Constantine Stanislavski
b. Moscow, Russia in 1863.
Actor who became a director and teacher.
He developed a new approach to acting.
As an actor, Stanislavsky saw a lot of bad
acting - what he termed as artificial.
Stanislavsky wanted actors to work on
characters from the inside (instead of the
outside) and thus create more of a "true"
or "real" (i.e. not artificial) performance.
What is it?
The Stanislavsky System is an intense
character development process that
strives to make a performance "real" and
not artificial
1. Bring an actor's experiences into the
2. Expand an actor's imagination.
(It took years of experimenting to get to what
is now known as the Stanislavsky System.)
• Stanislavsky believed that in order to make a
character true, the character must be
approached from the inside. That means
drawing on the real inside life of the actor, most
specifically drawing on memories. The actor also
has to create the inside life of the character: the
character has to have inner thought, back story,
beliefs, and so on, just as a real person does.
When the actor answers questions about the
character, they should speak in the first person.
"I am..." "I want..."
Sense of truth
• Learning to tell the difference between the
organic and the artificial. Stanislavski
believed that there were natural laws of
acting, which were to be obeyed.
• How does one become a human lie
detector? Study oneself and others in all
aspects of life: become a student of
behavior and emotion and the senses.
Given Circumstances
• The given circumstances are the character details in the
script - the facts the playwright gives the actor.
• They are all the pieces of information needed by actors
to make the appropriate decisions when interpreting their
characters: the story of the play, its “facts,” events,
setting (time and place), social/historical context, &
conditions of life.
• The actor also adopts as part of the given circumstances
the elements of the production as they represent the
reality: other actors’ interpretations, sets, costumes,
properties, lighting and sound effects. Failing that, the
actor and production will not be in sync as a believable
and whole reality.
Analysis of text through action
• This helps the actor
understand the aim or
the main idea of the
• In analysing an
action, the actor
answered three
• What do I (the
character) do?
• Why do I (the
character) do it?
• How do I (the
character) do it?
• Adaptation requires the
actor to answer the
• What? (action)
• Why? (aim)
• How? (adaptation)
With respect to an action.
• The function of
adaptation is to allow the
actor to transmit ‘invisible
messages’ that could not
be put in to words.
• The problems of action
and aim might be
addressed during
analysis of a play text, but
the problem of adaptation
would depend on the
actor’s interaction with
others and the
adjustments that would
have to be made.
• Adaptation could be used
to communicate the
Beats & Objectives
• Each action is like a
bead: strung together,
they are the character’s
through line of action,
which then propels and
guides the actor through
the entire play.
• Furthermore, the actor
can break the script down
into units, or beats.
• A beat is a portion of a
scene that contains one
objective for an actor.
• Every unit has an
objective for each
• An objective is expressed
through the use of an
active verb.
• Not necessarily what
happens, but this is what
the character is striving
• Stanislavski insisted that
an actor was either driven
by emotions or by the
mind to choose physical
• This in turn aroused the
‘will’ of the actor to
perform the given actions.
Thus, the ‘will’ became
activated indirectly
through either emotions
or the mind.
• The ‘will’ or motivation is
in the subconscious.
• Motivation become
important in realism, it is
based on the subtext and
any hidden meanings.
Super Objective
• The Super Objective
is the main theme of
the play.
• The subject of the
• Everything drives
toward the Super
• When all the
objectives are strung
together in a logical
form, a through line of
action can be mapped
out for the character.
• Subtext refers to the
meaning lying
underneath the text/
• The subtext is not
spoken, but is
interpreted by the
actor through,
gesture, posture,
pauses or choices in
the action.
• There is a clear
relationship between
Subtexts & dialogue
and between subtext
and objective…
“Table Talk”
• Stanislavski also innovated by developing
the process of “table talk”—the director
sitting down with actors and script (usually
in advance of any blocking) to study the
text, discuss objectives and actions, etc.
The Physical Apparatus
• Stanislavski believed that
an actor’s body and voice
is the physical apparatus
that is needed in order for
the actor to fully express
every nuance and subtle
shade of character.
• He saw the body and
voice as ‘instruments’ that
could be trained and
could help the actor give
shape to an actor.
• The body needs to be
trained, improve posture
and make movements
supple and graceful, with
purpose and truth.
• The more fertile the
actor’s imagination, the
more interesting would be
the choices made in
terms of objectives,
physical action and
creating the given
circumstances around the
• There is no such thing as
actually on the stage. Art
is a product of the
imagination, as the work
of a dramatist should be.
The aim of the actor
should be to use his
technique to turn the play
into a theatrical reality. In
this process the
imagination plays by far
the greatest part.
Magic If…
• In realism where the aim of the
actor is to create the
appearance of reality or ‘truth’
on stage.
• Your character is in a specific
situation. The Magic If answers
the following question: "What
would I do if I were in the same
• The "If" is very important. This
about your real life
experiences, in combination
with your imagination.
• The situation is not real, and
the system doesn't assume
you have ever been in that
situation. But knowing yourself,
what would you do? How
would you act?
• Take the imaginary situation
and make real life decisions as
to how you would behave.
• It's crucial to determine the
"do" in the question. What
action would you take?
…Magic If
• IF I was to be in this
situation what would I
do?... Thus, the
character's objectives
drove the actor’s physical
action choices.
• Exercise: You are in a
play that takes place at a
bank. As your character
is finishing up with the
teller, a bank robber
enters and shoots a gun
into the air.
• If you were in a similar
• What would you do?
• Would you be a coward
or a hero?
• Would you yell?
• Would you hide behind
• Would you run out?
• How would this
information help in your
character development?
• Stanislavski called for an
unbroken communion
between actors.
• He differentiated between
communication with a
real person and an
imaginary person.
• With a real person, one is
aware of the other’s
presence and would
communicate with them
in a natural and realistic
• An actor would answer
the question; ‘What if (--)
were really here?’
• The actor should strive to
obtain a definite physical
result in the partner, for
instance, a laugh, a
shrug, would stir
imagination and create
strong communication.
• Tempo-rhythm can act as
a powerful bridge
between the inner
experience and the
• ‘Tempo’ refers to the
speed of an action of an
emotion. Tempo can be
slow, medium or fast.
• ‘Rhythm’ deals mainly
with the internal, the
intensity of the emotion.
• Stanislavski believed that
the tempo-rhythm was
extremely vital in order to
execute physical actions
in a concrete and truthful
• He understood the
importance of physically
and emotionally giving
richness to a character
through the
understanding and
creation of tempo-rhythm.
Emotional Memory
• Emotional memory is
taking a personal
emotional experience and
using it to create emotion
on stage.
• Recalling situations from
your own experience
(including events that
you’ve read about, heard
about, or seen, as well as
directly experienced) that
are analogous to the
character’s situation…
• It involves the
collaborative work of the
imagination and all your
senses (taste, touch,
sight, smell and hearing)
in recalling incidents.
Finding an appropriate
affective memory is a
means of empathizing
with the contents of the
play so that you can
invest them with
something from your
personal landscape…
Emotional Memory
• Emotional memory is a way
to avoid emotional cliches
or “phoniness.”
• Many problems with this
– Sometimes, the actors
couldn’t get out of the
emotion, and would go
into fits of hysteria.
– Other times, they would
exhaust the memory and
it wouldn’t produce the
emotional effect they
• Stanislavski began
searching for less draining
ways to produce emotion.
He began emphasizing the
actors use of imagination
and belief in the given
• Later on, he developed The
Method of Physical Actions.
The focus was on the
physical actions inspiring
truthful emotions and
involved improv and
discussion. The focus was
on reaching the
subconscious through the
Sense Memory
• Part of recreating reality on
stage is reproducing the
way a person behaves
under the specific
circumstances of setting
that trigger various of the
five senses.
• Stanislavski thought that
relaxation is vital in order
to control body and mind.
• Only when the actor is
relaxed, can the
performance be any
good. But not totally
• For example; Ballet.
A highly disciplined art
form. When ballerinas
appear to effortless glide,
leap, pirouette, they are
not completely relaxed,
they hold certain muscles
tightly in. If they were
totally relaxed, they would
lose energy.
• Stanislavski was concerned
with actors getting distracted
by the audience while
performing on stage. He
sought ways to counteract this
distraction. However did not
advocate that the actor forget
the audience, or tries to
believe it did not exist. That, he
felt, would be contradictory to
the art of theatre, because the
audience was an important
‘co-creator’ of the
• He found a way for the actor.
He advised that the actor is to
fin interest in something (for
example, an object) on stage
as to not find the presence of
the audience a crippling factor.
• Stanislavski created the
‘circles of attention’; these
circles varied in size and had
different purposes. The actor
would be in the middle of the
circle and the actor would feel
secure within their circle and
eventually the circle would
become bigger over time.
• To enter into a play’s
imaginary circumstances, the
actor must relearn and develop
his childlikepowers to
completely believe in invisible
• To go beyond the playwright’s
words, an actor must learn to
deliver a deeper, living
message to the audience…the
actor communicates or
radiates a subtext of thoughts
and feelings to his partners,
which then, in turn, affects the
• Stanislavski invented the
pseudo-scientific language of
"ray emission" and "ray
absorption" to describe the
communication process
• He believed—at least at one
time—that these “waves of the
universal life force” could be
produced in the hands,
fingertips, and eyes of the
• What of pauses?
– A pause is full of inner
action and emotional
intensity. It is the silent,
inner continuation of one
action and the preparation
for a new action.