The Stanislavski System, Stanislavski Method Acting and Exercises

Stanisvlasky Method Acting TechniqueStanislavski Method- A quick 'guide' to the Stanislavski System basics.

What is Stanislavski method acting?

Konstantin Stanislavski was born in 1863 and was a Russian actor and theatre director.

Stanislavski’s principles of directing and his collective theories on acting were very influential in the late nineteenth century and are still used by actors and directors today.

So what exactly is the Stanisvlavki system?

  • The Stanislavski method or system is a set of techniques used by actors to portray emotions on stage by putting themselves in the place of the character.

Stanislavski developed the technique in the early 1900s and they have been used ever since to help actors create believable emotions and actions in the characters they portray.

Stanislavski method acting is basically in seven steps, these techniques where developed to help actors to build beliveable characters. These are:

  1. Who Am I?
  2. Where Am I?
  3. When Is It?
  4. What Do I Want?
  5. Why Do I Want It?
  6. How Will I Get It?
  7. What Do I Need To Overcome?

    Here is a quick guide to how you can use the Stanislavski System or Method!
  • Read the script carefully to get good understanding of the characters motivations, needs and desires; by doing this you will get a better identify of the role you are playing.  
  • Working out how the character would behave in situations and how they should react.
  • Your character’s objective is what they want and obstacles are the things that stand in their way of achieving their objective and also how far they will go to achieve their objective.
  • Break the script down into bits or beats, these are individual objectives of your character and may be as simple as going into a room.
  • Then determine your character’s motivation for this action, this in turn helps you to portray the emotions that the character is experiencing whilst you complete the objective.

    The Magic 'If'

An actors job is to be beliveable in unbelievable surrounds, to help achieve this Stanislavski created the 'Magic If',"What would I do if I found myself in this (the character's) circumstance?

The ‘magic if’ simply involves an actor putting him/herself in the character’s shoes within a certain scenario and asking the question ‘how would I react if this happened to me?’ By asking this simple question, an actor can understand the thoughts and feelings that they need to portray for each scene or ‘beat’.

Stanislavski Acting Exercises for 'The Magic If' 

  • Students form a circle: Choose an everyday line of dialogue. Example: Do you fancy going out for dinner tonight.

Pass the dialogue around from one to another. The first person must be as natural and as real as possible, as it passes around the circle it should become more more unrealistic.

Then change the line and reverse the process. This excersise highlights the difference between natural delivery and exagarated and untruthful delivery.

  • (IF) You were walking through.... Use your memory to recreate these senses.

Walk around the space as (if) walking through water.
Walk around the space as (if) walking through fog.
Walk around the space as (if) walking through mud.
Walk around the space as (if) walking on ice.
Walk around the space as (if) walking with a sprained ankle.

Act out the follow scenarios.

1) You are getting ready to go out to a party you are in a hurry. ( what would you do (if) there is a powercut?)

2)You are at the checkout with a weeks worth of shopping. (What would you do (if) you realise you have no money.)

3) You turn up for dinner with a friend you haven't seen for ages. (What would you do (If) you discover she is engaged to your ex who are still in love with?)

By using the above Stanislavski Acting excercises, it will help your ability to empathise with the character you are playing, which will  then come across to the audience in a believable and realistic performance.

The Stanislavski system is one of a range of methods that may be taught at drama schools; learning it will undoubtably help you as an actor perform in a more convincing manner by giving yourself techniques to help you understand the role you are playing. By recreating the thoughts that your character is having, you will produce realistic emotions and expressions that are appropriate to the scene you are acting out at the time.

A short class excersise.

  • Choose a scenario such as breaking up with someone. It must be something you can relate too!
  • Play the scene with exaggerated characters and reactions.
  • Now play the scene with each character speaking out loud its inner thoughts.

Ie:
I need to talk to you…inner monologue: God I am dreading this.

I don't think we have been getting on too well...inner monologue: All we do is argue.

The objective of this scene is to break up with the person, identify the obstactles that there might be.

The benefits of finding out your characters obstacles.

Obstacles prevent the character achieving their objectives and by studying how your character deals with the obstacles placed in their way, you can better understand  your character and portray their traits more realistically.

Once you understand the character you are playing, you can produce an internal monologue that keeps you in the mind set of your character and makes your actions and words more natural and realistic for your role.

Your ability to empathise with the character you are playing will come across to the audience in a believable and realistic performance. 

The Stanislavski system is one of a range of methods that may be taught at drama schools; learning it will undoubtably help you as an actor perform in a more convincing manner by giving yourself techniques to help you understand the role you are playing. By recreating the thoughts that your character is having, you will produce realistic emotions and expressions that are appropriate to the scene you are acting out at the time. After all an Actors job, is to be believable in unbelievable settings/surroundings!

For more information on the Stanislavski Method check out these books. For information on  Jerzy Grotowski please click here. 

Descriptions from Amazon:

An Actor Prepares (Bloomsbury Revelations)

 An Actor Prepares is the most famous acting training book ever to have been written and the work of Stanislavski has inspired generations of actors and trainers. This translation was the first to introduce Stanislavski's 'system' to the English speaking world and has stood the test of time in acting classes to this day. Stanislavski here deals with the inward preparation an actor must undergo in order to explore a role to the full. He introduces the concepts of the 'magic if' units and objectives, of emotion memory, of the super-objective and many more now famous rehearsal aids. Now available in the Bloomsbury Revelations series to mark the 150th anniversary of Stanislavski's birth, this is an essential read for actors, directors and anyone interested in the art of drama.

Building A Character (Bloomsbury Revelations)

In this follow up to his most famous book, An Actor Prepares, Stanislavski develop his influential 'system' of acting by exploring the imaginative processes at the heart of the actor's craft. Building a Character deals with the physical realisation of character on the stage through such tools as expressions, movement and speech. It is a book in which every theory is inextricably bound up with practice - a perfect handbook to the physical art of acting. The work of Stanislavski has inspired generations of actors and trainers and - available now in the Bloomsbury Revelations series to mark the 150th anniversary of Stanislavski's birth - it remains an essential read for actors and directors at all stages of their careers.

Stanislavski in Practice: Exercises for Students

Stanislavski in Practice is an unparalleled step-by-step guide to Stanislavski’s System. Author Nick O’Brien makes this cornerstone of acting accessible to teachers and students alike.

This is an exercise book for students and a lesson planner for teachers on syllabi from Edexcel, WJEC and AQA to the practice-based requirements of BTEC. Each element of the System is covered practically through studio exercises and jargon-free discussion.

Over a decade’s experience of acting and teaching makes O’Brien perfectly placed to advise anyone wanting to understand or apply Stanislavski’s system.

Konstantin Stanislavski

Now discover the Meisner Technique and Jerzy Grotowski two other Theatre Practioners.

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