Lectures on the Stanislavsky System
You have gathered here, ladies and gentlemen, to study theatre, and, by doing so, to expose yourselves to art at large. This is why, rst and foremost, we need to agree on what we understand by “theatre.” We know of many different theatres that can be categorized as entertainment institutions. Each of them carries something unique, something that sets them apart from each other, sometimes even drastically: Korsh Theatre, Nezlobin Theatre, Maly Theatre, Drama Theatre, Art Theatre, Saburov Theatre, etc. This is why we need to divide all these theatres into separate groups, classify them, and then clarify the difference between the type of theatre we plan to draw upon for our exposure to art and all the other institutions that call themselves by the same name. The easiest way to classify theatres is to take, as a basis, an actor’s
approach to his part, as practiced at different theatres. Firstly, an actor can approach a role with an aim of exploiting it
for his own egotistical interests. We will call a theatre of this type an exploitation of art. Secondly, an actor might approach a role in order to experience its emotions, discover the equivalent form of the emotions in his homework, and later present before the audience the results of this work. (Coquelin-“cry over your part at home and then bring the results to the audience.”) Such is the Maly Theatre school, the school of presenting the part. In the old days, there was yet another approach to a part when an
actor, having memorized his lines more or less decently, in all other
aspects relied on his inspiration, or as they also call it, “his gut feeling.” As a result, one out of a hundred performances he would play well by living in unison with the emotions of the role. In our time, however, theatres practicing such an approach to a part do not exist, and typically actors consider it their duty to prepare their role one way or another. The fourth type of theatre is the theatre of experiencing the part. In
it an actor strives to live in unison with the emotions of his role and lure the audience with these emotions. To sum it all up, the major theatre types are presentational theatre and
theatre of experiencing. In a presentational theatre an actor’s main task is to use his external expressive means (intonations and mimicry) in order to portray different emotions. As a result, an actor develops a special stereotypical approach, also known as cliché, for every emotion. An actor uses it to portray a feeling. As soon as he has marked different moments of his role as “joy,” “laughter,” “anger,” “contempt,” etc., he already knows what to do. He knows (they even print special instructional manuals for it) that clenching one’s eyebrows and sts portrays anger, while extracting certain sounds from one’s throat and contracting certain facial muscles conveys laughter, etc. What they do not know is this: absolutely no one needs this, and a human being should be ashamed of occupying himself with such a craft. This is all false, and a dog’s smile won’t evoke joy in anyone. We, however, decided to study the true art of experiencing the role, the art of expressing ourselves, our very souls, before the audience.