Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Method, Less Madness ; ACTING UP

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

More Method, Less Madness ; ACTING UP

Article excerpt

It's amazing. How on earth have I managed to get where I am today (where am I today?) without having had a "super objective"? Without having even heard of a super objective.

Not that everyone is actually endowed with super objectives. They are a privilege confined to actors. The chap we have to thank for conceiving them was a Russian named Konstantin Alexeyev. He is better known by his stage name, Stanislavsky.

Ian, our instructor, devoted a class or two in our short course to the theories of this renowned director (1863-1938). I got the feeling that Stanislavsky is still greatly revered, although his insistence on the studied introspection of actors as they bury themselves in a character is now seen as inappropriate to some forms of drama.

We did scenes from Tennessee Williams's "A Streetcar Named Desire," to give us a feel for Stanislavsky's methods. Just before we, as our characters, said anything, we had to say in a word what our specific aim was. Words like "pleading" or "attacking" or "confronting." Like the balloon from a cartoon character's head that says "Thinks...."

We learned to say "I" when referring to our character, rather than "he." We learned to differentiate between what we, as our characters, were saying, and what we, as our characters, were thinking. They could be direct contradictions.

All this fascinated me - particularly as I had relied mainly on impulse and instinct, and had never thought in such detail or so analytically before.

Now that I, at last, have a part, I am trying to apply something of what I have learned. Sort of. My little role as prison chaplain is also in a play by Williams ("Not About Nightingales").

The production is fast approaching. I do feel a bit short on rehearsal time. And I need someone to tell me whether my attempt to follow Stanislavsky's principles is in the least successful. …

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