Stanislavski Constantin Stanislavski was born on January 17th 1863, in Moscow. Stanislavski evolved his own system of preparing plays which resulted in remarkable ensemble acting. After he finished school, Stanislavski did not like the melodramatic style of acting which was popular in Russia, and throughout the rest of the world. Stanislavski met with a successful playwright and teacher of theatre, called Vladimir Nemitovich – Danchenko to discuss ways of changing Russian theatre. They met on 22 June 1897.
After this meeting they formed the Moscow Art Theatre, which was established with the aim of finding new truth and realism in theatre. In 1906 he began to develop a system for training actors. He was also working as an actor and a director at this time. In 1913 he set up an experimental theatre designed to develop acting techniques, called First Studio. On 29th October 1928 Stanislavski had a heart attack.
This forced him to give up acting, but he was able to concentrate on directing, teaching and writing for the rest of his life. This method had a scientific approach and was developed over many years of trial and error. It requires an actor to experience the feeling of living the life of another person. The basis of his approach was that actors must believe everything that was happening on stage. Stanislavski made this possible by teaching actors to recall their own feelings and experiences.
It aims first at getting the actor to arouse the emotions they have felt in the past. This can then be transformed into the character they are portraying. Observation was another important aspect of Stanislavski’s teaching. He thought it helped actors to learn more about people and their behaviour. He believed the more an actor observed, the more they learnt. Another very important part of Stanislavski’s teachings is a simple question.
‘What if?’. Stanislavski called this the ‘magic if’. This technique was designed to make the actor ask ‘what if I was in this situation’. If the actor feels this is real, it automatically becomes realistic for the audience, and this was Stanislavski’s aim. Stanislavski aimed to produce dramatic characterisations of great realism and psycological truth.
He demanded a lot from his students, such as intelligence, complete self discipline, perfect control over voice, diction, physical movement and the ability to experience a whole range of human emotions from his actors. He expected actors to analyse completely their characters so they could understand why they behaved the way they did. He instructed all his actors to analyse themselves as well as the characters. Stanislavski developed a style of realism which still influences plays and actors all over the world.