Konstantin Stanislavski

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Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors.Konstantin Stanislavski
Konstantin Stanislavski

It’s very easy to over-simplify the method of Konstantin Stanislavski, one of the greatest and most influential of modern theatre practitioners. The main thing to remember is that he takes the approach that the actors should really inhabit the role that they are playing. So the actor shouldn’t only know what lines he needs to say and the motivation for those lines, but also every detail of that character’s life offstage as well as onstage. In this way we can establish Stanislavski as a director and practitioner whose productions are naturalistic.

Stanislavski’s background

Stanislavski’s real name was Konstantin Sergeyevich Alexeyev but he adopted the stage name of Stanislavski in 1884. Born in 1863 to a life of considerable comfort as a member of one of the most affluent families in Russia, he died in 1938 at the age of 75. His family loved the theatre and he was able to indulge in amateur theatricals as a boy. But when he took a stage name it was to conceal his theatrical work from his family. However, in 1887 he had his father’s approval and eventually became an established figure.

As a serious theatrical practitioner, he made careful notes and evaluated his work, a habit he followed from the first steps in his career. Later he was to write major texts on the art of performance:

  • My Life in Art
  • An Actor Prepares
  • Building a Character
  • Creating a Role