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Chekhov writes in his book To the Actor: the real task of the creative artist is not merely to copy the outer appearance of life, to interpret life in all its facets and profoundness, to show what is behind the phenomena of life, to let the spectator look beyond life's surfaces and meanings.
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Summary

M. Chekhov's "Method": "Polemics with Stanislavsky centered on the concept of experiencing (perezhivanie) the role. Chekhov preferred alternating the consciousness of actor and character to a fusion of actor with character. Chekhov advocated the idea of dual consciousness of the actor when he becomes the observer of his own work. He made a distinction between our higher, creative ego and the everyday ego that is concentrated only on self.

His system evolved into an alternative of Stanislavsky's, emphasizing the more universal, spiritual resources of acting rather than the historical, emotional and psychological details of the actor's life.

The writings of Rudolf Steiner, the German moral philosopher, exerted a powerful influence on Chekhov during his last years in Russia. Steiner's Anthroposophy became his private religion; eurythmy gave new impulses on how to refine non-verbal acting and develop the harmony of the actor's body. For the Russian actor Anthroposophy was a new movement the tendency of which is directed towards the unification of science, art and spiritual knowledge. At the centre of Chekhov's method was an emphasis on the creative imagination, and it was in this area that many of his ideas related to Steiner's teachings. Chekhov believed that the actor should develop not only physically, but spiritually as well, acquiring an inner life, rich with images from which he would be able to draw when creating a character. He developed a method which he hoped would bring out the latent powers of his students." (Toronto Slavic Review)

preACT
Stanislavsky --> M. Chekhov: total acting.

Questions

Film? In his later years, M. Chekhov was interested in applying his teaching to the fast pace and fragmented nature of film and television. His techique is perfect for the needs of today's actors, who must pick up ideas quickly and use them instantly.

Chekhov taught also private lessons to film actors at his home in Beverly Hills. Numerous film actors went to him for help with their specific roles and for their general acting development. They included, among others: John Barrymore, Jr., Ingrid Bergman, Joan Caulfield, James Dean, John Dehner, Eddie Grove, Jennifer Jones, Jack Klugman, Sam Levine, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Gregory Peck, Mala Powers, and Anthony Quinn.

Notes

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[ Ivan Bunin about Anton Chekhov ]
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The Czech writer Karel Capek wrote about Chekhov as the secret of a remarkable artistic achievement. Chekhov demonstrates that that the body (simply and enigmatically) is the soul itself. A despairing, perfervid, timorous, trembling soul.

Other famous directors such as Stella Adler and Robert Lewis admired Chekhov greatly as an acting genius and studied his methods in class. Lewis mentions Chekhov's quote which he used often afterwards: The highest point of our art is reached when we are burning inside and command complete outer ease at the same time.

In 1953 the book To the Actor was published in English in New York. Chekhov revealed clearly his emphasis on imagination, intuition and the archetypal psychological gesture. He also paid tribute to Stanislavski as the creator of the one method expressly postulated for the actor, who had urged him to write down his thoughts concerning the technique of acting. The book was not successful during his lifetime; it was not a period for acting books.

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Acting

Moscow Art Theatre: first century + Michail Chekhov
Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko met at the Slavyansky Bazaar restaurant in Moscow for a lunch that began on June 22 and ended 18 hours later at the Stanislavsky family estate of Lyubimovka near the capital. Both visionaries shared a common goal: to create a modern performing arts center within which they could merge their active organizations and ultimately meld their contacts of amateur performers and students. A year and four months later, they inaugurated the Moscow Art Theatre bringing together some of Russia's finest artists.

stanislavsky-nemerovich
Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko at the Slavyansky Bazaar restaurant in Moscow, 1897.

MAT
The Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre, 17 Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street, Moscow

The foundation for what after the Revolution became Michael Chekhov's method was laid in the acting style of Moscow Art Theatre, in psychological realism of Anton Chekhov's plays. At the same time Chekhov expressed the spirit of the turn-of-the-century Russian culture, symbolist poetry and non-naturalistic theatre. His favourite writer was Dostoevsky, one of his spiritual fathers was the symbolist writer Andrei Bely, his sources of inspiration came from philosophy, legends and fairytales...

"With the postwar boom in education, and, later, the arrival of the baby boomers on college campuses, more courses and degrees in acting and other fine arts were established. And alumni from those acting classes went on to start and teach in still more such programs. Most were centered around the Method of Lee Strasberg--an American variation on the Stanislavsky System developed in Russia early in this century. Strasberg's Method grew out of the Group Theatre's emotionally charged Broadway drama of the '30s and reached its apogee of influence in the Actors Studio in New York in the 1950s.

The Stanislavsky System and the Method are best suited for training actors to be believable and emotionally truthful in their performances. Those are mandatory traits for naturalistic drama, emphasizing credible situations sliced from everyday life, and handed down to us from turn-of-the-century Russian theater and mid-century Broadway. Film and television -- which count on the well-timed gaze over the well turned phrase -- are similarly Method-dependent

The Method trains the actor to draw from personal experience to capture the character's emotional reality. The overreliance on that personal emotional reality, to the exclusion of all else, ends up leaving most actors adrift when they have to come to grips with Shakespeare or other classical texts. After all, how many haute bourgeois 20-year-olds have the emotional history to enable them to tackle Hamlet or Henry V? What traumas recalled from junior-high-school cafeterias routinely prepare young actresses to play Cordelia or Ophelia? The emphasis on emotional reality also slights other elements of the actor's repertoire. Michael Kahn, director of the new academy--as well as artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre and head of the Juilliard School's drama division--diplomatically alluded to that fact in a Washington Post article, saying that Shakespearean acting "requires special techniques beyond just knowing how to act. There are physical issues, breath issues, familiarity with the text."

Few programs within academe, however, focus intensively on the demands presented by classical texts. And while training in naturalistic acting can enhance many performances, it cannot, by itself, sustain classical roles. For years, it has been assumed that "learning to act" is enough, that the understanding and application of principles developed by Stanislavsky and Strasberg for an essentially naturalistic repertory would serve an actor throughout his or her career. But an increasingly diverse and innovative American theater demands a variety of skills and techniques from its performers. Americans have a kind of imperialistic arrogance in thinking that "our" way of acting is appropriate for dramatic material of other cultures and other periods. It's that arrogance that has turned Shakespeare into a foreign language, because we insist on meeting it on our terms of emotional primacy, rather than on its terms of language, rhythm, and rhetoric.

There are, of course, exceptions to Method training. At New York University's department of drama, where I teach, most of the training studios adhere to the Stanislavsky/Method paradigm. But the Experimental Theatre Wing trains students in the ways of both the European and downtown-New York avant-garde. The program is based on the teachings of Vassily MeYerhold, Stanislavsky's student and critic, and on the work of the late Jerzy Grotowski of the Polish Laboratory Theatre. Actors are trained to develop the expressive articulation of the dancer, and to create their own aesthetic sensibility; to "self-script" and develop personal performance pieces. The results are both more visceral and more abstract than Method-based naturalism."

WHY CLASSICAL ACTING DESERVES THE SPOTLIGHT IN ACTING CLASSES

From: The Chronicle of Higher Education July 2, 1999 by Louis Scheder http://www.shakespearedc.org/acaart3.html

Chekhov-MAT
Anton Chekov reads from "The Seagull" to actors at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899. Their logo is still today represented by a seagull.
M. Chekhov: Michael Chekhov as Actor, Teacher and Director in the West (Liisa Byckling) "In Russia in the twenties, Michael Chekhov was considered the most original actor of his generation. Now he is called the most brilliant actor of the last century in Russia. His major roles in the Moscow Art Theatre and its Studio include: Caleb in Dickens' Cricket on the Hearth, Malvolio in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, the title role in Erik XIV by Strindberg, Khlestakov in The Government Inspector (directed by Stanislavsky in 1921). Chekhov's performance stunned with its unbelievable improvised ease and unrestrained imagination. In Erik XIV (directed by Vakhtangov) the terrible truth of life (between two worlds the dead and the living) was translated into an easy, balletic idiom."
University of Toronto Academic Electronic Journal in Slavic Studies http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/01/chekhovwest.shtml

M. Chekhov: the actor, who must consider his body as an instrument expressing creative ideas on the stage, must strive for the attainment of complete harmony between the two, body and psychology.

Next : part II
Stanislavsky founded the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, a kind of laboratory for theatrical experimentation, where he sought the means to control the actor's moment of inspiration. Chekhov, like his teacher, was interested in the deepest questions of his profession. The so-called Stanislavsky system for the actor balances theory and practice. It is at once an aesthetic model and a set of teachable techniques. The aim was to mobilize the potential of the actor's creative nature to guarantee him truth of feeling and authenticity of the stage experience. Stanislavsky said to the English director Gordon Craig in Moscow: If you want to see my System working at its best go to see Michael Chekhov tonight. He is performing some one-act plays by his uncle. Chekhov was also influenced by Lev Tolstoy's moral teachings. He assumed the general ethical spirit of the First Studio. He accepted Stanislavsky's religious devotion to acting and commitment to art. (Liisa Byckling)
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... From Stanislavsky's realism, from Vakhtangov's fantastic realism, and from Steiner, Chekhov drew the material from which he created his own method. Chekhov's system is closer to that of his colleague, Vakhtangov, than to his master, Stanislavsky, for he was more interested in theatrical form than in psychological representation. Chekhov's interest in the grotesque, the comic and the tragic derives from Vakhtangov. Their principles contradicted an art which aspired to create the illusion of real life on the stage, a truthful copy of reality.

When the First Studio became the Second Moscow Art Theatre in 1923, Chekhov became its director and carried on the work for five years. He created an alternative theatre which used symbolic and formal means of expression. His interpretation of Hamlet shook the public and annoyed Stanislavski because of what appeared to be an excess of artificiality and the grotesque. He played the role of Senator Ableukhov in Peterburg by Andrej Bely. The reasons for Chekhov's emigration were both political and personal: his ideas were not compatible with Communist ideology, and after a conflict with a group of leftist actors and a press campaign against him Chekhov left Soviet Russia in 1928. Both Stanislavsky and Meyerhold tried to convince him to return to Russia. Officially he never broke off his contacts with Soviet Russia, and only in 1946 he became an American citizen. Moscow Art 
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