Stanislavsky System/Method Acting

Even if never read Stanislavsky, but spent some time doing theatre, you know his famous line like "Actor must die in his character" or "Director must die in his actors" -- this what we call Method (in America) and System (in Russia).

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One the myths is that Stanislavsky asks actors for so much work for nothing and that's why Biomechanics (Meyerhold) actors called the Method "emotional masturbation" -- but if you did follow my advise and imagined yourself writing your character's words, you should discover that most of it won't be on paper. Remember that subtext is 9/10 and only 1/10 of the iceberg is above the water, but the body of the iceberg must be there for this 1/10 to exist (Papa Hem image). No, it should be seen, the audience should have their guesses (interpretations), but they will get some signs from you (actor's choices/your interpretation). For you, who later will get a big part in film -- you have to have some help in situation, when there is practically no rehearsals and very little interacting with your fellow actors -- and almost no words in the screenplay (next to Playscript) to "express" your character... Any play looks like Shakespeare next to the film script -- with no talking. [One of the reasons why after all I do prefer to write plays, not screen-plays, because I am more in control as an author, while directing film I have all the control.]
I had very limited experience acting for the camera. While a freshman many thought that I look good on the screen, but after two-three projects I knew why I didn't like acting -- you have to be born actor to stand this tyranny of manipulation by so many. That was the time when I finally accepted Stanislavsky whom I didn't like so much for being writer-idiot and anti-writer -- I got the sense of Method by being in actor's shoes. What do you do for hours while they running around fixing light, camera, makeup on you -- just for a few seconds shot?
Well, to guard myself from this constant destruction I would go inside (stay in character) and would do all this inner monologue as if I am not there and only register it as if in a dream when they call -- Roll the camera! Action! -- and even after the "Cut!" I wouldn't step out, because I know that they will go another take no matter what.
At first they didn't like that I wouldn't interact with the crew or even a director, but I got myself a policy: if you want to talk to me about the character or scene, talk before we go for the shoot. Now it's too late -- don't talk to me when I am jumping! We can go back and do more training, but not now!

There is another myth -- about the ensemble acting. Do you know why I do need to know so much about other characters/actors? Because I do not have time for them on stage during the performance. There is nothing matters but me! The role is a MONOLOGUE. I don't understand actors who take blocking while they are not comfortable: I rather get it right -- and FORGET about it, because I have no time to think about it in the show.

I worked with professional actors but only in Russia I worked with a few big stage stars. I learned that there is moment when they about to stop hearing you at all. I understood that a director must leave them alone to WORK and there is time and space where they must be on their own and not disturbed. And only when they are done with THEIR flight, they will seek me -- because they didn't see what they did, I saw! It is a sleepwalking -- they do not know what they are doing and they shouldn't! When I paint I do not know why I put this color here -- I will think about it later, not now, I have to go with the flow in me and to make all the mistakes, because I wasn't trained and prepare -- I see it , but not when I do paint.
This self-concentration Stanislavky turned into the core of his system. Take it to its natural limit and you will discover a shaman, who is in trans; his trip outside of this world.
Only after that experience I began to appreciate Brechtian style of acting at the Taganka Theatre where the actors knew how to come in and out in one second. How could they throw the switch so fast? They all were trained in traditional schools (Stanislavsky) and many became film stars, but the material they play was different. One of them said to me -- I won't able to do it with Chekhov. (Only once they did one Chekhov's play -- The Three Sisters -- under the great director Anatoly Effros, we have his book in the library "Rehearsals, My Love" but in Russian and I don't know if the English translation exists -- they never stage Chekhov again, the show didn't work).

This is the only thing I took from Stanislavsky -- how to work with actors, or how to help them to work with themselves. Nothing more. The rest is Meyerhold.





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