My Stanislavsky Lessons
Imagination 2During Stanislavsky's drama classes, students were asked to act out different scenarios. Stanislavsky would watch them acting out mundane tasks such as losing a set of keys or looking for a handbag. He would watch them run aimlessly around the stage, pretending to tear out their hair or feigning worry. He asked one of his students to imagine that the keys were somewhere in the room. The actress then began to actually search for the keys rather than to act searching for the keys. It is only when the imagination believes that the situation is real that the true feelings of the actress are conveyed to the audience. This can also be linked to the what if technique described below.
What If?A volunteer is to act as though they are walking down the street. The other students then ask... 'What if...' and make a suggestion to the volunteer to act out a situation. This may be, 'What if you were attacked by an old lady'. It may be appropriate that the other student becomes the old lady. The reactions to WHAT IF need to be spontaneous and need to be as realistic and naturalistic as possible. Examples include; 'What if you were hit by a bus?', then 'What if you found out you had broken your leg?' These are rather extreme examples so if you were rehearsing a scene from the Cherry Orchard, a WHAT IF may be something like; What if Ranyevskaya had savings that she had kept a secret or What if Lopakhin only wanted to marry Varya to have a stronghold within the family and for his own gain.
Units and ObjectivesStanislavsky believes that the play should be broken down into bitesized pieces for the audience to digest and that each sub-section should have an objective. So again in The Cherry Orchard, there may be a sub-section where Lopakhin is talking about his background. The objective here would be for the audience to sympathise with him. However, all characters and even the play itself should be given a 'super objective'. Lopakhins would be to buy the estate, whilst an objective for the whole play might be to show the importance of money and power and how this ultimately influences everything.
Given CircumstancesThe GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES are circumstances that an actor is given by a director in order to carry out a scene. I.e; You are at a doctors surgery in a waiting room. At this stage the actor does not know any more information, so finds it difficult to create a charcter. The director then gives more circumstances, such as you are 5 years old. Other characters can then be brought in to see how they interact with one another and to give the scene direction.
Circle of AttentionListen to the sounds inside the room, then sounds outside the room, then sounds next to or near you, then focus on the sounds you make or inside you. These sounds show your CIRCLE OF ATTENTION, whether it is focused or distanced.
This can be used with the GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES.
Scene; One girl waiting at a bus stop. (Watch this for 2 mins.)
* What do we notice about the character?
* Where is their circle of attention?
* Does it change if she looks down the imaginary road for the bus or when she is looking at her watch? How?
* Another character is given a circumstance (in secret). This is to stand behind the girl, but distanced and to stare at her.
* How does the person at the bus stop change in their movements and gestures?
* Where is the focus or CIRCLE OF ATTENTION now?
This is all a form of EMOTION MEMORY, the way the character reacts, body language, nerves, it has all been recalled from previous experiences when you play this scene.
It also shows the characters TEMPO/RHYTHM within the action and gesture, showing the internal character rhythm of fidgeting and impatience, leading to fear or anger. Try out these activities in a variety of ways, using text, in particular those of Anton Chekov or experiment with your own situations and scenarios.
(This work is suitable for A Level Drama or Performing Arts students. Notes taken from a workshop of Practioners Unplugged by The Touring Theatre.)
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