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Although Stanislavski died in 1938, his theories of "method acting" which are explained in his three books "An Actor Prepares", "Building a Character" and "Creating a Role", are still one of the greatest influences in the world of performance today.
The most fundamental principle of Stanislavski's teaching is that the actor must live the life of the character that he is portraying, he must learn to think like the character and behave as the character would, therefore the portrayal is not confined to the performance but will, to some degree, begin to overlap into the actor's own life. This, he asserts, is the only way to achieve total realism and, to reinforce this, the actor must also extend this exercise of imagination to encompass the costumes that he wears, the articles that comprise the set and the props that are used. If there is a mirror on the wall, he must invent a history of where it was bought, by whom and how it has come to be in this particular location, thus completing the elaborate imaginary world which will lend conviction to his performance.
It is therefore necessary for the actor to approach the role from two levels, the external level being the more obvious. The way in which the character moves, speaks and behaves must be studied and practised, but this performance will become mechanical unless it is guided by the inner belief in the characterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s feelings and emotions which, although unseen by the audience, is the added factor which will ultimately lend conviction to the part that is being played.
The actor should draw on his own experiences, wherever possible, to understand and interpret the emotions and events that the character will experience, and the wider the actor's experience of life then the greater his insight and comprehension will be. However, although drawing on personal experiences is often the only way to achieve complete empathy with the role, it is essential that these emotions and reactions become absorbed in the fictitious world of the character itself, and are not just reproduced mechanically, otherwise the illusion of reality will be lost.
Stanislavski's teachings are best defined in the following quotes:
The more an actor has observed and known, the greater his experience the clearer his perception of the inner and outer circumstances of the life in his play and in his part
This work is not done by the intellect alone but by all your creative
forces, all the elements of your inner creative state on the stage
together with your real life in the sense of the play
Therefore, to follow the teachings of Stanislavski it is necessary for the actor to totally immerse himself, body, soul and mind, in the part that he is playing.
Before the realistic drama of the late 1800s, no one had devised a method for achieving this kind of believability. Through their own talent and genius, individual actresses and actors had achieved it, but no one had developed a system whereby it could be taught and passed on to future generations. The person who did this the most successfully was the Russian actor and director Constanin Stanislavski.
A cofounder of the Moscow Art Theater in Russia and the director of Anton Chekhov's most important plays, Stanislavski was also an actor. He was involved in both traditional theater (using stylized, nonrealistic techniques) and the emergence of the modern realistic approach. By closely observing the work of great performers of his day, and by drawing on his on acting experience, Stanislavski identified and described what these gifted performers did naturally and intuitively. From his observations he compiled a series of principles and techniques which today are regarded as fundamental to both the training and the performance of actors and actresses who want to create believable characters onstage.
We might assume that believable acting is simply a matter of being natural; but Stanislavski discovered first of all that acting realistically onstage is extremely artificial and difficult. He wrote:
All of our acts, even the simplest, which are so familiar to us in everyday life,
become strained when we appear behind the footlights before a public of a
thousand people. That is why it is necessary to correct ourselves and learn
again how to walk, sit, or lie down. It is essential to re-educate ourselves to
look and see, on the stage, to listen and to hear.
To achieve this "reeducation", Stanislavski said, "the actor must first of all believe in everything that takes place onstage, and most all, he must believe what he himself is doing. And one can only believe in the truth." To give substance to his ideas, Stanislavski studied how people act in everyday life and how they communicated feelings and emotions; and then he found a way to accomplish the same things onstage. He developed a series of exercises and techniques for the performer which had the following broad aims:
1. To make the outward behavior of the performer - gestures, voice, and the rhythm of movements- natural and convincing.
2. To have the actor or actress convey the goals and objectives-the inner needs of a character. Even if all the visible manifestations of a character are mastered, a performance will appear superficial and mechanical without a deep sense of conviction and belief.
3. To make the life of the character onstage not only dynamic but continuous. Some performers tend to emphasize only the high points of a part; in between, the life of the character stops. In real life, however, people do not stop living.
4. To develop a strong sense of ensemble playing with other performers in a scene.
Let us now take a look at Stanislavski's techniques.
When he observed the great actors and actresses of his day, Stanislavski noticed how fluid and lifelike their movements were. They seemed to be in a state of complete freedom and relaxation, letting the behavior of the character come through effortlessly. He concluded that unwanted tension has to be eliminated and that the performer at all times attain a state of physical and vocal relaxation.
Concentration and Observation
Stanislavski also discovered that gifted performers always appear fully concentrated on some object, person, or event while onstage. Stanislavski referred to the extent or range of concentration as a circle of attention. This circle of attention can be compared to a circle of light on a darkened stage. the performer should begin with the idea that it is a small, tight, circle including only himself or herself and perhaps one other person or one piece of furniture. When the performer has established a strong circle of attention, he or she can enlarge the circle outward to include the entire stage area. In this way performers will stop worrying about the audience and lose their self-consciousness.
Importance of Specifics
One of Stanislavski's techniques was an emphasis on concrete details. A performer should never try to act in general, he said, and should never try to convey a feeling such as fear or love in some vague, amorphous way. In life, Stanislavski said, we express emotions in terms of specifics: an anxious woman twists a handkerchief, an angry boy throws a rock at a trash can, a nervous businessman jangles his keys. Performers must find similar activities.
The performer must also conceive of the situation in which a character exists (which Stanislavski referred to as the given circumstances ) in term of specifics. In what kind of space does an event take place: formal, informal, public, domestic? How does it feel? What is the temperature? The lighting? What has gone on just before? What is expected in the moments ahead? Again, those questions must be answered in concrete terms.
An innovative aspect of Stanislavski's work has to do with inner truth, which deals with the internal or subjective world of characters - that is, their thoughts and emotions. The early phases of Stanislavski's research took place while he was also directing the major dramas of Anton Chekhov. Plays like The Seagull and The Cherry Orchard have less to do with external action or what the characters say than what the characters are feeling and thinking but often do not verbalize. It becomes apparent that Stanislavski's approach would be very beneficial in realizing the inner life of such characters.
Stanislavski had several ideas about how to achieve a sense of inner truth. one being the magic if. If is a word which can transform our thoughts; through it we can imagine ourselves in virtually any situation. "If I suddenly became wealthy..." "If I were vacationing on the Caribbean Island..." "If I had great talent..." "If that person who insulted me comes near me again..." The word if becomes a powerful lever for the mind; it can lift us out of ourselves a give us a sense of absolute certainty about imaginary circumstances.
What? Why? How? An important principle of Stanislavski's system is that all action onstage must have a purpose. This means that the performer's attention must always be focused on a series of physical actions linked together by the circumstances of the play. Stanislavski determined these actions by asking three essential questions: What? Why? How? An action is performed, such as opening a letter (the what). The letter is opened because someone has said that it contains extremely damaging information about the character (the why). The letter is opened anxiously, fearfully (the how), because of the calamitous effect it might have on the character. These physical actions, which occur from moment to moment in a performance, are in turn governed by the character's overall objective in the play.
Through Line of a Role
According to Sstanislavski, in order to develop continuity in a part, the actor or actress should find the superobjective of a character. What is it, above all else, that the character wants during the course of a play? What is the character's driving force? If a goal can be established toward which the character strives, it will give the performer an overall objective. From this objective can be developed a through line which can be grasped, as a skier on a ski lift grabs a towline and is carried to the top. Another term for through line is spine.
To help develop the through line, Stanislavski urged performers to divide scenes into unit (sometimes called beats). In each unit there is an objective, and the intermediate objectives running through a play lead ultimately to the overall objective.
Except in one-person shows, performers do not act alone; they interact with other people. Stanislavski was aware that many performers tend to "stop acting," or lose their concentration, when they are not the main characters in a scene or when someone else is talking. Such performers make a great effort when they are speaking but not when they are listening. This tendency destroys the through line and causes the performer to move into and out of a role. That, in turn, weakens the sense of the ensemble - the playing together of all the performers.
Stanislavski and Psychophysical Action
A character's actions will lead to his / her emotions.
(This is a tough one.) Stanislavski began to develop his techniques in the early part of the twentieth century, and at first he emphasized the inner aspects of training: for example, various ways of getting in touch with the performer's unconscious. Beginning around 1917, however, he began to look more and more at purposeful action, or what he called pyshophysical action. (An action which has a purpose, and leads to feelings about the action taken.) A student at one of his lectures that year took a note and noticed the change: "Whereas action previously had been taught as the expression of a previously-
established 'emotional state,' it is now action itself which predominates and is the key to the psychological." (Read this next line carefully) Rather than seeing emotions as leading to action, Stanislavski came to believe that it was the other way around: purposeful action undertaken to fulfill a character's goals was the most direct route to the emotions.
Example 1: A character is sitting at a dinner table. All of a sudden the character quickly stands up and throws the plate at the wall, thus causing more anger in the character. Rather than just trying to be mad, the character made an angry motion, throwing a plate, that made the anger greater.
Example 2: Character A gives Character B a hug. Character A may now feel closer to the other character, and happier, since giving a hug.)
Example 3: If you have ever seen the football player before a game who shouts, lifts weights, yells, or gets angry to psyche himself up before a game, that is psychophysical action.
The Stanislavski System
Stanislavski System.American Method Acting originated in Russia with Konstantin Stanislavski, who opened the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. The Moscow Art Theatre is primarily associated with the productions of the plays of Anton Chekhov and the beginning of Russian dramatic realism.
By observing himself as an actor as well as the other actors with whom he worked, and more especially by studying the great dramatic artists in Russia and abroad, Stanislavski developed an approach to the teaching of acting that became known as the Stanislavski system. The effects of his teaching were felt in America in the 1920 s when Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya, both alumni of the Moscow Art Theatre school, emigrated to America and established The American Laboratory Theatre.
Stanislavski investigated and charted the acting process that good actors used intuitively. He systematized that process so that it could be studied and developed consciously. He was interested in how to maintain a consistent performance and how to be a conscious human being on stage. The Method is a pragmatic way of working to create both the interior life and the logical behavior of a character, a way that can be taught, practiced, monitored, and corrected.
According to Stanislavski, an important aspect of building a character pertains to the subtext. The subtext is the meaning behind the words of the text. For Stanislavski, the subtext is the inward life of a human spirit. . .that constantly flows under the words of a role. Words are only a part of a given moment on stage, and are related to thoughts, bodily expressions, and images. Actors need to see images and transmit those images to the acting partner. Images need to grow in detail and become richer.
Questions are asked by the actor. Why did the playwright write these words at this time in the play? To make the playwrights words his own the actor needs to know why the author gave these lines to the character: what is my purpose in saying these lines? How do I make that purpose known? Under what conditions would I think, behave, do, and perceive as this character does? As the actor I must be willing to submerge myself in the life of the character.
Some of the tenets of Method Acting are: verisimilitude, seeking logical character behavior, justification and super-objective, expression of true emotion, drawing on the self, ensemble acting, improvisation, and use of objects.
A great deal has been said and written about what has come to be known as the Method. It is the preeminent acting style of American actors. It would be very difficult to improve on the following definition of the tenets of Method acting.1
1. The actors essential task is to reproduce a credible reality on stage or screen, founded on acute observations of the world. Method teachers do not hold that this restricts actors to any one style of production, but this task does closely link the Method with American naturalism, which has the same aim.
2. The Method justifies all stage behavior by establishing its psychological soundness. To provide a unifying motivation for this behavior, the actor determines a single overall purpose for the character. This is commonly known as a super-objective,throughline, or spine. This larger purpose is divided into smaller, actable units called objectives or actions.
3. Great value is placed on the expression of genuine emotion, which may be evoked through a technique called affective memory. (Affective memory has become an extremely controversial device that has, in its most popular version, emotional recall,split the community of Method teachers.)
3(a) The central purpose of the creative actors work is the cultivation of life of our inner feelings. According to Boleslavsky, this involves the development and use of the actors affective memory: the recalling and re-experiencing of previously felt emotions.
________Stanislavski developed exercises with which the actor, by recalling the sensory details that accompanied an emotional experience, could entice the emotion from his subconscious and re-experience it. Madame Ouspenskaya used to call the actors affective memories golden keys, which unlocked some of the greatest moments in acting.
________In the last four pages of the Overture, section of SWANNS WAY, Marcel Proust describes a perfect example of the affective-memory phenomenon and how it is linked to particular sensory keys that can unlock long-forgotten feelings.3 The novels narrator recalls how his mother served him some tea with those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines. He takes a sip of the tea into which he has dipped a piece of Madeleine and suddenly experiences an exquisite sense of joy. He tries another sip of the tea and cake and then another, but the sensation seems to diminish. He considers for a moment, then concentrates on the sense memory of the taste of the crumb of Madeleine soaked in a decoction of lime-flowers, and immediately a flood of reminiscences is released: he remembers the Sunday mornings at Combray, when as a child, his aunt Leonie gave him a piece of the Madeleine she had dipped in her own cup of lime-flower tea, the re-experiencing of which unfolds in the complex of recollections that becomes REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST.
________There are many examples in theatre history of performers making unconscious use of their affective memories. For example, Edmund Kean was truly emotionally moved when he picked up the skull of Yorick in the gravediggers, scene in HAMLET. It seems each time he held Yoricks skull he would be reminded of a beloved uncle who had given him his first lessons in acting and who had introduced him to Shakespeare. By this example we see that the actor had a real emotional response that came from his connection with the play and the character.
________Specific acting exercises are used only as a last resort. The given circumstances of the play, character, and action are of primary importance. After the performer analyzes his part to see what feeling or emotion is necessary at a given moment in a scene, he searches his own life for a remembered feeling or emotion that parallels the former. Using sensory exercises the actor retrieves the parallel emotion from his affective memory. The actor is not to be concerned with how the emotion will manifest itself, only with finding it and creating the sensory realities that will unlock the memory. When the affective memory is tapped, the mental processes set in motion do cause psycho physical responses. They stimulate the players physical and mental being with remembered sensations and emotions that color his or her behavior and vocal expression in ways that both the actor and the audience experience as real and exciting. This is what gives fine acting its aliveness and verisimilitude.
________The Method teacher Robert Lewis has this definition of affective memory:4
________The theory is that if, quietly relaxed, you think back over a certain incident in your life which moved you strongly at the time, and if you can remember and recreate in your mind the physical circumstances of that moment (where you were, who was there, what happened, the time of day, the place, surroundings) and start reliving it . . . it is possible that a feeling similar to what you felt at that time will recur.
4. Each actors own personality is not only the model for the creation of character, but the source from which all psychological truth must be distilled. Heres what Brando has to say about use of self
________People often say that an actor plays a character well but thats an amateurish notion. Developing a characterization is not merely a matter of putting on makeup and a costume and stuffing Kleenex in your mouth. Thats what actors used to do, and then called it characterization. In acting everything comes out of what you are or some aspect of who you are. Everything is a part of your experience. We all have a spectrum of emotions in us. It is a broad one, and it is the actors job to reach into this assortment of emotions and experience for the ones that are appropriate for his character and the story. Through practice and experience, I learned how to put myself into different moods and states of mind by thinking about things that made me laugh or be angry, sad, or outraged; I developed a mental technique that allowed me to address certain parts of myself, select an emotion, and send something akin to an electrical impulse from my brain to my body that enabled me to experience the emotion. If I had to feel worried, Id think about something that worried me; if I was supposed to laugh, I thought about something that was hilarious.
5. Improvisation is encouraged as a rehearsal aid, and even in some cases as part of performance, in an effort to keep the acting spontaneous, and thus lifelike.
6. The Method promotes intimate communication between actors in a scene, thus striving toward the performance ideal of true, unified ensemble acting. Some acting exercises developed for this purpose are: the mirror, group use of imaginary objects, group movement exercises, and improvisations.
________Ensemble acting does mean more than just consistently good acting by all cast members. It generally implies that everyone on stage is acting in exactly the same style, and it requires concentrated group scenes. Unfortunately, the history of American drama and film contains few examples of it. It may be the sad case that for American actors, who strive to create theater in a highly commercial context that supports the star system, moments of intimate connection between individuals are often the closest they come to ensemble acting.6
7. The use of objects is stressed both for their symbolic value and as reminders of the solid, material world.
The German playwright and theoretician Bertolt Brecht also reacted against the realistic drama. Brecht felt that drama could instruct and change society; therefore, it should be political. He believed that effective theater should bring the audience to the point of decision and action. To accomplish this, he wrote what he called epic-as opposed to narrative-dramas that continuously emphasized the theatrical aspects; the audience was thus constantly reminded that it was in a theater and could therefore make rational judgments about the material presented. He called this "alienation." The use of a bare stage, exposed lighting and scenic equipment, short scenes, juxtaposition of "reality" with the theatrical presentation-techniques fairly common today-are largely the result of Brecht's influence. Nonetheless, some critics maintain that even his most highly regarded plays, for example, Mother Courage and Her Children (1941; trans. 1963) and The Threepenny Opera (1928, with music by the German-American composer Kurt Weill; trans. 1933), do not conform entirely to his theories.
Bertolt Brecht Again
The German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht was born in 1898 in Augsburg Germany. Working out of Germany until his exile in 1933 to Scandinavia, Denmark and finally America (where he wrote screen plays), his method of acting and ideas about theatre were strongly influenced by his belief in Marxist politics. He believed that the theatre was a place that could teach and make the audience think, not simply feel. In fact, Brecht did not want his audience to feel like they had been transported into a real life. He wanted them to know that the play was just that, a play. The audience was to experience the political message from the work instead of the emotional. His "epic" theatre was based on what he called "Verfremdungseffekt" or his "alienation effect." The audience never got emotionally attached with the characters because something or someone always stopped them.
In 1949, after being questioned for communist involvement by the American government, Brecht returned to Berlin where he began his own company called the Berliner Ensemble with his wife Helene Weigel. Some of Brecht's plays include The Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage and Her Children, The Life of Galileo, The Good Woman of Setzuan and The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
original name EUGEN BERTHOLD FRIEDRICH BRECHT
(b. Feb. 10, 1898, Augsburg, Ger.--d. Aug. 14, 1956, East Berlin),
German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer whose epic theatre departed from the conventions of theatrical illusion and developed the drama as a social and ideological forum for leftist causes.
Until 1924 Brecht lived in Bavaria, where he was born, studied medicine (Munich, 1917-21), and served in an army hospital (1918). From this period date his first play, Baal (produced 1923); his first success, Trommeln in der Nacht (Kleist Preis, 1922; Drums in the Night); the poems and songs collected as Die Hauspostille (1927; A Manual of Piety, 1966), his first professional production (Edward II, 1924); and his admiration for Wedekind, Rimbaud, Villon, and Kipling.
During this period he also developed a violently antibourgeois attitude that reflected his generation's deep disappointment in the civilization that had come crashing down at the end of World War I. Among Brecht's friends were members of the Dadaist group, who aimed at destroying what they condemned as the false standards of bourgeois art through derision and iconoclastic satire. The man who taught him the elements of Marxism in the late 1920s was Karl Korsch, an eminent Marxist theoretician who had been a Communist member of the Reichstag but had been expelled from the German Communist Party in 1926.
In Berlin (1924-33) he worked briefly for the directors Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator, but mainly with his own group of associates. With the composer Kurt Weill (q.v.) he wrote the satirical, successful ballad opera Die Dreigroschenoper (1928; The Threepenny Opera) and the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (1930; Rise and Fall of the Town of Mahoganny). He also wrote what he called "Lehr-stucke" ("exemplary plays")--badly didactic works for performance outside the orthodox theatre--to music by Weill, Hindemith, and Hanns Eisler. In these years he developed his theory of "epic theatre" and an austere form of irregular verse. He also became a Marxist.
In 1933 he went into exile--in Scandinavia (1933-41), mainly in Denmark, and then in the United States (1941-47), where he did some film work in Hollywood. In Germany his books were burned and his citizenship was withdrawn. He was cut off from the German theatre; but between 1937 and 1941 he wrote most of his great plays, his major theoretical essays and dialogues, and many of the poems collected as Svendborger Gedichte (1939). The plays of these years became famous in the author's own and other productions: notable among them are Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (1941; Mother Courage and Her Children), a chronicle play of the Thirty Years' War; Leben des Galilei (1943; The Life of Galileo); Der gute Mensch von Sezuan (1943; The Good Woman of Setzuan), a parable play set in prewar China; Der Aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (1957; The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui), a parable play of Hitler's rise to power set in prewar Chicago; Herr Puntila und sein Knecht Matti (1948; Herr Puntila and His Man Matti), a Volksstuck (popular play) about a Finnish farmer who oscillates between churlish sobriety and drunken good humour; and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (first produced in English, 1948; Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, 1949), the story of a struggle for possession of a child between its highborn mother, who deserts it, and the servant girl who looks after it.
Brecht left the United States in 1947 after having had to give evidence before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He spent a year in Zurich, working mainly on Antigone-Modell 1948 (adapted from Hulderlin's translation of Sophocles; produced 1948) and on his most important theoretical work, the Kleines Organon fur das Theater (1949; "A Little Organum for the Theatre"). The essence of his theory of drama, as revealed in this work, is the idea that a truly Marxist drama must avoid the Aristotelian premise that the audience should be made to believe that what they are witnessing is happening here and now. For he saw that if the audience really felt that the emotions of heroes of the past--Oedipus, or Lear, or Hamlet--could equally have been their own reactions, then the Marxist idea that human nature is not constant but a result of changing historical conditions would automatically be invalidated. Brecht therefore argued that the theatre should not seek to make its audience believe in the presence of the characters on the stage--should not make it identify with them, but should rather follow the method of the epic poet's art, which is to make the audience realize that what it sees on the stage is merely an account of past events that it should watch with critical detachment. Hence, the "epic" (narrative, nondramatic) theatre is based on detachment, on the Verfremdungseffekt (alienation effect), achieved through a number of devices that remind the spectator that he is being presented with a demonstration of human behaviour in scientific spirit rather than with an illusion of reality, in short, that the theatre is only a theatre and not the world itself.
In 1949 Brecht went to Berlin to help stage Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder (with his wife, Helene Weigel, in the title part) at Reinhardt's old Deutsches Theater in the Soviet sector. This led to formation of the Brechts' own company, the Berliner Ensemble, and to permanent return to Berlin. Henceforward the Ensemble and the staging of his own plays had first claim on Brecht's time. Often suspect in eastern Europe because of his unorthodox aesthetic theories and denigrated or boycotted in the West for his Communist opinions, he yet had a great triumph at the Paris Theatre des Nations in 1955, and in the same year in Moscow he received a Stalin Peace Prize. He died of a heart attack in East Berlin the following year.
Brecht was, first, a superior poet, with a command of many styles and moods. As a playwright he was an intensive worker, a restless piecer-together of ideas not always his own (The Threepenny Opera is based on John Gay's Beggar's Opera, and Edward II on Marlowe), a sardonic humorist, and a man of rare musical and visual awareness; but he was often bad at creating living characters or at giving his plays tension and shape. As a producer he liked lightness, clarity, and firmly knotted narrative sequence; a perfectionist, he forced the German theatre, against its nature, to underplay. As a theoretician he made principles out of his preferences--and even out of his faults.
A complete bibliography of Brecht's writings published up to the time of his death by Walter Nubel may be found in the Second Special Brecht Number of the East German periodicial Sinn und Form (1957); a concise summary of Brecht literature is contained in Bertolt-Brecht-Bibliographie by Klaus-Dietrich Petersen (1968). Collected works in the original German are available in an edition in 8 thin-paper or 20 paperback volumes; Gesammelte Werke (1967). This edition, however, is far from complete and the principles according to which it was edited are open to doubt. A major collected edition of Brecht's work in English, under the joint editorship of John Willett and Ralph Manheim started publication with the first volume of Collected Plays (1970). Eric Bentley has edited Seven Plays by Bertolt Brecht (1961), a series of paperback volumes of Brecht's plays, and has translated the poetry collection, Hauspostille (1927; Manual of Piety, 1966). A good selection of Brecht's theoretical writings is Brecht on Theatre, trans. by John Willett (1964).
Critical and biographical works available in English include: John Willett, The Theatre of Bertolt Brecht (1959); Martin Esslin, Brecht: A Choice of Evils (1959; revised edition under the title, Brecht: The Man and His Work, 1971); and Frederic Ewen, Bertolt Brecht: His Life, His Art and His Times (1967, 1970). Max Spalter, Brecht's Tradition (1967), analyzes the chief influences on Brecht in German literature.
Lee Strasburg was an American theatre director, actor and teacher who created the acting technique known as "The Method" based on Stanislavski's theories of acting. He was born in the Ukraine in 1901 and emigrated to the United States of America in 1909. He is most famous for teaching his emotion-based acting technique to actors all across America and the world. In 1947, Elia Kazan and others founded the Actor's Studio. Strasburg became the Artistic Director of the Actor's Studio in 1951. In 1969, he founded the Lee Strasburg Theatre Institute that continues to teach "The Method". Strasberg's best known book is A Dream of Passion. The Actors Studio, a television series on Bravo gives a weekly portrait of famous actors from the United States, their acting process, techniques and career.
Uta Hagen is an important teacher and actor who lives in New York whose work on the Broadway stage is legendary. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and made her professional debut in 1937 as Ophelia in Hamlet. In 1938, still in her eighteenth year, she made her Broadway debut as Nina in Chekhov's The Seagull. Some of her famous roles include Blanche Dubois in the national company of A Streetcar Named Desire with Anthony Quinn and later on Broadway for two years. In 1950 she won a Tony Award for her role of Georgia Elgin in Cliffords Odets' The Country Girl on Broadway. She originated the role of Martha in Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf. In 2000 she starred in Collected Stories at the Stratford Festival. Hagen continues to teach at The Herbert Berghof Studio where she has trained many outstanding actors of the American stage and screen. Her book, Respect for Acting is a standard text for actors. Uta Hagen is also an advisor to The Actors Workshop in Toronto.
The writings and workshops of Augusto Boal of Brazil have influenced many theatre makers and social change organizations around the world. Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed or "forum theatre" deliver socially/politically relevant plays that involve the participation of actors and audiences. He was arrested by the military regime of Brazil and exiled in the seventies for his activism. While abroad, he continued his interactive theatre, teaching and writing to inspire change through theatre. He returned to Brazil in 1986 and created the Centre for the Theatre of the Oppressed. A good description of Boal's forms of theatre can be found on the website of the Toronto theatre, Mixed Company,~mixedco" www.echo-on.net/~mixedco. Two "must read" books by Boal include Games for Actors and Non-Actors and The Rainbow of Desire.
What were the stage conditions upon which actors worked? Theatre in England during the 18th Century was dominated by David Garrick, an actor, manager and playwright whose style and memorable performances had a huge impact on the actor's craft. Gas lighting was first introduced in 1817, in London's Drury Lane Theatre and by the end of the century, electrical lighting made its appearance on stage. Through the 1900's in North America, further advances in theatre technology, a more natural form of speaking and acting was popularized on stage.
Antonin Artaud: (PICTURE WAY ABOVE!)
Surrealism is above all a state of mind, it does not advocate formulas. The most important point is to put oneself in the right frame of mind. No Surrealist is in the world, or thinks of himself in the present, or believes in the effectiveness of the mind as spur, the mind as guillotine, the mind as judge, the mind as doctor, and he resolutely hopes to be apart from the mind. The Surrealist has judged the mind. He has no feelings which are a part of himself, he does not recognize any thought as his own. His thought does not fashion for him a world to which he reasonably assents. He despairs of attaining his own mind.