What is the meaning of “Living the Part?”
All the qualities of the actor mentioned in my last lecture are essential for him in order to “live his part.” An actor who “lives his part” is a creative actor, the one who simply imitates diﬀerent human emotions without feeling them each time is a “mechanical” one. The diﬀerence between them is the same as between a human being and a mechanical puppet, or as between an artist’s painting and a photograph. No matter how ﬁne a photograph may be it could never be a work of art. It is nothing but a copy, a mechanical repetition of life, a stamp, – while a painting is unique, being an individually created bit of “better” life. An actor who “lives his part” uses each time, playing his role, a brand
new, fresh feeling. Sometimes he expresses it in an entirely diﬀerent manner, merely following the fundamental lines of his main problem, but without adhering to the once set stage mechanics. The creative actor, being sensitive and responsive to his surroundings,
should be able to ﬁnd the life’s truth in all circumstances and situations. Example: – the scene in Heyerman’s “Good Hope,” when the mother, trying to persuade her son not to be afraid of the sea and sail on the next boat, shows him a couple of beautifully carved coral earrings; promising to give them to him in case he sails, she describes their beauty, pointing to the carved ships. On the opening night the property man forgot to put the earrings in the drawer. The actress playing the mother did not lose her presence of mind and holding the imaginary earrings started to describe them so eloquently that the public actually believed seeing them. After the show a couple of people asked Stanislavsky where in the world had he acquired such a remarkable set. A creative actor lends his ear exclusively to his soul, and does not try
to invent new feelings, but merely invests his own in diﬀerent forms prompted by his imagination. He is never concerned in the external eﬀect of his part but merely in the inner, spiritual side of it. According to Stanislavsky’s expression, – “He does not love himself in art, but loves
He does not the public, the applause, the costume, the sets, a girl friend in a box and so forth, – the only thing he needs is to have in front of him a deﬁnite problem. A creative actor is generally inclined towards beautiful literary works
with great and eternal themes – because those are the only ones that would supply him with spiritual food. Such an actor belongs to the class of “artists-creators” of the living theatre, while the “actor-imitator” of human feelings will always remain among the so-called “utilities” of the theatre. “Living one’s part” means a complete spiritual and physical self-
abandon for a deﬁnite period of time, in order to fulﬁll a real or fantastical problem of the theatre.