Life of Practitioner
• Alexeyer was born in Moscow on
January 5th 1863 and was named
Kanstantin Sergeyevich Alexeyer.
• He was born into a family who
were well known for their
production of gold and silver
• When Alexeyer was a small child
his family opened a small theatre
group called The Alexeyer Circle.
After time Stanislavski was made
a leading member of the group.
• In September 1885 Alexeyer auditioned for the Moscow theatre school.
He was given a place at the school however he left after three weeks as he
didn’t feel the training was right for him, due to having to copy the master
rather then being able to put his own input into the performance.
• Due to his families success in their business at the age of 25 Alexeyer took
up the stage name of Stanislavski, in order to be recognised for his own
achievements rather than those of his family.
• At the same age his career in theatre started to take off as he established
the Society of Art and Literature at the Maly Theatre. This is where he
gained a lot of the experience and knowledge in ethics, aesthetics and
stage craft which he used later in life throughout the rest of his career.
• Stanislavski made a significant contribution to the European and American
• Towards the end of his very successful and inspiring career, Stanislavski
published two books, My Life in Art and The Actor and his work.
• Stanislavski died on August 7th 1938.
Study of his Work
• Stanislavski’s first major success started by him founding the Moscow Art
Theatre along with Vladimir Nemirovich Danchemko, which was Russia’s
first ensemble theatre in 1898.
– The first performance Tsar Fiodor by Maria Chekhov that Stanislavski was involved in was
very successful for the theatre however the performances that followed were not so
successful. The Assumption of Hannele was forbidden to be shown after protests were made
by the church. The theatre then began to get into financial problems due to the performances
not bringing in enough profit. They eventually managed to make a comeback with a
performance called The Seagull. A following performance “Locandiera” led to Nemirovich
being involved with the police due to the show needing special clearance before it could be
shown to working class audiences. To settle this they where forced to change the name of the
theatre from Open Theatre to Moscow Arts Theatre.
– Because of the success of the first show that was written by Chekhova they wished to be able
to show her next script “Uncle Vania” however this was given to neighbouring theatre Mali.
Later Mali told Chekhova that Act Three wasn’t to the required standard and wished for it to be
rewritten. Because of this Chekhova revoked his script from them. Nemirovich and
Stanislavski went to visit Chekhova and asked for permission to use her latest script which
Stanislavski went on to impress his audience by the way in which he
stepped into the characters role. One member of the audience described it
as “ As if the make-up came from within.” In following performances
Stanislavski gave performances which was based around the psychological
aspects rather than the external appearance and technique. The Moscow
Arts Theatre took a different approach to theatre style in comparison to the
greatly stylised and unrealistic style which was very common in theatres of
His success in this then led onto him creating the first drama school for
young actors to train which also inspired other practioners to form theatre
groups such as “The Actors Studio” and “Group Theatre”.
• The group theatre was established between 1931 and 1940 and was aimed at actors
around the age of 25. The group was formed around the belief that theatre had
become too manufactured and should be focused more on the art of acting itself.
In 1931 a group of 40 actors went to Brookfield Connecticut with the aim to study, plan and
act a new type of theatre. The production that the group studied was The House of
Connelly. When they returned to Broadway they performed the piece with great
• Stanislavski created a system which was to assist actors to adjust to the
parameters of their character in any given theatre performance.
– The start of his work began with Stanislavski organising workshops for the young actors to
work on their techniques and be trained in his system. The system involved the actors using
their own memories to express emotions naturally. Because of this some of the actors started
to suffer with hysteria. As a result of this he started to adapt his techniques so that they were
less stressful towards the actors. Stanislavski altered his system so that it taught the actors to
use their imagination and beliefs in the events of the text.
• This system was very successful for Stanislavski and enabled him to
succeed ahead of any other producer of director of his time.
• Stanislavski’s work was influential to the development of socialist realism in
the USSR and along with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko to psychological
realism on the United States.
– Socialist realism was a style of realistic art which should have a purpose or meaning which
enhances the aims of socialism and communism.
– Psychological realism was a movement which occurred in the late nineteenth century that
guided theatrical texts and performances to have a stronger devotion to real life.
Stanislavski’s Ideas and
• His major idea was something which became known as
Stanislavski’s System. The “system” taught actors to “live the part”
on stage to create a more believable performance by analysing the
• The actors do this by asking themselves the “magic if” – “If I were
my character, what would I be thinking, how would I be feeling?”
this helps the actor assume the mentality of their character.
• The actor bases their role on the given circumstances of the play, its
narrative, facts, time and settings, as well as the interpretation by
the director and the design of the piece.
• The actor also relies on their own imagination to give the character
its life, either using hints from the text or inventing them themselves.
This is something Stanislavski found very important to creating a
The Method Of Physical Action
• Stanislavski’s Method of Physical Action is based on the idea that the
physical actions of a performer are just as important as the words they
speak. It requires an understanding of how significant these are, and the
idea that a person will only ever have control over their own body in their
• The rehearsal process gives the director and actor a chance to develop the
actions that will affect the actor and give the scene life, considering the
emotional and aesthetic aspects of the play at the same time.
• Later in life, Stanislavski thought that the art of performance could only be
learned by practice, in performance and observation, not from looking at
literature and only reading about the subject.
Impact of His Work
• In the USA his theories are a huge source of many actors. For example
Stella Alder, Marlon Brando. They have used his idea and experimented
with it further. In 1918 he established the first studio as a school for young
actors and in his later years he wrote two books, which have been
translated into 20 languages. This has allowed his knowledge to spread to
many cultures. His character development was a very influential acting
system on a stage as well as on the screen. This has produced renowned
schools (The actors studio, Group theatre) by using his ideas.
Impact On Theatre Generally
• Stanislavski allowed actors to break away from there exact lines and the
exact actions of the script by making them pay more attention to the
important message within the writing. He was an inspiring teacher which his
method remains in the US, especially through the influence of Lee
Straskeig. His contribution to modern American and European realistic
acting has remained in the performance training for the last century.
Because his work has been translated to many countries its has created
debates about acting internationally. His teachings are common sense so
actors don’t realise they are using his concepts when doing so.
Stanislavski’s Impact On Others and
•Whether it is realised or not every practitioner in the business has been influenced by
Stanislavski’s systems and teachings.
•His systems are used as the basis of most teachings of performing arts from
directorship to acting in the western world to the present day.
Unitisation Collaboration Role Play Tempo
•Many of his pupils from the Moscow Art Theatre later became important practitioners
in their own right, creating an revolution of realistic and truthful theatre
– Ryszard Boleshawski
(The first of Stanislavskis’ students to put the systems into practice. Boleshawski
was the founder of The American Laboratory theatre, this was greatly influential
to American theatre.)
(was said to be Stanislavski’s brightest student, he both rebelled against and
embraced Constantin Stanislavski's systems. He set up his own studio in
America then moved to England to found the Chekhov Theatre School in Devon.
(Was a predominant American member of ‘Group Theatre’, she performed on
Broadway regularly and was in films such as ‘Shadow Of A Thin Man’)
Some Issues That May Be Raised By
- Many became frustrated with his elaborate suggestions.
- Stanislavski’s suggestion of the actors applying their own memories
to there acting often caused mental disruption and hysteria among
- He often would interpret plays differently to what the writer would
- Because his system meant actors should become artist within their
own right, directors began to have a less important role. However
now we just call it collaboration.
- Stanislavski’s methods caused plays to take a lot longer and were a
lot more expensive due to the time now taken to rehearse and be
- The System also Would mean that actors would now actually have
to have skill and being in a show would mean a lot more effort, in
the long term we can only see this as a positive.
- His System covered a lot of areas in detail, some saw these as
being rather strict with high expectations. However Constantin
Stanislavski stressed that his systems and teachings were to be
interpreted and changed in anyway according to the individuals
methods and views.
His Impact On Us
• Stanislavski’s system has been used throughout our education of
performing arts and dramatic studies.
• He has also influenced many of our idols from Hollywood and beyond.
• It has given us a deeper understanding of performing arts, and appreciate
the techniques behind the theatre greater.
• JEAN BENEDETTI, 1990. Stanislavski a Biography. London Methuen
• TOBY COLE, 1955. Acting A Handbook of the Stanislavski Method. New
• CONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI, 1968. Building A Character. London:
Methuen & Co
• JEAN BENEDETTI, 1998. Stanislavski and the actor. London.