Monday, July 18, 2016

On Stanislavski and his Disciples

Recently there have been hot discussions in the academic theatre community concerning what parts of Stanislavski’s work are the most important, what the translators missed, what Stan really meant, whether to spell his name ‘Stanislavski’ or ‘Stanislavsky’, and other issues!

I find all of this to be a never-ending rabbit hole of discussion. It is becoming far more like the disputes raging among religionists than an admittedly unfinished and practical guide to the actor’s work. Frankly, I believe that searching for what Stan meant is somewhat irrelevant owing to the enormous cultural, linguistic, and historical differences between our time and his, including but not limited to the prohibitions dictating physical interaction between people, especially men and women. 

Certainly every actor and director should have read all of Stanislavski’s writing.
They are the basis of almost all current directing and acting theory. However, the books should be viewed In the same way old cookbooks that are read by chefs who then adapt the recipes to today’s food, technology, and cultural tastes, or as the writings of Euclid are still used by mathematicians. The principles remain while the methods change.

I have made my own peace with Stan's work and I focus on (1) the given circumstances which include sense memory, imagination, and so forth, (2) the primacy of action as interaction over ingoing self involvement, (3) character emergence rather than conscious creation.  This is my choice and while there may be many roads to Mecca, this one is mine.

My training and rehearsal methods use extreme physical interaction to unearth primal needs. I suspect that if Stan could have access to people who were really free to move and explore without undue restraint, he would have gone much further with the concept of action. 

Additionally, the new and amazing neuroscientific brain research examining memory, learning, and the biology of action and emotion were not available to him at all. Why would we continue to work in a way uninformed by almost a century of investigation into what makes us human and how we function?

We can be sure that Stanislavski would be pressing his head against the laboratories and reading the Neuroscientific Journal in order to move ahead in perfecting his approach to acting and directing.