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“In the theatre, going after traumas to play is contrary to Stanislavski’s thinking”


Stéphane Poliakov co-directs the theater department at the University of Paris-VIII. He is notably the author of Konstantin Stanislavsky. Set the scene (Actes Sud, 2015). He returns to the legacy of the Russian theorist of the use of the “affective memory” of the actor, who died in 1938.

What resonance has Stanislavski’s thought had in theatrical education until today?

In Eastern countries, she became the basis of training, with the dissemination of her main writings from 1924, then after her death in the middle of the 20th century.e century. Starting from the work of the actor on himself to work on the role, he invents a vocabulary and methods of rehearsals, based on the psychology of the actor from his imagination, his impulses. But this “Stanislavsky system” was also transmitted beyond the East. Particularly in the United States, where his approach spread from Stanislavki’s tours in the 1920s, which greatly impressed.

After the Russian Revolution, some of his students find themselves in the United States and open schools, which will lead to the famous Actors Studio. In the Anglo-Saxon world, the “method” becomes a central reference of pedagogy, with the approaches, reinterpreted, of people like Lee Strasberg, who had not met it. Great movie actors confront it, like Marlon Brando or Marilyn Monroe. But this American Stanislavski is fundamentally different from that of the countries of the East: the psychological, even psychoanalytical part, is often more pronounced there, in connection with the affective memory.

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And in France ?

Here, Stanislavski’s approach has often been received with great suspicion. “Psychology” initially got a bad press: French directors often preferred the legacy of Brecht, with the vision of political theatre. But theater men like Jacques Copeau or Antoine Vitez borrowed from his thought. A pedagogue like Tania Balachova also worked to spread her teaching. However, Stanislavski is often confused with the American approach of the Actors Studio or, worse, with its commercial excesses.

Even today, we do not always understand that Stanislavski’s psychology is a psychology of creation and not a personal therapy, as certain pedagogies are tending to become.

Also read an archive from 1988: Article reserved for our subscribers The Stanislavsky Century Waiting for the truth

The “Method” is often associated with seeking out personal traumas in order to play, going beyond one’s psychic limits…

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