Butler,Matt Newbery, Jesse Perrett, Lydia Richards, Hattie Taylor and Hannah Thorne.

lydia Richards

on 26 May 2011

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Transcript of Stanislavski and his 'system'.

Konstantin Stanislavski ecetera..... Map of Russia - as it looked in 1860 Lee Strasberg The Method 'The American Method' The 'system' Stanislavski found the title of his work "a little dogmatic" and always spelt it with a small s, and in inverted commas. 14 Lee Strasburg, Harold Clurman and Cheryl Crawford formed The Group Theatre in 1931 along with 28 other actors and actresses.
The Group Theatre The group included Elia Kazan, Stella Adler, John Garfield, Luther Adler, Will Geer, Howard Da Silva, Franchot Tone, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Paul Green, Clifford Odets, Paul Strand, Kurt Weill, and Lee J. Cobb. The Group Theatre split up in 1941, when McCarthyism, and American paranoia swept the artistic community. Many members were brought before the House of Un American Activities Commitee and blacklisted. When Clifford Odets’, originally an actor in the group, wrote’ Awake and Sing!’ the group really came into their own. Odets wrote highly political plays such as ‘Waiting For Lefty’, plays about working class characters, written in the language of the audience. They wished to dramatize the life of their times and to even change it. The company used an ensemble approach to acting, similar to that of the Moscow Arts Theatre, focussing not on the group as individuals but on their believability as a whole. Basing his ideas on Stanislavski’s techniques, Strasberg devised The Method, or Method acting. The American Method uses Physical and Psycological exercises to improve an actor's ability. Emotion Memory Anton Chekhov, reading his work "Seagull" to the ensemble of the Moscow Art Theatre, May 1899; picture taken in the Chekhov museum in Badenweiler “Don’t invent sufferings which you have not experienced and don’t paint landscapes you have not seen, for a lie in a story is a hundred times more boring than in a conversation. Don’t forget that your pen and your talents will be more useful to you in the future than they are now, so don’t profane them now. Write and consider carefully every line you put down to make sure you aren’t making a mess of it.”
Chekhov As television and film have become more prevelant in the twentieth century, Naturalism has become more important. In Theatre you have to cope with the limitations of set and staging and the difficulty of behaving naturally, while projecting both voice and emotion to the audience across a distance. Film is much more intimate, up close and personal. It utilises real locations and a more more understated, naturalistic style of acting is required. Modern day actors using the American Method include...... The Magic If Emotional Recall The Moscow Arts Theatre “the creation of the living word” Stanislavski recognised the fundimental paradox in theatre, that it must be portayed truthfully, whilst all involved know it is completely fake. Psycho - Physicality BODY The inner creative state is an ideal mindset for rehearsing and performing. It is an open and creative state of mind, in which the brain and body work together. All of the techniques of Stanislavski's 'system' are to promote this state. You can use the brain to influence the body, but you can also use the body to affect the brain. Gestures can create emotions. If you deflate your body, relax your muscles and your face and put you head in your hands, you will start to feel miserable. Stanislavski teaches that you should open yourself up to these triggers and use them in your acting. Concentration of Attention "Inner - Creative State" Unlike an artist or writer, who can wait until they are inspired, actors must deliver consistently, according to a rehearsal, or performance schedule. Artistic Neutrality can be achieved using relaxation and breathing exercises, and by working on your concentration of attention. We can see how this works with a simple exercise.
Breathe – Out, Out, Out, In (X3)
Breathe – In, In, In, Out (X3)
The first pattern should make you feel relaxed; it is the breath pattern of laughing. The second should make you feel anxious; it is the breathing pattern of crying. Think about the way punctuation affects a text. The breaths. The pauses. They are an indicator of the tempo, and rhythm of a piece.

Try reading a piece of text without the punctuation. It is difficult. When you put the punctuation back in you will become aware of it's emotive properties. First you must create a Blank Canvas.... It is very difficult to become a character without bringing some of yourself to the stage.... Breathing Stanislavski believed that Respiration + Rhythm = Emotion. BRAIN Relaxation is physical and psychological – if you can free your body of tension, your mind responds accordingly. This goes for breathing too: simple exercises can make you aware how and where you breathe in certain situations, breathing is important as a ‘tempo rhythm’ tool. Relaxation Stanislavski believed that theatre should be Naturalistic, and should engage the emotions of an audience. This relies on the suspension of disbelief - they must believe that it is real.

This puts a great deal of responsibility on an actor, who must project a breathing, thinking character, existing entirely in the moment, whilst all the time remembering that they are acting, remembering lines, and movements, engaging with other actors and props in an entirely mechanical, rehearsed fashion. or Constantin Stanislavski..... sometimes spelt Constantin Stanislavsky..... or Konstantin Stanislavski..... ecetera..... but he was born Konstantin Sergeyevich Alekseyev. The last tool to create the blank canvas is that of concentration of attention, being able to switch into a certain zone, to get your focus and to keep it there. He believed that you should inhabit your character fully, by getting into their mind set, and physicality.

Stanislavski said: ‘in order to get away from the auditorium, you must be interested in something on stage’

This is one of the reasons he invented the 4th Wall concept, revolutionary in a time when performers would often interrupt the action to receive a bow, or address all their lines to the audience.

He suggests you should start by considering what your character wants; concentration starts as an internal process but leads to action. Mamet agrees: ‘the teenager who wants a car, the child who wants to stay up and extra half hour, the young pupil who wants to have sex with his/her date, the gambler at the race track. These individuals have no problem concentrating. Pick something physical and fun and concentration ceases to be an issue.’ Naturalistic Staging “I demand that actors obey me, and I forced them to do so. True, many of them performed what I directed them to do only outwardly, for they were not yet ready to understand those directions through the medium of emotions. But what was I to do? I could see no other means, for we were faced by the necessity of creating a complete troupe and a new theatre with new tendencies in the space of only a few months.” Mental Reconnaissance Aims of Mental Reconnaissance

- A more Democratic way of getting everyone involved
- A move away from Stanislavski's autocratic, dictatorial style of directing
- Enabing the actors to be creative before actually embodying the character


- Blocked creativity when the actors started embodying their role Stanislavski was very much focused
upon the naturalistic style of theatre. He aimed to achieve truth on stage. The main problem he faced was that his actors and his audiences were aware that they were watching/acting in a play making the reality appear artificial. Through his system, Stanislavski seeked to limit the amount of instinctual human behaviour on stage and make every moment have a purpose. “Chekhov gave that inner truth to the stage which served as the foundation for what was later called the Stanislavsky system, which must be approached through Chekhov, or which serves as a bridge to the playing of Chekhov.” Stanislavski. Roose- Evans, James. Experimental theatre: From Stanislavsky to Peter Brook. Published in 1970 by Studio Vista. P.8. The Moscow Art Theatre in the 19th Century On 22nd June 1897, Nemirovich- Danchenko and Stanislavski sat in a Slavansky Bazaar Restaurant in Moscow and began an 18 hour discussion which resulted in the formation of The Moscow Art Theatre.

“Like All Revolutionaries, we broke the old and exaggerated the new”. Stanislavsky.

“It is not important that you play well or ill; it is important that you play truthfully”
The Seagull, written by Chekhov is the most well known play to come out of the Moscow Art Theatre. They closed their first season with it, to rave reviews.
Directed by: Stanislavski.
Opening Production: 29th December 1898. "The important thing is that it contained the poetic nerve-centre, the hidden poetry of Chekhov’s prose which was there because of Stanislavski’s genius as a director. Up to Stanislavski people had only played the theme in Chekhov and forgot that in his plays the sound of the rain outside the windows, the noise of a falling tub, early morning light through the shutters, mist on the lake were indissolubly linked (as previously only in prose) with people’s actions." Quoted by Benedetti (1999, 78). In a letter to Chekhov, one audience member described how:

“ In the first act something special started, if you can so describe a mood of excitement in the audience that seemed to grow and grow. Most people walked through the auditorium and corridors with strange faces, looking as if it were their birthday and, indeed, (dear God I'm not joking) it was perfectly possible to go up to some completely strange woman and say: "What a play? Eh?"
*The Subtext is the content that is not implicit immediately through the presentation of the characters but can be realised later on as the production unfolds.
*It can also be the thoughts or motives which are only covered by an aside.
*Being used as a metaphor to cover controversial topics is a popular way to include subtext. preconceptions... nerves... mannerisms... habits.... Everything in acting begins with the self evident truth that life on stage is synthetic. Role of the Director Inner Monologue Internal monologue, also known as inner voice, internal speech, or verbal stream of consciousness is thinking in words. It also refers to the semi-constant internal monologue one has with oneself at a conscious or semi-conscious level. The magic IF is used to help
portray truth on stage - What IF you were this person in that given circumstance?
- What IF these words were yours?
- What IF you were in control of your own movements? Stanislavski was originally a very dictatorial director All of these techniques - Relaxation, Breathing and Concentration of Attention are useful in combating stagefright.
Stanislavski was a nervous and awkward performer in his youth, but he approached his nerves analyticaly as he did everything else, developing techniques such as the Circle of Attention to help actors relax and focus on stage. Why are these tools are useful? Help the actors portray realism on stage
Connect the actors with subtext (we only vocalise 10% of what we think)
Promotes creativity They were keen amature dramatists and had a stage built on their country estate. Stanislavski first performed at age 14 and kept detailed and analytical notes about his performances from a young age. "there are no small roles, only small actors" Stanislavski as Othello Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko Legacy of 'The Method' "The real lesson that Stanislavsky taught does not lie in any of the theories and training methods that bear his name. He knew there were no shortcuts to truthfulness. After the actor has assembled all the external facts about a character and used his imagination to feel what it is like to live within those boundaries, there still remains the difficult task of using these insights to better understand the human condition. The rules are irrelevant. The process is all." Stanislavsky on Home Ground, JOHN ELSOM

“’Emotional Memory’, ‘Sense Memory’, and tenets of the Method … are a lot of hogwash. This ‘Method’ does not work; it cannot be practiced … it is as useless as teaching pilots to flap their arms while in the cockpit in order to increases the lift of the plane” The origins of Stanislavsky' System are in naturalism, positivism, even marxism, photography, Darwin, electricity... Realism became "natural" -- the subtext idea promised that we can discover everything within the ordinary.

Freud's theories of the subconcious were also very important to Stanislavski. The Interpretation of Dreams was published in 1899, in which Freud discussed the subconcious, and his theories of ID Ego and Superego. Stanislavski was the first to apply this to theatre.

He first started writing his system in 1909. “The mind will always rebel at a direct command… The command to believe will never be accepted by the mind, and all the supposed techniques to induce the capacity to believe do nothing other than take the “believer” away from the play and away from the idea of the play, away from the fun of the play” The Method - just a missunderstanding? Given Circumstances Translation improvisation Moulding:

Actor ---> Character


Character ---> Actor? The Actor's Studio:

Does the Studio create great actors
Do great actors make the Studio? Mamet: 'The accomplished actors... succeed at the Studio and elsewhere IN SPITE OF their training' Despite its criticisms from directors and psychologists alike, The Method continues to yield great results for actors, particularly in England in the work of Mike Leigh... Mike Leigh uses a combination of Stanislavski's System
and Strasberg's Method in the creation of his plays and films David Mamet absolutely hates Strasberg's Method and in his book True and False he sets out his reasons for doing so. Here are a couple of quotes: Stanislavski: ‘… the human emotions of the artist will remain alive, and they cannot be replaced by anything else …
You should never allow yourself any exception to the rule of using your own feelings’. "Create your own method, don't depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you, but keep breaking traditions, I beg you." Konstantin Stanislavski Stanislavski was born in Moscow on 17th January, 1863 and died on 7th August 1938. Stanislavsky’s father was a manufacturer, and his mother was the daughter of a French actress. The Aleskeyevs were part of the Russian borgeouises, and were keen on amature theatre, Konstantin and his 9 brothers and sisters were taken to the theatre, concerts, ballets and operas from an early age. Stanislavski was an awkward performer and suffered from stage fright. Acting was not considered a respectable profession, so Stanislvaski changed his name to save his family any embarrasment. Psychological Realism (stanislavski) Artistic Neutrality "IF is the starting point, the given circumstances build the basis for IF itself." Stanislavski IMAGINATION! Stanislavski began with a more
emotional experience approach
in the early stages of his work but soon
found that to be dangerous to his actors and quickly altered his tactics.

Emotional memory became about recalling certain memories, not from a dark hidden place of emotional supression, but by the acknowledgement of our senses. For instance, the way a smell makes us feel or how we react to a specific touch. Stanislavski sought to help us surface those emtions again but in a more structured and safer environment than around someone like Lee this photo looks like a typical Victorian slum... but it's actually one of the Moscow Art Theatre's stage sets! it is an example of Stanislavski's Our Conclusions... The given circumstances in acting are what the author or playwright have given you as an actor to work with in terms of where you are, who you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. We are going to perform a section of Act 3 scene 1 of The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov. We will include some examples of BAD acting, as it might have been done before Stanislavski. Can you spot them all? Stanislavski,
his 'system' and his Legacy. Breaking Out of Character / Showboating / Inappropriate Accent / Melodramatics / Inconsistent Mime / Interrupting the Action / Poor Character Interaction Before Naturalism, lines were often delivered to the audience, not to the other characters. It was not uncommon for an actor to enter, walk straight to the front of the stage and take a bow, interrupting the action, and requiring the other actors to freeze until action could resume.

Sets and costumes were not considered carefully, but whatever was to hand. Doors are positioned not for the accuracy of the staging, but the convience of the actors.

Stanislavski also complained that actors were often drunk, and late to rehearsals. This would explain why his 'system' also deals with dicipline, which he claims is an important quality in an actor. Sense Memory
or Affective Memory learning to memorize and recall sensations, often working from a small sensation and expanding it, a technique Stanislavski called “spheres of attention”. Learning to divide the role into sensible units that can be worked on individually, and developing the ability to define each unit of the role by an active goal desired by the character rather than as an entirely literary idea and have solid reasoning behind it. For example in Enrik Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler', the actor playing Hedda would have the objective to leave to sleep, as she is frustrated with the others in the room
Work with the text.
Developing the ability to uncover the social, political, and artistic meaning of the text, and seeing that these ideas are contained within the performance. Approaching the Text Approaching a Character The System is found in Stanislavski's three books:

• An Actor Prepares (1937) - This book explains how the actor must psychologically and emotionally prepare for a created role.

• Building A Character (1949) - This book deals with the external training an actor undertakes. The stress here is on a physical and vocal approach to the role and how far these aspects can change to display aspects of the role while remaining in the character.

• Creating A Role (1961) - This book gives detailed examples of how The System can be applied to various roles and talks about the approach to the text. The actor must consider and approach each line and every pause from the character's perspective. This helps the actor gain proper access to the subtext. We will perform Act 3 Scene 1 of The Seagull again
This time we will do it in a more naturalistic style. Do you think it is more successful? Use the text, but as an exercise, translate into your own language, use your own everyday speech patterns to convey the text. This can help you access the emotion of the piece. Circles of Attention Start by focusing your attention on something small..... one character, or an object.... expand this circle of attention... to contain more actors, objects and props... until your circle of attention..... fills the whole stage! Super Objective You can also expand your chest, relax your shoulders and lift your chin to feel confident and happy. Truth and Belief The super objective was the preparation method for the actor to focus on the overall goal of their character. This enabled them to focus on their characters incentives for their actions if they have the main end in mind.
For example, in 'Hedda Gabler' Hedda takes her own life in order to escape being controlled by men. Emotion memory is when an actor recollects emotions from personal past experiences which are suitable for the character's scene taking note how it affects them physically and using this stimulus for their character
This gave the actor the ability to give the charcter more depth, thus making the actor's performance more believable.

"He chooses very carefully from among his memories and culls out of his living experiences the ones that are most enticing...An artist takes the best that is in him and carries it over on the stage." Stanislavski belived that staging should be as realistic as possible to achieve a theatrical illusion of real life. Attention to detail was key and all of the set designs took into consideration the era of the play, class and location. Suspension of belief Proscenium arch Fourth wall Andre Antoine desinged or influences stage designs by opposing Paris Conservatory staging Craig and Stanislavski worked together on the set of 'Hamlet', however they clashed as Craig wanted the set to be symbolic, Stanislavski wanted naturalism Lighting Ligthing was realistic, designed to show the audience the time of day and/or the location of the scene. Gas lights were used at first until 1879 when Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb Sound All sound was naturalistic which meant it was either live or pre-recorded Units and Objectives There are several approaches to the Method, focussing on the creation of the character's emotions in the actor rather than the actor merely replicating feelings. Stanislavski used Affective/Emotional Memory only as a part of his toolkit, but Strasberg placed much more emphasis on it, and where Stanislavski was cautious about probing emotions too much, Strasberg was would would push actors further than they wanted to go, sometimes causing them to break-down as he dug into uncomfortable memories. Ned Manderino writes in The Transpersonal Actor: “In My Life in Art, Stanislavski expresses his desire that others further his discoveries to reach a higher consciousness. This requires taking leave of some of his more well-known theories in order to go beyond them. [Stanislavski’s] basic theories have been refined and clarified, but they have rarely been explored in ways that have led to the evolutionary process desired by Stanislavski. [He believed] that Americans should find their own way into his System because of the differences between Russian and America societies” Tempom Rhythm Hey Rosie
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