Konstantin Stanislavski1 was a wealthy Muscovite man born in the early 19th century. He is who is responsible for creating the method of acting called realism. As a director during the late 19th century, Stanislavski disliked the idea of the costumes and the general genre of acting. He, therefore, experimented with methods and created his own system. The system entailed the actor grabbing hold of the emotive side of their character then expressing it within their performance. This created a lot of work for the actors to imitate the role of their character in a correct, realistic manner. This system consists of three parts to create a final role. Konstantin Stanislavski c during the early parts of the 20th century not too long ago, created three books2 explaining the three different parts of the system.
This method of acting has affected many people who are involved with theatre and acting. It has changed the way some communities look at a piece of theatre as this system creates another type of genre called realism. The historical context of realism within the theatre is critical. Within the 19th century, a period broke out in theatre when experiments were done with realism and naturalism. Konstantin Stanislavski experimented with this genre of theatre, though the truth is that Stanislavski developed the concept of realism for the new theatre. The language and style of this new theatre type portrayed a more natural and real-life picture.”One of the elements [of the spiritual culture of humanity] is the distinctly Russian theatre, whose objective is not to entertain the audience with plays but to affect the viewer’s very soul directly with the naturally created life of the human spirit.” 3
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During this time, social and political playwritings were produced, which helped bring out the developed realism to the theatre. Stanislavski’s system went another level to make this happen. He went into depth with the topic of the actor or actress having to search for the emotive and physiological sense of the character they study. This system created stage directions other than the usual stereotypes, heroes and heroines; they treated their characters as individuals as in real life. The aim of the theatre in the early 20th century was that within the theatre, more sophisticated and graphic kinds of realism were experimented with. Also, the theatre forms such as symbolism and non-illusionistic forms were advised.
The methodology of a style is crucial for a piece of drama to succeed. All actors and actresses must know this methodology and apply it in their pieces, whether on a sage or a film set. For example, physical action leading from the facial expression or a distinct movement like tapping a foot are two expressions that are put together. The facial expression would be the internal experience showing through the physical expression in the face. Stanislavski considered this and created a technique called ‘the method of physical actions’4. This method eliminated the possibility of spontaneous reactions. Stanislavski composed this technique to help actors and actresses create the desired emotive responses. This is done by composing a physical movement to trigger the emotive emotion, which would cause, for instance, crying.
These responses do not come straight away. It takes actors or actress’s weeks to months to master their personal physical actions that work for them that then trigger a psychological response. Stanislavski used a trick here by reversing the natural responses of a human being. Usually, it would be an emotion that determines the action, although the action determines the emotion in this case. The character in my monologue is played as a Russian woman during 1860. It is said that this woman Katerina Kabanova has found herself caught in an adulterous affair. In this scene where she performs her monologue, she walks slowly in a state of distress, not being able to say goodbye to her lover after her husband had found out. This is when Stanislavski’s method comes in handy. The way my character walks could trigger various emotions within myself as the actress performing it.
The effortless act of placing two hands before my eyes could create and trigger an emotion of my past, which could cause me to cry. These are key things that could and should be combined into a realism monologue to create a worthy performance. The audience watching this performance should feel engaged with the emotive side of the character, which is combined with the physical movement. If this performance aspect is missing, it will not run smoothly, causing the audience to be bored and detached from the entire performance. Stanislavski developed various techniques to accomplish his idea of realism theatre. There are many steps the actor or actresses have to follow before having a truthful realistic performance. Analyzing a character is the most crucial part of his system. The actor has to understand and know the character in and out.
When analyzing the character, the actor has to answer three questions, ‘What do I (the character) do?”Why do I (the character) do it?’ and ‘How do I (the character) do it?’5This analysis helps the actor find the physical and physiological behavior of the character. In Stanislavskian technique6, Stanislavski made clear to his actors and actresses that the truth within a play is not the same as the truth of real life. This is an essential key for the actors. If an actor were to believe they were the character truly, they might need psychiatric care. To solve this problem, Stanislavski came up with the solution of the ‘Magic if.’ This ‘magic if’ created a question for the actor in which they have to answer, ‘if I were in my character’s position, what would I do?’ Through the word ‘if,’ the actor could create strong physical action that would seem real to an audience. There are three more important points of technique that are needed for this system, concentration, motivation and imagination.
The actor must have the imagination to go into depth with what is asked of the script. Also adding to the imagination is motivation if the actor has the willpower to imagine their performance could be successful. Though without the last step, which is concentration, the entire hard work of the actor may fall through. The actor must concentrate on who they are and the things they will be doing in character. Analyzing a character is a wise technique as you as an actor or performer go into depth, knowing every character’s emotion and what they would do. Without this, the performance would be filled with the actor’s personal body language, speech etc. The actor would not be in character and would just be repeating lines.
This in itself would detach the audience from the performance again and would not be taken seriously. Going into depth with the character from my monologue, Katerina, would benefit me because I know how she feels, the struggles she is going through, and the pain she is caused. By knowing all of this, I could ask myself questions. How would I react if I were in Katerina’s position, and does it connect with her reaction? The techniques of Stanislavski’s system happen to be very theoretical, which involves a lot of writing other than the usually expected acting. However, it is very beneficial when it comes to realism drama, especially when dealing with monologues. Stanislavski viewed “theatre as a medium with great social and educational significance”7. Stanislavski as a courageous man, decided he would incorporate the idea of social issues into the arts of theatre.
This reflected the happening during the Russian revolution in 1905 on stage. He wanted his actors to ignore the social issues around them by ironically acting in a relating situation. In conclusion, Stanislavski is one of the people who contributed to developing realism in theatre. This directly involves Konstantin Stanislavski because he was the very person who created the system. This system is the very system actors of all ages use when dealing with realism theatre. Stanislavski went into depth when dealing with the idea. He created a system that not only involved acting but the theoretical aspect of it too. This makes the system in itself a mighty one. The system created by Stanislavski has not only impacted the actor’s way of acting but has also impacted the way the audience looked at the theatre.
- Sometimes spelled Constantin Stanislavsky.
- The second and third books were published posthumously from Stanislavski’s essays, articles and notes. Only the first book was published during his lifetime.
- Lawrence Sacharow. “Method of acting and Stanislavsky” Method Acting. Web. 21 Oct. 2010. <http://method.vtheatre.net/stanislavsky.html>.
- “Stanislavski’s System.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Oct. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislavski’s_system#The_Method_of_Physical_Action>.
- Stanislavski.pdf.22 Mar. 2006.PDF
- Stanislavski maintained that his techniques transcended style. His company, the MAT, performed many different styles, from Moliere to Shakespeare. In America, however, he is mainly associated with psychological realism. Stanislavski.pdf.22 Mar. 2006.PDF
- “Stanislavski.” Untitled Document. Web. 28 Oct. 2010. <http://www.kryingsky.com/Stan/Biography/bot.html>.