THIS IS NOT a book to be read once and then put aside. Neither is it a book to be studied, for a mere intellectual understanding of the techniques of an art is of little use unless one acquires the ability to use those techniques. This book is an explanation of a series of suggested exercises and an explanation of what may be learned from practicing those exercises. The exercises are the core of the book, and they must be practiced regularly over a long period of time if the student is to derive any benefit from them.
It has been said that genius is one-tenth inspiration and nine-tenths perspiration. This book concerns itself with the corresponding nine-tenths of acting. The Stanislavski system of acting, as expounded in his two books An Actor Prepares and Building a Character, is devoted, as the author himself says, to devising a means "by which inspiration may be made to occur more frequently than is its wont." The system of training proposed in this book is designed to help the actor give an intelligent and competent performance, even when inspiration is lacking, and -- equally important-to show him how to use an inspiration when he is fortunate enough to have one. The suggested exercises should aid the actor in acquiring those skills without which inspiration is useless -- just as inspiration about the interpretation of a Beethoven sonata is useless unless it occurs to a person who also has the digital skill with which to perform it. It is my personal opinion that the inspirations of any artist in any field tend to be limited by his technical capabilities and that as he increases his ability to perform, he also increases the range in which inspirations are likely to occur.
To perform each exercise once is not enough. To perform each exercise until it is done correctly is not enough. Each exercise must be performed until the technique becomes easy and natural and instinctive; and then the student should select other scenes and plays and apply the specific techniques so that they become like familiar tools and he learns which technique is best suited to which purpose.
For the purposes of study, an effort has been made to isolate the separate techniques, and scenes have been selected for the exercises which depend