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By Bella Merlin. The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit collects together for the first time the terms and ideas developed by Stanislavsky throughout his career. Key terms are explained and defined as they naturally occur in this process.
They are illustrated with examples from both his own work and that of other practitioners. Each stage of the process is explored with sequences of practical exercises designed to help today's actors and students become thoroughly familiar with the tools in Stanislavsky's toolkit.
This new edition is a necessary and lively resource for any theatre practitioner. Konstantin Stanislavsky was without question the father of contemporary acting practice, particularly when it comes to the kind of realism which dominates Western theatre and screen today. The study of his ideas is on almost every acting academy timetable, every drama degree syllabus, every theatre studies exam, and — be it implicitly or explicitly — his terms and theories are on the lips of most Western acting practitioners.
Is it due to poor translations? Misdirected editors? Post-modern performers who consider psychology obsolete? Could it even be due to his own inability from time to time to express his emerging ideas succinctly, with the result that his writings sometimes seem to go round in circles and muddy his practical propositions?
Whatever the reason, his highly hands-on notions have frequently become distorted into something academic and atrophied. Yet all of them use Stanislavsky, whether they know it or not.
Stanislavsky believed that the information contained in your answers to these questions could save you as an actor from floundering in a quagmire of generalisation once you greeted the audience or stood in front of the camera. He was a Russian. Born in And he was arguably the first person to systematise natural and often unconscious human responses and organise them into something which could be consciously applied to the artifice of acting.
After setting up the Moscow Art Theatre in with the professional writer-producer, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Stanislavsky pursued his investigations into acting processes till the day he died in It coincided with the climax to a debate which had been bubbling for centuries.
The arts were truly evolving. Not to mention Pavlov and his incredible drooling dogs. Would it have been a Briton or a German? A Gaul or a Swede? Who knows? First of all, the state of the art as he began life as an actor and director. And secondly, the state of the state as he developed his acting theories. As far as the state of the art was concerned, Russian theatre at the end of the nineteenth century was in a tawdry condition. Morals were low, ethics were shabby, and acting was little more than a poorly paid means to a poorly valued end.
The repertoire was uninspiring. The performances were dissolute. And actors staggered drunkenly through performances, relying on the prompter to haul them through to the curtain call. Out of the midst of this mediocrity rose Stanislavsky, a lover of acting and, in all senses of the word, a true amateur. For him:. The theatre is one large family where you live together in closest harmony or where you engage in mortal quarrels.
The theatre is a beloved woman, sometimes capricious, ill-tempered, ugly and selfish; sometimes fascinating, tender, generous and beautiful. The theatre is an adored child, unconsciously cruel and artlessly charming.
His whims demand everything and you cannot refuse him anything. As for the state of the state , the Soviet regime of the early twentieth century rejected personal emotion and championed rock-solid action. In this political climate, Stanislavsky had no choice but to veer away from his own early fascination with emotion and turn his attention towards that all-important action. But after a tour to the States in the early s raised his international profile, the American public grew hungry.
The pressure was on, and he finally began work on a written version in His intention was to publish all the psychological and the physical aspects of actor-training together in one volume.
Yet what began to emerge was a tome of such gargantuan proportions that no serious publisher could accept it. He agreed to this — on the condition that he also wrote an overview, alerting his readers to the fact that the two strands of acting as presented in the two books were two halves of the same whole. Sadly, the overview never appeared. And many never even go near Building a Character the published English-language name of the second volume , which includes many of the physical perspectives.
The aim of The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit is to take the basic elements of each of the three books and re-integrate them into one user-friendly volume. But why anyone would want to mystify the practical? A saw? Or a plane? Can I unlock this particular role with the inner psychological drives? Or emotion memory? Or grasp? Each role will require different tools and a different application. And we can begin to understand which options are available to us without any mystification.
First of all, each tool is defined. Until now. The Toolkit contains several examples from her book to access deeper aspects of some familiar tools, as well as to introduce some new ones. Within the definitions of each tool are illustrations. They come from Stanislavsky, from his acolytes including Knebel, and from my own working practice as an Anglo-Russian-trained performance practitioner.
The illustrations place the definitions in concrete, practical examples, so you can understand how the tools impact on an actor, a director and a writer. The second strand of The Toolkit consists of exercises, contained in Chapter 4: these give you direct means to use the particular tool-in-hand.
Sometimes various tools are clustered together, when it would be unhelpful to separate the different components or it would fracture too significantly the holistic kit. Basically, the exercises in Chapter 4 are just starting points for you to develop your own working strategies. The book as a whole falls into four main chapters.
But the idea is to tease out the various aspects of acting — just as an artist might set out the primary colours in order to mix them into a whole palette of possible shades.
Since our raw materials as actors — i. We need to return constantly to the toolkit just to keep up with our own ever-changing instrument. To some extent, Chapter 2 moves from cerebral work on a text, through physical work on a character, to ensemble interaction on a scene. What happens to your creative processes when your work goes public? And which tools are available to you to keep your performance on course? Of course, the cross-over points between all three prongs are numerous, since so many of the tools in the kit combine our logic with our imagination, our bodies with our psychologies, and our conscious technique with our subconscious inspiration.
Nonetheless, we can begin to see how our processes develop as we move from the intimacy of our own training, into the working environment of a rehearsal room, and from there into the public arena of live or recorded performance.
The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit adopts the metaphor of a real-life toolkit with its various metal trays and compartments. And obviously, any illustrations which rely on the nightly responses of an audience can only be applied to theatre or live broadcasts. However, when it comes to building a character and turning the black-and-white pages of a script into a flesh-and-blood living creation, medium is irrelevant.
My own illustrations throughout the book come from my eclectic experiences of acting, directing and teaching. Because the production run was long and the material was emotionally charged, the experience of performing The Permanent Way threw up all sorts of challenges that have impacted hugely on my understanding of acting.
It all depends on your own personality and training, as well as the task-in-hand and the character and the director. He started his career in Gilbert and Sullivan and ended his life with opera students. How much more non-naturalistic and highly theatrical can you get than The Mikado or Rigoletto?
This is a subtle but important difference, to which we shall return. Stanislavsky maintained that the greater your talent, the more refined your technique should be if you really want to reach the heights of virtuosity.
But how many of us want to hear this truism? Since realistic acting is basically about replicating something that everyone does quite naturally every single day of their lives — i. And this assumption is bolstered when you see a TV personality or a Big Brother finalist becoming a Hollywood star or a West End attraction. So if anyone can act, why bother with technique? For Stanislavsky, we block our chances of developing that skill when we assume we have great talent:. This means that what you experience internally is immediately translated into an outer expression, and conversely what your body manifests physically has a direct and acknowledged affect on your psychological landscape.
So, I bury my head in my hands: before long, my muscular memory and my imagination kick in, and I start to feel despair. The art of great acting is the art of true listening. And how do their words and deeds affect me? And ultimately we all long to be inspired actors, so anything we can do consciously to prepare the ground for the possibility of being inspired is surely a positive thing.
All the tools in this chapter can be used for pretty much every kind of theatre or screen preparation, as they can assist you in developing a basic actor-training. It simply provides a chance for you to understand what works for you personally, and from there you can build your own technique.
It falls into three sections:. Your body can give you as much information about the character as your brain does, and your psychology inevitably affects how you use your body.
The main vehicle you have for communicating to the audience the world that the writer has invented is your body, in that the physical form you present on stage or screen conveys your psychological interpretation of a character.
The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit
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By Bella Merlin. The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit collects together for the first time the terms and ideas developed by Stanislavsky throughout his career. Key terms are explained and defined as they naturally occur in this process. They are illustrated with examples from both his own work and that of other practitioners. Each stage of the process is explored with sequences of practical exercises designed to help today's actors and students become thoroughly familiar with the tools in Stanislavsky's toolkit.