Hero Worship Stanislavsky, Method Acting, and the effects of the Method on the contemporary stage

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Hero Worship

  • Stanislavsky, Method Acting, and the effects of the Method on the contemporary stage

The Man

The Man: Theatrical Life

  • Began acting at the age of 14

  • Continued to act & began to direct through the late 1800s

  • In 1898, with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT)

  • Focused on a naturalistic approach to acting

  • Debut production was Chekhov’s The Seagull

The Man: His System

  • Developed “The Method”--the first prescribed system of acting--through work at the MAT

  • Published two books about his system: An Actor Prepares and My Life in Art

The Man: His Legacy

  • Is still revered as a teacher & theorist

  • “Love the Art in yourself, not yourself in the Art.”

The Method

  • Strives to create the illusion of natural reality on stage

  • Relies heavily on the “Fourth Wall” & “Willing Suspension of Disbelief”

  • An “inside-out” system of acting

The Method: Emotional Memory

  • Encourages actors to connect real emotions with emotions for the stage

  • Actors recall a time when they experienced a similar emotion, feel it again within themselves, and then show its manifestation to the audience

The Method: “The Magic If”

  • Also referred to as “The Situation” or “Given Circumstances”

  • Asks the actor to place himself in the shoes of the character

  • “What would I do if I were in Hamlet’s position?”

  • Encourages actors to improvise off-stage interactions and to play out scenes not found in the script

The Method: Character Creation

  • Emphasizes “inner life” of the character

  • Asks actors to create extensive backgrounds for their characters to fill out the text

  • Stanislavsky insisted that even his extras have full bios for their characters

The Madness

  • The Method is still the preferred acting technique of millions of actors & acting teachers around the world, particularly in the US

  • It has almost reached cult status, as Method Actors embrace Stanislavsky’s theory with pseudo-religious fervor

The Madness: The Actors Studio

  • Founded in 1947 by Lee Strasburg

  • Espouses Method Acting, encouraging students to develop characters, rely on emotions, etc.

  • Accepts only the best

  • Has produced some of the greatest film & stage actors of our time

The Madness: Mutations

  • Many variations on Stanislavsky have appeared over the years

  • Stanislavsky himself encouraged actors to use only the parts of the Method they chose and to discard the rest

The Madness: Rebellion

  • David Mamet and many others have rebelled in recent years, calling the Method nonsense and mumbo-jumbo

  • They espouse a more direct system, eliminating character creation and focusing on the actor himself

  • “Hit your spot and tell the truth”

My Assessment

Thank You!

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