the StaniSlavSky SySteM– the proCeSS
by Lindsay Price
How Do I Use It? The System has a set vocabulary of terms. These terms represent specific exercises to be used as the actor works on the script. The exercises are appropriate for any character and any script. What is It? The Stanislavsky System is an intense character development process that strives to make a performance “real” and notartificial. In order to achieve this realism, the system is used to: ❖ Bring an actor’s experiences into the role. ❖ Expand an actor’s imagination. Stanislavsky believed that in order to make a character true, the character must be approached from the inside. That means drawing on the real inside life of the actor, most specifically drawing on memories. The actor also has to create the inside lifeof the character: the character has to have innerthought, backstory, beliefs, and so on, just as a real person does. When the actor answers questions about the character, they should speak in the first person. “I am…” “I want…” The use of the imagination is very important: the system is not about working out your problems on stage as therapy! Stanislavsky always focuses on the art of the process:“Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.” Given Circumstances The given circumstances are the character details in the script - the facts the playwright gives the actor. They are unchangeable. Focus attention on the geographical, social and historical elements in the script. Sample questions to ask: ❖ Where am I? ❖ What is my specific location? ❖ What year is it? ❖ What relationships do Ihave? ❖ What has happened before the play begins? Super Objective This is also referred to in some books as the Super Task. The Super Objective is the main theme of the play. The subject of the play. Everything drives toward the Super Objective. Some examples: ❖ The Glass Menagerie: True escape is impossible. ❖ Hamlet: Revenge.
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❖ The Crucible: Good vsEvil. Objective This is also referred to in some books as the Task. Once the overall theme of the play is established, break the script down into sections. The objective is the goal for your character in each section. It’s what the character would like to see happen at the end of the section; what they want. This is not necessarily what happens, but this is what the character is striving for. Itis the actor’s job to focus on the objective and strive to complete it, no matter what stands in the way. For each Section, the actor should be able to: ❖ Complete the sentence “I want…” ❖ Define the Action the character will do to achieve the want. For each section you should know what your character wants and what action they are going to take to get that want. Magic If Your character is in aspecific situation. The Magic If answers the following question: “What would I do if I were in the same situation?” The “If” is very important. Again, this about your real-life experiences in combination with your imagination. The situation is not real, and the system doesn’t assume you have ever been in that situation. But knowing yourself, what would you do? How would you act? Take the imaginarysituation and make real life decisions as to how you would behave. It’s crucial to determine the “do” in the question. What action would you take?
» EXERCISE You are in a play that takes place at a bank. As your character is finishing up with the teller, a bank robber enters and shoots a gun into the air. If you were in a similar situation, what would you do? Would you be a coward or a hero?...
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