Konstantin Stanislavski

“All of our acts, even the simplest, which are so familiar to us in everyday life, become strained when we appear behind the footlights before a public of a thousand people. That is why it is necessary to correct ourselves and learn again how to walk, sit, or lie down. It is essential to re-educate ourselves to look and see, on the stage, to listen and to hear.”

  • Stanislavski (Konstantin Stanislavski quotes)

“Realistic” drama was said to be born in the late 1800s, however before that, no director or actor trainer had succeeded in creating a method in order to instil believability in a character through the actor. There were some actors and actresses that used their own individual talent to achieve this, but there was not a developed system or method that one could teach or even pass on to the future generation of actors. In the midst of this thirst of authenticity, Konstantin Stanislavski – actor and director extraordinaire – developed his own system over a lifetime.

“When we are on stage, we are in the here and now”

  • Stanislavski (Konstantin Stanislavski quotes)

        Due to the fact that he was born into a wealthy family of merchants, Konstantin Sergeievich Alekseiv, had to begin his service to the family business, but soon realized that nothing could overpower his love for theatre. His family too shared some of his enjoyment for theatre and built him an amateur theatre in which he had his first stage appearances. His family also funded expensive vocal and stage movement lessons from Moscow’s best teachers. However, his love for theatre intensified to such an extent that in 1884, he was forced to adopt ‘Konstantin Stanislavski’ as a stage name for his first public debut in order to hide his theatre aspirations from his family. In 1888, although he was still being forced to work in the family business, he co-founded the Moscow Society of Arts and Literature.
        Being the co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre helped Stanislavski set up a basis for his own system of training actors. This unique system required actors to research the situation provided by the script according to the characters motivations, create a subtext to their script whereby they show the meaning or the imagination beneath the text their script, and bring to mind their own experiences so that they may use the emotions from their own experiences as emotions for their character in order to make their character more believable.

“Love art in yourself, not yourself in art.”

  • Stanislavski (Konstantin Stanislavski quotes)

         These requirements forced the actors to perform the actions and reactions of their character based, not only on the actor’s motivation, but also on the actor’s personal experiences. It also allowed the actor to match his motivation’s to that of the character in the script. After having already identified the character’s motivations, the actor can recall his emotions and experiences whilst playing the character on stage in order to give a more authentic and convincing performance.

        His new proposed system for acting had eight questions that the actor must answer in order to build and establish the character. These included:

  1. Who?
  2. When?
  3. Where?
  4. What?
  5. Why?
  6. How?
  7. What do I need to overcome?
  8. Before time?

(Stanislavski for Beginners)

         These questions helped the actor recognize the character’s purpose and establish the actor’s own movement on stage so that they may be able to project the characters purpose to the audience. Stanislavski developed a number of techniques and principles that he considered fundamental in helping the actor achieve a believable character on stage. Stanislavski felt that most actors assumed that believable acting was derived from simply being natural on stage. However, from his observations, Stanislavski concluded that realistic acting on stage was extremely difficult and can sometimes come across as artificial.
"Bring yourself to the part of taking hold of a role, as if it were your own life. Speak for your character in your own person. When you sense this real kinship to your part, your newly created being will become soul of your soul, flesh of your flesh."

  • Stanislavski (Konstantin Stanislavski quotes)
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         After having memorized my monologue I figured I knew my character quite well – she was a young girl who was sad because her best friend just died. I didn’t think I needed to know any more than that in order to deliver a good monologue. However, when the time came to answer the questions above for my character, I resented it and I didn’t think it would help in any way. I decided that I would perform my monologue for a class mate before and after answering the questions in order to prove my point. The first thing I realized ...

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