2

WRITINGS ON THE TECHNIQUE OF ACTING

INTRODUCTION

The publication of Michael Chekhov's To the Actor in 1953 was a landmark event in actor training. None of the other key figures of the first half of the twentieth century, including Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Vakhtangov, Brecht, Copeau, Saint-Denis, Artaud and Craig, had produced a workbook for the actor. Stanislavsky's trilogy on actor training beginning with An Actor Prepares (1936), for example, presents his system through a story of a student's progress which includes a description of exercises, but these descriptions are part of the narrative rather than being an invitation to the reader to experiment on their own. Chekhov's book, in contrast, is not a story but a series of essays on key aspects of his method with exercises clearly marked out from the rest of the text to encourage the student to experiment. In an introductory note to his book Chekhov requests the reader's help, claiming that the contents of the book cannot be understood merely by reading, but only through practical application. While Chekhov acknowledges the importance of working with an experienced teacher, he also has a faith that working through the exercises in the book, on one's own or with a group, will be an effective means of developing an actor's skills.

To the Actor went through different versions. Chekhov started the first English version of the book in 1937 at Dartington and finished it in 1942, but it was rejected by publishers. Chekhov felt that his written

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Michael Chekhov
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Biography and Context 1
  • 2 - Writings on the Technique of Acting 35
  • 3 - Chekhov as Director 81
  • 4 - Practical Exercises 113
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 149
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