"The Whole World's a Stage!"
PRE-ACTING is also Meyerhold's term. In Acting One, I start with the separation of text and performance. I do not allow my students to start with the lines of their monologues unless the exposition is completed. You see, there's a natural tendency to let the text do the job. Character will TELL everything you need to know -- that's why we call actor a performer. Why not a composer? Where are the space and time when actor creates? In fact, actor is the first to be seen in three-dimensional space in front of you.
ACTOR -- CHARACTER -- SPECTATOR
According to the (orthodox) Stanislavsky System, we are not supposed to see actor, only the character. Actor must dessolve himself withn his role. If it's true, the words of your character are to follow. You have to establish the basics of you character, situation, genre and etc. and only then you can go for your first line.
We have to have it -- the three points. The same holds true in Aristotle's rules for dramatic composition. First is the beginning.
Meyerhold in his bio-mechanics broke every act into three parts. There are many famous exercises, we do in class the simple ones -- "Handshake," "Throwing the Stone," sometimes "The Arrow." AIM -- ACTION -- RELEASE. In "Handshake" actor has to establish the aim, that's where the succes of the step two (Action) -- intentions, his character's traits, moods, situations and etc.
The Middle. Action itself is the actuality, it's kinetics of the potentiality, that's what we watch -- the birth of action. We have to have the first part in order for us to experience DRAMA. In "Arrow" exercise the part two is nothing -- the part three follows immediately. Reaction. Did I hit the target, did you miss?
The Resolution. The end of the cycle. The reversal of action. In class I do what Meyerhold recommended -- the extra step -- the pause before you go to the next cycle. He called it -- Period. It disciplines the actor, forces him to define each movement within its own structure. Yes, like a drill sergeant, I go with ONE-TWO-THREE.... and FOUR.
Like in a dance class, yes, each movement on stage must be choreographed, because everything on stage is text. The first reaction -- it's crazy, I feel as if I don't know how to walk anymore! That's right, you don't. You have to learn it again -- and then teach your character how to walk, speak, move his eyes....
What about the "natural"? The spontaneity? There is nothing natural about stage, it only looks "natural". Besides, it's a training, we break it down in segments to make sure that every element is in place. When you jump, you don't think where to put your foot. It has to be in your blood.
That is what we should call training!
"Naked Stanislavsky" -- Reactions to system brought more system. System of system. X-rays of Method Acting.
(My notes for the workshops at 3rd RAT conference at NYU)
At the First Russian American summer conference in St. Petersburg, Russia was called "School of Russian Theatre," the Third in New York -- "Stanislavky vs. Stanislavsky."
STANISLAVSKY: CULT OF FEELINGS.... not just action, but stage action. It must be reinforced that all our definitions (emotions, thoughts, etc.) are within theatre experience, very different in nature next to "real" experience. Opposite?
Ways to study and analysis both the character and sense of yourself within the character. Always two parts: Actor's Work on Himself and Actor's Work on His Role. And each is divided on inner and outer work (psycho-technic). Living the Part and Building the Character.
"The work on each new role actor must begin with work on himself."
The four major tasks:
ATTENTION; CONCENTRATION; COMMUNICATION; BELIEF(3) "Table Book of Dramatic Artist" (unfinished manuscript).(4)[All quotes are from this work by Stanislavsky.]
Needs to disassemble elements of human nature -- any analysis is always a deconstruction.
The Stages of Work on Your RoleActive analysis "Don't study text (role), study feelings and thoughts of your character."
Wrong and right.
"Make sure that words are not ahead of thoughts, and thoughts -- ahead of feelings." (123)
"How to fix emotion, which is only from time to time could be recalled. There's only one way is to do it -- to link an emotion with action. Get used to link an emotion with certain action, on one hand, it's become possible to repeat this feeling through familiar action, and, on another hand, emotions getting linked with different actions, force actor into familiar psycho-physiological states." How did we manage to see the System in two different lights -- pschological realism and method of physical action?
"In life, feelings are in search of words; on stage, words are in search of feelings...."
Class ExercisesImprov and Text: making it into my words. Text has to be destroyed as a written text. Sometimes I ask them to re-write it with their own handwriting. Memorization process. Class exercises and homework; repetitions.
"Too bad if memorized words are ahead of thoughts. Too bad if a thought expression is ahead of developing of the feeling which originated this very thought, this feeling is an essence and a root of thought." (126)
The logic of inner development leads to a necessity of tightening together action with verbalization (verbal action).
Emotions must be felt before words. (Pre-acting in his view is the inner acting, a process which leads naturally to a physical expression).
Origination of emotion is a first process, the initial point of action. Logic of emotion, logic of developing an emotion, and logic of handling this emotion by the actor. Discovering right feelings (motivation); rehearsals -- logic of character's behavior, logic of his inner state, moods, emotions could and should discover through actor's feelings within the character.
[From Chronicles (Diaries) of Rehearsals.]
"In order to present a simple, a complex, or a mixed feeling, one has to understand the nature of this feeling."
Scene = Summary of Components (mind) through logic.
Any Dramatic emotion (by Actor) must be a result of all the components, process = becoming, being born step by step. Don't play result ("ready feelings"). After a correct feeling is discovered it has to be recognized and fixed by actor (blocking, props, etc.) Don't play emotions (monolith feeling, blocks).
Process in itself guards against fixation of feeling. Action is not through a feeling but a foundation of the feeling.
The Trinity: word, thought, feeling.
"There are two directions in art of acting: one is imitation of true feelings, another -- re-inaction (stimulation, creation) of true feelings." (Actor or Character, see Meyerhold).
"Inner design" of the role.
Actor must not only know logic of feelings, but also a logic of thought.
Connection between a feeling and a rhythm is issue of TIME existence of feeling in SPACE. Result: actor must act, not just feel.
Object of communication -- partner (scene), self-communication (partner inside your character, yourself).
"Truth of (Stage) Communication: to see, to hear, to recognize thoughts, feelings and action in your partner. They trigger spiritual changes in actor." (136)
Homework: Cut everything from the text which could be done without text. "Play on pause"!
Actor's Text. Monologue breakdown stage #3. Emotions on the left margins of your monologue, motion -- on the right. Draw the floor plan with acting areas. Indicate the spots (number them) on your ground plan. Make a copy for my file on you. For floor plan instructions see Directing Page
INVISIBLE ACTING"Never get caught acting." -- Lillian Gish
Wait! You are not ready. Because I am not, the spectator.
Actor lives in many spaces at once. He lives in my inner space. In my mind. Where else do you think acting takes place?
Intermediate acting is about this inner acting.
Inner space and time. Inner monologue. The words not spoken. For every word in monologue I ask for two, three, four not being said. In actor's journals I ask to write the streams of consciousness, the thoughts, related (association) images and feelings, memories. These nightmarish exercises in writing help to open the mental space in actor.
"Paper Acting" -- a preparation.
Do you want to know a secret of good acting?
Small things. Very small. They, the little things, separate a good actor from "acting." "Acting begins with a tiny inner movement so slight that it is almost completely invisible." The border line between visible and invisible is real acting. Making invisible visible, remember? It has to be "inner" -- we follow the process, the becoming. Never go for shortcuts; as with electricity, the energy produces nothing if it's not controlled, processed, transformed into other forms. You have to be ready to act, and -- I, your spectator, must be ready. Acting is a preparation to act, the rest is easy. If we both are ready, the acting come "naturally."
Meyerhold's formula: Actor = Artist + Medium
Remember, there are two actors in each actor. One "directs" the other. The definition of artist:
"the art of the actor here stands between the plastic arts and poetry." Goethe.
In his "Rules for Actors" he writes: "In ordinary life, too, the actor must remember that he is to be part of a public presentation." Artist is always there, artist "acts" all the time. Observation, analysis, imagination -- the artist."Play actors? No, we are artists, noble artists, and it is you who are the play-actors." (Alexander Ostrovsky _Forest_)
"You" are the people who do not act, who "live." Or think that they do...