Constantin Stanislavski

Lesson One:

To read and understand the beginning of Act


To introduce the life and ideas of Konstantin


To explore the importance of ‘Action’ in

Stanislavskian terms

Konstantin Stanislavski 1863-1938

Theatre in Russia was in a really bad state at the time

Stanislavski started his work. Including drunkenness back stage!

“Experienced actors would simply inhabit the stage as they sought fit and deliver the lines of the text downstage centre and out front. There was no accepted convention that actors should address each other directly.” (p. 232)

“Settings were usually drawn from stock, doors and windows being placed conveniently with no reference to reality.” (p. 232)

Stanislavski “embarked on a quest for truth is in art”


His legacy was a “System” – “He tried in a systemic way to lay down ground rules for approaching a character and for how an actor might employ his or her body voice and mind in such a creation.”

Stanislavski was concerned with:

Theatre was to be a moral instrument

Its function was to civilise

It was to increase sensitivity

It should heighten perception

It should ennoble the mind and uplift the spirit


Action: This was one of the most important elements: he conceived action to be concerned with the meaningful, purposeful activity of an onstage actor.

Inner and Outer action – a thought could be an action – concentrated stillness on stage – ‘inner intensity’

Acting with purpose: ‘Do not run for the sake of running, or suffer for the sake of suffering. Don’t ‘act in general’, for the sake of action, always act with a purpose.

“...all action in the theatre must have an inner justification, be logical, coherent and real.

The ‘Magic’ IF:

IF: The ‘magic if’ it opens up possibilities for the actor of ‘creating a whole new life’ of stimulating emotions. What would happen if....?

If it were a real place? If this really was my brother, sister etc...

The magic if can be sustained by the given circumstances

The Given Circumstances:

The Given Circumstances: these are the basis for an actor and their role, created by the playwright, director, and designer.

The circumstances are:

The story of the play

Its facts, events, epoch, time and place of action

Conditions of life

The actors and directors interpretation

The production, the sets, the costumes, the properties

Lighting and sound effects

“The actor must believe in the given circumstances; through this belief she or he will be able to function at a high level of involvement. The goal throughout is a quest for truth:

“... it is necessary for the actor to develop to the highest degree his imagination, a childlike naiveté and trustfulness, an artistic sensitivity to truth and to the truthful in his soul and body.”

The Imagination:

“...when you begin to study each role you should first gather all the materials that have a bearing on it, and supplement them with more and more imagination...”

You must use your imagination to discover:

When, where, why, how, who

What you say about yourself

What other people say about you

Character study from a photograph – create an imaginary life

Circles of Attention:

Ripples in a pond:

1 st circle he calls Solitude in Public – focuses the actor within him/herself

Then whole stage gradually gets into focus

Units and Objectives:

Units is common sense – a play can be broken down into units of action

These units are dominated and controlled by the objectives within them – while it is useful to work on small and manageable chunks of text, each chunk will have its own in built objective. A unit ends with the end of the objective.

Acts as a guide for the actors voyage

Consider what verb you would give to the objective

The Super objective and through line of action:

Identifying an overarching objective for the character

Through line is that which galvanises all the small units and objectives

Emotion Memory:

Controversial Stanislavski disavowed it later. Looking at the reservoir of your memory

Tempo - Rhythm

Moves away from the emotion memory.

Actor finds his own rhythm (inner) whilst being surrounded by other characters with their own rhythm (outer)

The Method of physical action:

More emphasis on improvisation around the character – idea of doing that as he moved towards at the end of his career.

Physical – work.