A practical approach for teaching Stanislavski – Rhinegold Publishing

A practical approach for teaching Stanislavski


The difficulty in teaching Stanislavski at A level is that there is rarely time to do justice to the range of his ideas. There is the terminology of the system to understand, the historical and artistic context to be considered, and the biography of a long life lived through the change from a feudal to a socialist state. His own books are not difficult to read, but they are long and describe a theatrical world that is no longer recognisable. Even the most able students are reluctant to read more than a chapter or two of his writing.

So students and teachers are left looking for shortcuts to building an understanding of the man and his influence on the theatre: chapters in A-level textbooks, brief extracts in anthologies of practitioners, and cannibalised workshops. This article is another of those shortcuts, and can do no more than offer one more route to introducing students to some of Stanislavski’s thoughts on how actors can improve their performances, understand their characters and interpret their lines.

Stanislavski confronts the frustrations that many of our students express when faced with a part to play that lies beyond their immediate experience, and provides some exercises that can help them find ways of understanding and interpreting a script, and of improving their performance.

Throughout his writing, Stanislavki refers to real roles in the plays which the Moscow Arts Theatre staged. His alter ego, Kostya Nazvanov, is an enthusiastic young actor eager to learn from the wise director, Tortsov. As he rehearses both in the theatre and at home, he endlessly stumbles over problems, sometimes achieving small successes only to discover that another difficulty awaits him.

These lessons follow a similar path, using extracts from a selection of plays that are frequently taught for A-level drama. I have used the generally accepted English translations of Stanislavski’s terminology, rather than Benedetti’s revisions, as these seem to be the terms that the exam boards expect candidates to know.

Lesson titles:
  • Given circumstances
  • Super-objective
  • Units and objectives
  • Before time, after time and the unbroken line
  • Subtext
  • Emotional memory
  • Concentration of attention
  • As if
  • Method of physical actions

Number of Lessons: 9

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