209 publications found
Sort by
“Grand little lady of the stage and screen”1: The role of Maria Ouspenskaya in the dissemination of the Stanislavsky system in the US

ABSTRACT Maria Ouspenskaya’s (1876-1949) classwork on acting development and Richard Boleslavsky’s lectures and class demonstrations formed the pedagogical core of the American Laboratory Theatre. The training they provided paralleled very closely to their experience at the Moscow Art Theatre and laid the foundations for the systematic study of Stanislavsky’s approach in the United States. Although Boleslavsky was the main inspirational force for the young students, Ouspenskaya provided with her pedagogical work stable regularity necessary at the Lab and guided her students through rigorous training techniques and exercises. After the Lab closed, she opened her own acting studios (initially in New York, later in Los Angeles). All this time, she accepted acting engagements and soon became a Hollywood celebrity, recognized as “the living theatrical legend” and one of the finest and most respected American acting teachers that played a vital role in disseminating Stanislavsky’s ideas. The study analyzes Ouspenskaya’s teaching techniques, using the descriptions of her work abstracted from her students’ interviews or the notes they took during her class. It also investigates her on-screen appearances, providing lasting visual evidence of her performing skills and giving us a direct sense of the potential quality of early System inspired acting.

The Stanislavsky–Grotowski lineage: Part II

ABSTRACT The connection between Konstantin Stanislavsky and Jerzy Grotowski is often overlooked or underplayed because there are substantial distinctions between them in terms of practices and approaches. In Part I of this essay, I examine Grotowski’s reflections on Stanislavsky’s final experiments, which the Polish director considered to constitute the culmination of the System, as well as the starting point for his own work at the Laboratory Theatre. In Part II, I explore the implications of the Stanislavsky-Grotowski lineage and its legacy for contemporary performance research by relating Stanislavsky’s idiosyncratic usage of the term perezhivanie, translated by Martin Kurten as “conscious experience,” to the neuroscientific investigation of embodied experience, discussed by Rhonda Blair, and to Grotowski’s own conception of consciousness as a form of embodied awareness. I then focus on a crucial point of convergence between the Russian and Polish directors’ respective approaches lying beyond the purview of neuroscience, namely, the correlation between the physical and the spiritual, prompting Sharon Carnicke to invent the neologism “physiospiritual.” I infer that the legacy of the Stanislavsky-Grotowski lineage consists in an expanded notion of perezhivanie that I relate to philosopher Alva Noë’s phenomenological understanding of the interrelation of consciousness and experience.

Hear, Now, Today: Active Analysis for the working actor:A “special guest workshop” delivered at The S Word, Prague, 12 November 2022

ABSTRACT In November 2022, The S Word symposium was hosted at DAMU, Prague, under the title 'Stanislavsky's Last Words'. Bella Merlin conducted a practical workshop on the 'constant state of inner improvisation' that underpins Stanislavsky's final rehearsal practice, Active Analysis, along with the vital role of 'dynamic listening' between actors. This paper is an account of that workshop, writing in an autoethnographic style and taking the reader through the improvisations and exercises as if present at the workshop. Merlin notes her training in Active Analysis at the State Institute of Cinematography, Moscow, in the early 1990s and her book Beyond Stanislavsky: The Psycho-Physical Approach to Acting (NHB 2001) as arguably the first hands-on account of Active Analysis in the UK. The 'line of thought' (discovered through textual analysis) and the 'line of action' (discovered through improvisations) link together to create a production through the process of Active Analysis. Stanislavsky's tools of the 'six fundamental questions', 'grasp', 'objectives' (or problems and tasks), and the essential feeling of 'now, today, here' as the raw material for creating roles are explored, along with identifying the scene's main 'event' and uncovering a simple 'score of physical actions'. The dramatic dialogue used is an open scene from Dave Kost's Books of Sides II (Routledge 2017). The overarching tool for the workshop is obshcheniye: community or 'communion'.