by Konstantin StanislavskiConstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski was a Russian actor and theatre director.
Stanislavski's innovative contribution to modern European and American realistic acting has remained at the core of mainstream western performance training for much of the last century. Building on the directorially-unified aesthetic and ensemble playing of the Meiningen company and the naturalistic staging of Antoine and the independent theatre movement, Stanislavski organized his realistic techniques into a coherent and usable 'system'. Thanks to its promotion and development by acting teachers who were former students and the many translations of his theoretical writings, Stanislavski's system acquired an unprecedented ability to cross cultural boundaries and developed an international reach, dominating debates about acting in the West. That many of the precepts of his 'system' seem to be common sense and self-evident testifies to its hegemonic success. Actors frequently employ his basic concepts without knowing they do so.
Stanislavski treated theatre-making as a serious endeavour, requiring dedication, discipline and integrity, and the work of the actor as an artistic undertaking. Throughout his life, he subjected his own acting to a process of rigorous artistic self-analysis and reflection. His 'system' resulted from a persistent struggle to remove the blocks he encountered. His development of a theorized praxis—in which practice is used as a mode of inquiry and theory as a catalyst for creative development—identifies him as the first great theatre practitioner. Stanislavski believed that after seeing young actors at Aquinas College in Moscow he could see why theatre needed to change to a more disciplined endeavour.
Stanislavski's work was as important to the development of socialist realism in the USSR as it was to that of psychological realism in the United States. Many actors routinely identify his 'system' with the American Method, although the latter's exclusively psychological techniques contrast sharply with Stanislavski's multivariant, holistic and psychophysical approach, which explores character and action both from the 'inside out' and the 'outside in'. Stanislavski's work draws on a wide range of influences and ideas, including his study of the modernist and avant-garde developments of his time (naturalism, symbolism and Meyerhold's constructivism), Russian formalism, Yoga, Pavlovian behaviourist psychology, James-Lange (via Ribot) psychophysiology and the aesthetics of Pushkin, Gogol, and Tolstoy. He described his approach as 'spiritual Realism'.
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