Konstantin Stanislavski (1863 - 1938)
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KONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI (1863 - 1938) 1. What is Stanislavski known for? Stanislavski is known as the founder of the first acting "System". He is also recognised as the co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, and as an eminent practitioner of the naturalist school of thought. Stanislavski challenged traditional notions of the dramatic process, establishing himself as one of the most pioneering thinkers in modern theatre. Using the Moscow Art Theatre as his conduit, Stanislavski developed his own unique system of training wherein actors would research the situation created by the script, break down the text according to their character's motivations and recall their own experiences, thereby causing actions and reactions according to these motivations. He believed that onstage an actor should be totally relaxed in order to make his performance plausible. To reach a "believable truth," after years of research with actors of the Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavski started to employ new and original methods, such as "emotional memory." He felt at that time that to work on a particular emotion in a role that involved fear, the actor might remember something that frightened him from his own life. Stanislavski believed that an actor needed to take his or her own personality onto the stage when he or she began to play a character.
Stanislavski succeeded like no producer or director before him in translating the works of such renowned playwrights as Chekov and Gorki, whose writings were aptly suited to his method. With their social consciousness and emphasis on the importance of imagery and theme rather than plot, they were blank canvasses on which Stanislavski could exercise his artful hand. 6. What did Stanislavski mean by the term subtext? According to Stanislavski, an important aspect of building a character pertains to the subtext. The subtext is the meaning behind the words of the text. For Stanislavski, the subtext is the inward "life of a human spirit..." that constantly flows under the words of a role. Words are only a part of a given moment on stage, and are related to thoughts, bodily expressions, and images. Actors need to see images and transmit those images to the acting partner. Images need to grow in detail and become richer. 7. What did Stanislavski mean by the term psychological realism? Stanislavski's principle theory of acting was that of psychological realism. In other words, acting should be an art that teaches an actor how to consciously produce natural action; it must teach the actor how to awaken consciously his/her subconscious creative self and how to consciously create action that is usually subconsciously expressed as a result of conscious thought.
His system of theories for acting is practised all over the world. Stanislavski studied how people act in everyday life and how they communicated feelings and emotions; and then he found a way to accomplish the same things onstage. He developed a series of exercises and techniques for the performer, which had the following broad aims: 1. To make the outward behaviour of the performer - gestures, voice, and the rhythm of movements- natural and convincing. 2. To have the actor or actress convey the goals and objectives-the inner needs of a character. Even if all the visible manifestations of a character are mastered, a performance will appear superficial and mechanical without a deep sense of conviction and belief. 3. To make the life of the character onstage not only dynamic but continuous. Some performers tend to emphasize only the high points of a part; in between, the life of the character stops. In real life, however, people do not stop living. 4. To develop a strong sense of ensemble playing with other performers in a scene. These broad aims are still appropriate to the performing arts today, and his methods for achieving these aims are practised by professionals and students alike. Methods such as Stanislavski's relaxation techniques, his concentration and observation methods, the importance of specific circumstances in a naturalistic performance, and the methods for achieving a sense of inner truth, are practised and recommended today.
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