chapter  2
44 Pages


Stanislavsky never wanted to thrust his theories into the public domain. Yet the success of the Moscow Art Theatre’s American tours in the early 1920s persuaded him otherwise. His autobiography, My Life in Art, was the first book to appear in 1924 and, a year later, he began to construct a written version of his highly popular ‘system’. His plan was to present the psychological preparation of actor-training alongside the physical aspect of building a character, with a second book featuring rehearsal practices. This was not to be. The double-pronged fork of inner processes and outer characterisation threatened to prove an impossibly large tome. So the American publishers insisted that Stanislavsky divide the work into two books, with the rehearsal practices comprising a third. Their suggestion was far from satisfactory for Stanislavsky. He was afraid that readers would segregate inner work from external characterisation, whereas he saw them as two sides of the same ‘psycho-physical’ coin. He reluctantly agreed to the separate volumes (the first to be called An Actor’s Work on Himself in the Creative Process of Experience and the second An Actor’s Work on Himself in the Creative Process of Physical Characterisation), only if an outline of all three books was included in the first publication. Unfortunately, Stanislavsky never wrote the overview. And so the very thing that he feared has

happened: those of us unable to read the original Russian-language texts have the impression that An Actor Prepares (the English translation of the first volume) is the ‘system’. Therefore, few of us go on to tackle the accompanying Building a Character and Creating a Role.