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Book Title: Building a Character|
The author of the book: Konstantin Stanislavski
ISBN 13: 9780878309825
Edition: Theatre Arts Books
Date of issue: April 28th 1989
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.54 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.6
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There comes a point about halfway through "Building a Character" when Stanislavski's earnest young protagonist, Kostya, complains to his mentor, Torstov, that this batch of lessons all seem rather technical and not nearly as much fun as all the creativity and inspiration that was the foundation of the last batch of lessons (found in Stanislavski's first volume, "An Actor Prepares"). As a reader, you're bound to feel the same way.
Torstov's response is to tell Kostya (and presumable you, the reader) to stop whining and points out that the theater is not all getting in touch with your inner feelings and being artsy and creative. There's a lot of tedious and difficult work that lies in the preparation of your body and voice. This preparation is the canvas on which you can use your creativity and artsiness to paint successful characterizations. Without the strong foundation all this preparation creates, your acting will be a hollow imitation of real life, the worst sin imaginable by Stanislavksi.
As Kostya shuts his trap and does as he's told, you begin to understand that whether or not you can bear with the instruction offered in the pages of "Building a Character" will indicate clearly how serious you are about acting.
It is no great effort to be creative. It is something that inherently artistic people can do with almost no thought at all. But Stanislavski argues that concocting interesting ideas and clever interpretations can only take a performer so far. It is sharing those ideas with your audience in such a way as to make them believe the reality you are creating that is important, and without a finely tuned instrument (i.e. your body), your efforts will always fail.
To that end, the author spends most of these pages outlining in great detail strategies and exercises to develop the physicality of your body, the versatility of your voice and vocal patters, and your sense of timing and rhythm. And like Kostya, you will likely feel like skipping over some of the tedious instructions Torstov delivers. But if you make yourself read every word on every page, you'll find that every single thing Torstov says is indeed quite useful.
"Building a Character" is not as fun or inspiration a read as "An Actor Prepares", but it is certaingly every bit as useful.
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Read information about the authorConstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski was a Russian actor and theatre director.
Stanislavski's innovative contribution to modern European and American realistic acting has remained at the core of mainstream western performance training for much of the last century. Building on the directorially-unified aesthetic and ensemble playing of the Meiningen company and the naturalistic staging of Antoine and the independent theatre movement, Stanislavski organized his realistic techniques into a coherent and usable 'system'. Thanks to its promotion and development by acting teachers who were former students and the many translations of his theoretical writings, Stanislavski's system acquired an unprecedented ability to cross cultural boundaries and developed an international reach, dominating debates about acting in the West. That many of the precepts of his 'system' seem to be common sense and self-evident testifies to its hegemonic success. Actors frequently employ his basic concepts without knowing they do so.
Stanislavski treated theatre-making as a serious endeavour, requiring dedication, discipline and integrity, and the work of the actor as an artistic undertaking. Throughout his life, he subjected his own acting to a process of rigorous artistic self-analysis and reflection. His 'system' resulted from a persistent struggle to remove the blocks he encountered. His development of a theorized praxis—in which practice is used as a mode of inquiry and theory as a catalyst for creative development—identifies him as the first great theatre practitioner. Stanislavski believed that after seeing young actors at Aquinas College in Moscow he could see why theatre needed to change to a more disciplined endeavour.
Stanislavski's work was as important to the development of socialist realism in the USSR as it was to that of psychological realism in the United States. Many actors routinely identify his 'system' with the American Method, although the latter's exclusively psychological techniques contrast sharply with Stanislavski's multivariant, holistic and psychophysical approach, which explores character and action both from the 'inside out' and the 'outside in'. Stanislavski's work draws on a wide range of influences and ideas, including his study of the modernist and avant-garde developments of his time (naturalism, symbolism and Meyerhold's constructivism), Russian formalism, Yoga, Pavlovian behaviourist psychology, James-Lange (via Ribot) psychophysiology and the aesthetics of Pushkin, Gogol, and Tolstoy. He described his approach as 'spiritual Realism'.
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