Sabtu, 16 Agustus 2008

The Stanislavski System :A Technique for Realistic Acting

~taken from the book, "Theater, The Lively Art"by Edwin Wilson and Alvin Goldfarb. (Boston: McGraw-Hill College), 6th ed., 2008~

Before the realistic drama of the late 1800s, no one had devised a
method for achieving this kind of believability. Through their own
talent and genius, individual actresses and actors had achieved it,
but no one had developed a system whereby it could be taught and
passed on to future generations. The person who did this the most
successfully was the Russian actor and director Constanin

A cofounder of the Moscow Art Theater in Russia and the director of
Anton Chekhov's most important plays, Stanislavski was also an actor.
He was involved in both traditional theater (using stylized,
nonrealistic techniques) and the emergence of the modern realistic
approach. By closely observing the work of great performers of his
day, and by drawing on his on acting experience, Stanislavski
identified and described what these gifted performers did naturally
and intuitively. From his observations he compiled a series of
principles and techniques which today are regarded as fundamental to
both the training and the performance of actors and actresses who
want to create believable characters onstage.

We might assume that believable acting is simply a matter of being
natural; but Stanislavski discovered first of all that acting
realistically onstage is extremely artificial and difficult. He wrote:

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
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.

To achieve this "reeducation", Stanislavski said, "the actor must
first of all believe in everything that takes place onstage, and most
all, he must believe what he himself is doing. And one can only
believe in the truth." To give substance to his ideas, 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 behavior 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.

Let us now take a look at Stanislavski's techniques.

When he observed the great actors and actresses of his day,
Stanislavski noticed how fluid and lifelike their movements were.
They seemed to be in a state of complete freedom and relaxation,
letting the behavior of the character come through effortlessly. He
concluded that unwanted tension has to be eliminated and that the
performer at all times attain a state of physical and vocal

Concentration and Observation
Stanislavski also discovered that gifted performers always appear
fully concentrated on some object, person, or event while onstage.
Stanislavski referred to the extent or range of concentration as a
circle of attention. This circle of attention can be compared to a
circle of light on a darkened stage. the performer should begin with
the idea that it is a small, tight, circle including only himself or
herself and perhaps one other person or one piece of furniture. When
the performer has established a strong circle of attention, he or she
can enlarge the circle outward to include the entire stage area. In
this way performers will stop worrying about the audience and lose
their self-consciousness.

Importance of Specifics
One of Stanislavski's techniques was an emphasis on concrete
details. A performer should never try to act in general, he said, and
should never try to convey a feeling such as fear or love in some
vague, amorphous way. In life, Stanislavski said, we express emotions
in terms of specifics: an anxious woman twists a handkerchief, an
angry boy throws a rock at a trash can, a nervous businessman jangles
his keys. Performers must find similar activities.

The performer must also conceive of the situation in which a
character exists (which Stanislavski referred to as the given
circumstances ) in term of specifics. In what kind of space does an
event take place: formal, informal, public, domestic? How does it
feel? What is the temperature? The lighting? What has gone on just
before? What is expected in the moments ahead? Again, those questions
must be answered in concrete terms.
Inner Truth
An innovative aspect of Stanislavski's work has to do with inner
truth, which deals with the internal or subjective world of
characters - that is, their thoughts and emotions. The early phases
of Stanislavski's research took place while he was also directing the
major dramas of Anton Chekhov. Plays like The Seagull and The Cherry
Orchard have less to do with external action or what the characters
say than what the characters are feeling and thinking but often do
not verbalize. It becomes apparent that Stanislavski's approach would
be very beneficial in realizing the inner life of such characters.

Stanislavski had several ideas about how to achieve a sense of inner
truth. one being the magic if. If is a word which can transform our
thoughts; through it we can imagine ourselves in virtually any
situation. "If I suddenly became wealthy..." "If I were vacationing
on the Caribbean Island..." "If I had great talent..." "If that
person who insulted me comes near me again..." The word if becomes a
powerful lever for the mind; it can lift us out of ourselves a give
us a sense of absolute certainty about imaginary circumstances.

Action Onstage
What? Why? How? An important principle of Stanislavski's system is
that all action onstage must have a purpose. This means that the
performer's attention must always be focused on a series of physical
actions linked together by the circumstances of the play.
Stanislavski determined these actions by asking three essential
questions: What? Why? How? An action is performed, such as opening a
letter (the what). The letter is opened because someone has said that
it contains extremely damaging information about the character (the
why). The letter is opened anxiously, fearfully (the how), because of
the calamitous effect it might have on the character. These physical
actions, which occur from moment to moment in a performance, are in
turn governed by the character's overall objective in the play.

Through Line of a Role
According to Stanislavski, in order to develop continuity in a
part, the actor or actress should find the superobjective of a
character. What is it, above all else, that the character wants
during the course of a play? What is the character's driving force?
If a goal can be established toward which the character strives, it
will give the performer an overall objective. From this objective can
be developed a through line which can be grasped, as a skier on a ski
lift grabs a towline and is carried to the top. Another term for
through line is spine.

To help develop the through line, Stanislavski urged performers to
divide scenes into unit (sometimes called beats). In each unit there
is an objective, and the intermediate objectives running through a
play lead ultimately to the overall objective.
Ensemble Playing
Except in one-person shows, performers do not act alone; they
interact with other people. Stanislavski was aware that many
performers tend to "stop acting," or lose their concentration, when
they are not the main characters in a scene or when someone else is
talking. Such performers make a great effort when they are speaking
but not when they are listening. This tendency destroys the through
line and causes the performer to move into and out of a role. That,
in turn, weakens the sense of the ensemble - the playing together of
all the performers.

Stanislavski and Psychophysical Action
A character's actions will lead to his / her emotions.

(This is a tough one.) Stanislavski began to develop his techniques
in the early part of the twentieth century, and at first he
emphasized the inner aspects of training: for example, various ways
of getting in touch with the performer's unconscious. Beginning
around 1917, however, he began to look more and more at purposeful
action, or what he called pyshophysical action. (An action which has
a purpose, and leads to feelings about the action taken.) A student
at one of his lectures that year took a note and noticed the
change: "Whereas action previously had been taught as the expression
of a previously-
established 'emotional state,' it is now action itself which
predominates and is the key to the psychological." (Read this next
line carefully) Rather than seeing emotions as leading to action,
Stanislavski came to believe that it was the other way around:
purposeful action undertaken to fulfill a character's goals was the
most direct route to the emotions.

Example 1:
A character is sitting at a dinner table. All of a sudden
the character quickly stands up and throws the plate at the wall,
thus causing more anger in the character. Rather than just trying to
be mad, the character made an angry motion, throwing a plate, that
made the anger greater.
Example 2:
Character A gives Character B a hug. Character A may now
feel closer to the other character, and happier, since giving a hug.)
Example 3:
If you have ever seen the football player before a game
who shouts, lifts weights, yells, or gets angry to psyche himself up
before a game, that is psychophysical action.

1 komentar:

Swollen Foot mengatakan...

Hello :) Are you still using this blog? I hope so. I'll be writing about Stanislavski on mine next week. If you are still around & want to take a look then please do! If not... booooo come back!