An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

View previous topic View next topic Go down

An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:19 am


Konstantin Stanislavsky


Last edited by eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:55 pm; edited 2 times in total

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Tue May 17, 2011 6:49 am

Chekhov's Three Sisters: at home with the Brontës?

My new adaptation will portray Natasha, Masha and Olga as Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It's not as far-fetched as you might imagine …


From Russia with love ...could Chekhov's Three Sisters relocate to Brontë Parsonage in Haworth? Photograph: Don McPhee

"You should do Three Sisters as the Brontës," the Observer theatre critic Susannah Clapp suggested to me, half-jokingly, about 10 years ago. She had seen a couple of adaptations I'd done for Northern Broadsides – adaptations which take classic European plays and resituate them closer to home. One of them was Kleist's Der Zerbrochene Krug (The Cracked Pot, as it became), which I reset in my birthplace of Skipton, north Yorkshire. But Natasha, Masha and Olga as Charlotte, Emily and Anne? A trio of Russian aristocratic women as the tragically short-lived authors of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? Wasn't that just nuts?

In fact, Donald Rayfield's biography of Chekhov tells us that he'd read a life of the Brontës in 1896, four years before writing the play. And at least one British director has drawn inspiration from the Brontë connection: Katie Mitchell, for her National theatre production of Nicholas Wright's translation in 2003.

As far as I know, however, no one has yet reworked Chekhov's play so that it reflects life in Haworth Parsonage in the 1840s. Perhaps that's because it would seem like sacrilege. But the parallels are undeniable:

• Three sisters;
• A temperamental artistic brother (Andrei/Branwell);
• An old servant;
• A preoccupation with love and marriage;
• A belief in the value of work;
• Stoicism;
• A tragic ending.

Unfortunately for any would-be adapter, the differences are undeniable, too. Masha seems the obvious role for Emily, for instance – but in Chekhov's play Masha is married and as far as we know there was no man, let alone a husband (or a Vershinin), in Emily's life. Similarly, in Chekhov the father is dead, whereas Patrick Brontë outlived all his children and can't just be cut from the story. Then there are the military officers hanging round the Serghyeevnas' house – since no soldier, to our knowledge, ever visited the Parsonage, what was to be done with them?

For a time I gave up trying to make things fit. Then Barrie Rutter – actor, director and founder of Northern Broadsides – urged me to have another look. And this time, after re-reading the Brontës' novels, poems and letters, I began to explore a further connection. Branwell had a married lover 15 years older than he was, Mrs Robinson (a gift of a name), whose affair with him was cataclysmic – much as the arrival of the "fourth sister", the vulgar Natasha, Andrei's wife, is a source of disruption in Chekhov's play. There was a plotline to work with here. I could make a start.

A year and several drafts later, the casting is well-advanced, the designer Jess Worrall (a Brontë fanatic) is busy on the set and costumes, and a tour is in place for the autumn. I'm well aware that not everyone will approve – that Chekhovians may hate the way scenes have been added and characters subtracted, and that Brontëites may object to the liberties I've taken with chronology. But I hope the play will also offer insights into the place of love and passion in the Brontës' lives. And also that by drawing on Chekhov, I can banish the gloom surrounding the Brontës and reveal their resilience, their radical thinking and (yes, amazing though it might seem) their humour.

The text isn't set in stone, and I've still to decide how to handle the sisters' famous yearning for "Moscow, Moscow, Moscow". Should it be "Keighley, Keighley, Keighley", "Scarborough, Scarborough, Scarborough", or "London, London, London"? We'll have to see.

Posted by Blake Morrison Monday 16 May 2011 12.22 BST guardian.co.uk

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011


Last edited by eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:56 pm; edited 1 time in total

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:24 pm

^

I don't know how to copy embedded vid clips, but I've replicated below the non-vid elements of the original ATUI thread on Stanislavsky in the event of link expiry:

**********************************************************************

Eddie wrote:

Apart from Hamlet's advice to the players about holding a mirror up to Nature this was the first attempt- as far as I know- to instruct actors in their craft by means of a printed text:



Stanislavski's theories about Naturalistc acting were developed as a response to the demands made of Russian thesps by the plays of Anton Chekov (see Chekov thread in this section).

Considering the exagerated, overblown acting style common on the 19th century stage, "Acting Without Acting" is actually not a bad description of the type of performance style Stanislavski and Chekov were striving to achieve.


Last edited by eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:57 pm; edited 1 time in total

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:26 pm

Eddie wrote:

STANISLAVSKI's APPROACH CONDENSED BY PHIL GYFORD:

1. The First Test

3 First lesson: turn up to rehearsals on time!

5 If rehearsal seems stilted, the same old stuff, change something: setting, privacy, mood, etc.


2. When Acting is an Art

13 Ideally an actor should be carried away in his part, by the subconscious (as long as it carries him in the right direction). But it’s impossible to control the subconscious without destroying it.

14 You must “live the part” by “actually experiencing feelings that are analogous to it, each and every time you repeat the process of creating it.”

15 “Plan your role consciously at first then play it truthfully.” “We must assimilate a psychological technique of living a part, and that this will help us to accomplish our main object, which is to create the life of a human spirit. We must then “express [the life of a human spirit] in a beautiful, artistic form.”

16 The body must be up to it.

18-20 Another method: the “art of representation.” The original preparation of a role is good and true but subsequent performances are fixed, cold copies of its external representation without feelings. We prefer that each performance must be fresh and felt.

19 Be careful when rehearsing with a mirror — teaches you to watch the outside, not the inside.

22-23 The school of the art of representation says the stage is too poor in resources to create life, so we must use these conventions. It may delight you but won’t move you. Its form is interesting rather than content. “Your astonishment rather than your faith is aroused.”

24-6 Mechanical acting: acting with clichés. Shaking fist for revenge, putting hand over heart to express love. Peasants spitting on floor, military men clicking heels. Tearing hair in despair. Clichés will fill every spot in a role that’s not solid with living feeling. But it still takes work to achieve mechanical acting.

27-9 Over-acting: using the first stereotypes, rubber stamps and first impressions that leap to mind, without even sharpening or preparing them for the stage. Common in beginners and can grow into the worst kind of mechanical acting.

29 “Never allow yourself externally to portray anything that you have not inwardly experienced and which is not even interesting to you.” A character built on stereotype cannot grow.

31"Now remember firmly what I am going to tell you: the theatre, on account of its publicity and spectacular side, attracts many people who merely want to capitalize their beauty or make careers. They take advantage of the ignorance of the public, its perverted taste, favouritism, intrigues, false success, and many other means which have no relation to creative art. These exploiters are the deadliest enemies of art. We have to use the sternest measures with them, and if they cannot be reformed they must be removed from the boards. Therefore … you must make up your mind, once and for all, did you come here to serve art, and to make sacrifices for its sake, or to exploit your own personal ends?”

3. Action

35-7 Whatever happens on stage must be for a purpose, even if you outwardly appear to be doing nothing. You must act either outwardly or inwardly.

40-41 Never simply try to act emotions — emotions are caused by something that has gone before, and it’s this that you should think of. The result will produce itself.

46 “If acts as a lever to lift us out of the world of actuality into the realm of imagination.”

4. Imagination

70 The actor must use his imagination to be able to answer all questions (when, where, why, how). Make the make-believer existence more definite.

71 If you do or say anything on stage without fully realising who you are, what you’re doing, how you got there, etc, you’re not using your imagination. If someone asks “is it cold outside?” you should “remember” what it was like when “you” were last out — the sights, sensations, etc — before answering.

5. Concentration of Attention

75 “An actor must have a point of attention, and this point of attention must not be in the auditorium.”

82 “Solitude in Public”: when you are in public (e.g., on stage) but have a small circle of attention and feel alone within it.

83-5 Your focus of attention can be larger areas, but this is harder to maintain — if it begins to slip, withdraw the attention to a smaller circle or single object/point, then gradually enlarge the circle of attention again.

88 At the end of every day, in bed, you should go over everything that happened in great detail, both appearance and inner emotions. Also try to refresh earlier memories of places, events, people. “That is the only way to develop a strong, sharp, solid power of inner and outer attention.”

89 You should give the objects of your attention on stage an imaginary life (where did it come from, who’s used it, etc) so that they’re more interesting to you.

93 Observe things in daily life — bestow them with imaginary backgrounds to heighten various emotions. Remember those scenes and draw on them.

93-4 When interacting with people, attempt to comprehend their inner emotional life through their actions, thoughts and impulses. Why did they do that? What did they have in mind?

6. Relaxation of Muscles

95-104 The actor should practice relaxing his muscles; we tend to be too tense.

104-6 If the actor believes in the purpose of an action, the movement will be more believable.

106-110 When performing a single gesture, only the muscles necessary for that gesture should be used.

7. Units and Objectives

111-116 When analysing a play you should look for the overall theme/idea. Then break it up into parts. Then break those up… keep going until you have a series of actions that can be made interesting, but don’t forget the overall theme.

116-126 Decide on the objective for each unit. It should be a verb, an action, something you need/want to do.

8. Faith and a Sense of Truth

130-1 Don’t try too hard to be truthful (to create a believable part) or you’ll over do it.

133 When criticising the work of others look for the good points, because the audience will want to believe what they see, not look for the unconvincing [seems a bit hopeful to me, but justifies why everyone in acting classes is so relentlessly, frustratingly positive about even hopeless performances].

143 When offstage either “play for yourself”[?] or “confine your thoughts to what the person you are portraying would be doing if he were placed in analogous circumstances.”

142-4 Repeat a sequence of physical actions over and over, with belief in their reality, until they become a single sequence: “the life of a human body.”

145-7 Where you have believable actions, it’s a better basis on which to “achieve the creation of the subconscious life of the spirit of a role.”

150-1 The difference in approach to, say, comedy and tragedy is only in the circumstances surrounding the actions of the person you’re portraying. Don’t think about the emotions — think about what you must do.

9. Emotion Memory

163-? You should use memories of emotions to recreate them on stage, sometimes fuelled by memories of sensations (smell, taste, etc).

177 You cannot use everyone else’s feelings, or made-up feelings. They always come from you. So you will always be playing yourself, “but it will be in an infinite variety of combinations of objectives, and given circumstances which you have prepared for your part, and which have been smelted in the furnace of your emotion memory.” You can only play parts well that you have the appropriate feelings for.

183-4 Set, lighting etc. set the mood for the actors, and aren’t just for impressing the audience.

184-6 To repeat a feeling that occurred accidentally, don’t start with the results — look for the original stimulus and use that.

188-90 We can use emotions generated by events we’ve only witnessed or read about, not just experienced.

192 “Do you realise, now that you know what is required of an actor, why a real artist must lead a full, interesting, beautiful, varied, exacting and inspiring life? He should know, not only what is going on in the big cities, but in the provincial towns, far-away villages, factories, and the big cultural centres of the world as well. He should study the life and psychology of the people who surround him, of various other parts of the population, both at home and abroad.”

10. Communion


198 When doing soliloquies you need to find a subject and object inside yourself. Try to establish communication between brain and solar plexus.

199-202 When communicating with a partner, maintain a constant flow, using eyes, body, emotions when not speaking, every time you act the part.

202-3 If you lack a partner for practice, don’t imagine one — find one. Or you get out of the habit of interacting with real people.

205-222 [Stuff about communicating by transmitting and receiving “rays”. Don’t get what he’s on about.]

11. Adaptation

223-8 On stage and in life we adapt our behaviour, voice, mannerisms, etc in response to the situation, who we’re talking to and what we want.

234-9 Many adaptations are unconscious. Also, types of conscious adjustments: rubber stamps / stereotypes / stencils originate from the theatrical routine and are lifeless; adaptations suggested by other people, e.g. director, other actors (but always adapt these to your own needs). Mechanical adjustments can be subconscious or conscious — natural human adaptations that become habitual. [These are good apparently, but I don’t understand how they differ from rubber stamps.]

12. Inner Motive Force

245-7 “Three impelling movers in our psychic life”: mind, will and feelings.

249 You can use any of the three to initiate the creative process, and it will in turn prompt the others. [I’m losing him here.]

13. The Unbroken Line


252-7 The life of a character should be an unbroken line of events and emotions, but a play only gives us a few moments on that line — we must create the rest to portray a convincing life.

257-260 The actor’s attention must be an unbroken stream attracted by different objects in turn (but not the audience!).

14. The Inner Creative State

261-2 Our “inner motive forces” [what are they?] combine with the “elements” [the techniques, talents, ambitions, etc earlier in the book] “to carry out the purposes of the actor,” with the aim of searching for the common fundamental objective. The “elements” are now called “Elements of the Inner Creative Mood”.

262-3 The creative mood is worse than the normal state because it’s involved with theatre and self-exhibition. Better because it includes solitude in public — spectators rouse creative energy.

263-5 Performance may be bad if the actor’s creative apparatus isn’t functioning or if he has mechanical habits. Or if he hasn’t freshened up an old role. Or stage fright. Or if one element in the composition is wrong. One false note destroys the whole truth.
[All the above in this chapter is very woolly and I’m not sure what he’s saying other than “do everything well”.]

265-6 An actor should arrive at his dressing room two hours before going on for inner preparation. First, relax muscles.

“Then comes: Choose an object — that picture? What does it represent? How big is it? Colours? Take a distant object! Now a small circle, no further than your own feet! Choose some physical objective! Motivate it, add first one and then other imaginative fictions! Make your action so truthful that you can believe in it! Think up various suppositions and suggest possible circumstances into which you put yourself. Continue this until you have brought all of your ‘elements’ into play and then choose one of them. It makes no difference which. Take whichever appeals to you at the time. If you succeed in making that one function concretely (no generalities!) it will draw all the others along in its train.”


15. The Super-Objective


271-3 You should work out the super-objective of the play — everything should converge to carry this out. It must be the fundamental driving force. Easier to determine in a good play. It must have a verb.

273-280 The “through line of action” must guide everyone toward the super objective. All the smaller units and objectives must serve this common purpose.

277-8 If you, say, rejuvenate a play with a modern theme, that must be grafted on to the super-objective, not be a distraction from it.

16. On the Threshold of the Subconscious

285-6 If something happens accidentally on stage (e.g., a chair tipping over)… the actor should learn to use this in his part, as this can draw you closer to the subconscious.

294-5 Achieve a “creative state” (relax appropriate to the part) and then introduce an “unexpected spontaneous incident, a touch of reality” germane to the super objective and line of action. Where to find this touch of truth:

Everywhere: in what you dream, or think, or suppose or feel, in your emotions, your desires, your little actions, internal or external, in your mood, the intonations of your voice, in some imperceptible detail of the production, pattern of movements.

While the excitement of this lasts, “you will be incapable of distinguishing between yourself and the person you are portraying.”

300 The through line of action is made up of a number of large objectives. These contain many smaller objectives, which are transformed into subconscious actions.

301 We need a super-objective which is “in harmony with the intentions of the playwright and at the same time arouses a response in the soul of the actors.”

301-2 The same theme will affect different actors differently. [I’m not clear if the “theme” is the same as the super-objective — he seems to switch between the two terms.] If an actor is given a super-objective he must “filter it through his own being until his own emotions are affected by it.” Else, find the super-objective/theme for himself.


eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:27 pm

Eddie wrote:

^

I'd forgotten all the stuff about the "Super Objective": the actor ultimately serves the playwright; what he/she does should be tailored to conveying the writer's vision.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Mon Jun 06, 2011 6:28 pm

John McLaughlin wrote:

Muchly elaborated over the parallel discussions in the medieval cycle plays.

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:51 pm

S is for Stanislavsky

The Russian director and theorist is undoubtedly the greatest single influence on modern acting and – despite everything that's changed in the last century – what he has to say is still vital

Michael Billington

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 April 2012 15.11 BST


Konstantin Stanislavsky … created the vocabulary of modern theatre. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

Who has had the greatest influence on modern acting? Without doubt it was Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863–1938). He was the great director–teacher who co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre, staged the premieres of Chekhov's plays and codified a system of acting explained in books such as An Actor Prepares, Building a Character and – his autobiography – My Life in Art. He was also the godfather of American "method" acting, whose disciples ranged from Marlon Brando to Marilyn Monroe. But, while Stanislavsky was a colossus, I'd say modern drama requires other approaches to acting; and I've recently seen two brilliant performances that demonstrate both the potency of Stanislavsky and the need to venture beyond him.

If you want to understand Stanislavsky's system, you have to read the books. But a crude simplification would go like this. For the spectator to identify with the actor, the actor has to identify with the role. S/he can do this in a variety of ways: by summoning up memories from his/her past; by relying on what Stanislavsky called the "creative if", in which the actor is transported from the plane of real life to that of the imagination; or by focusing on the character's ultimate objective and then breaking the action down into specific units. All this may sound like gobbledegook to non-actors, but it is part of the vocabulary of modern theatre. It's also important to remember that Stanislavsky believed that the actor's inner experience had to be matched by external technique.

What he has to say is still vital, but, also, a lot has changed. The theatre of illusion has lost ground. Curtains and proscenium arches have been replaced by the anti-magical open stage. Playwriting has also altered in myriad ways: it is often more documentary in style and, even when totally fictional, tends to be non-naturalistic. Above all, there has been Brecht, the man who argued that the nature of performance had changed in modern times. The actor, in Brecht, stands back from the character and looks at it; the audience, meanwhile, stands back from the actor and assesses him or her.

So which is to be? Brecht or Stanislavsky? I think there's room for both. I've no idea whether Laurie Metcalf, who is currently playing Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night at the Apollo in London, is a Method-trained actor or not; but everything she does on stage could be seen as a vindication of the Stanislavsky approach. Metcalf does, or so it seems to me, identify with the character. She also does have a super-objective: to disguise from her family for as long as possible her relapse into morphine-addiction. You could even say she has broken the action down into specific units: I noticed, in one scene, how she both tries to respond to her husband's gentle caresses while also ensuring he doesn't touch her needle-punctured left forearm. Metcalf seems to have immersed herself totally in the character and situation, so that she delivers her final speech lying on the floor clutching the chaise-longue for support.

It's great acting. But different plays require different styles. A week later I saw Cate Blanchett give an equally monumental performance in Botho Strauss's Big and Small at the Barbican. If I call this a classic Brechtian piece of acting, it is not just because the play is German and written in 10 discrete scenes: it is because we are invited to enjoy the conscious element of performance. Obviously that has something to do with Blanchett's movie fame. But she also seems to be presenting the character to us for comment. "Here," she effectively says, "is this good-hearted blabberer, Lotte, who seems totally adrift in a mad, modern, materialist society. Is it her fault or the society's?" I wouldn't for a second deny that, by the end, we have come to identify with Lotte in the style of illusionist theatre. But Blanchett also perfectly fulfils the Brechtian ideal that we should savour the dual nature of performance: half actor, half role, Blanchett playing Lotte as well as being Lotte.

Of course, there is a host of other influences at work in acting today: the drizzle of TV realism, the exuberance of stand-up comedy, the intimacy of small spaces and the heavily-amplified atmosphere of big arenas. Actors also work in highly individual ways – some start from inner intuition, others from the physical externals. I'd only say this: even if actors choose to go beyond Stanislavsky, they first have to know exactly what it is they're rejecting.

Now read: My Life In Art by Konstantin Stanislavsky (Routledge)

In detail: The Moscow Art Theatre Letters, edited by Jean Benedetti (Methuen/Routledge)

eddie
The Gap Minder

Posts : 7840
Join date : 2011-04-11
Age : 60
Location : Desert Island

Back to top Go down

Re: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski

Post  Sponsored content Today at 10:33 pm


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum