On The Threshold Of The Subconscious | An Actor Prepares | Constantin Stanislavski (Part 3)

On The Threshold Of The Subconscious | An Actor Prepares | Constantin Stanislavski (Part 3)


On The Threshold Of The Subconscious

An Actor Prepares

Constantin Stanislavski


“Now let us have a check up,” proposed the Director as he came into class today, for our last lesson.

“After nearly a year’s work, each of you must have formed a definite conception of the dramatic, creative process. Let us try to compare that conception with the one you had when you came here. “Maria, do you remember searching for a brooch in the folds of the curtain here because the continuance of your work in our school depended on your finding it? Can you recall how hard you tried, how you ran around and pretended to play despair, and how you enjoyed it? Would that kind of acting satisfy you now?”



Maria thought for a moment and then an amused smile broke over her face. Finally she shook her head, evidently entertained by the memory of her former naı¨ve ways.

“You see, you laugh. And why? Because you used to play ‘in general,’ trying to reach your goal by a direct onslaught. It is not surprising that all you accomplished was to give an external and wrong picture of the feelings of the person you were portraying.

“Now remember what you experienced when you played the scene with the foundling infant, and you found yourself rocking a dead baby. Then tell me, when you contrast your inner mood in that scene with your former exaggeration, whether you are satisfied with what you have learned here during this course.”

Maria was thoughtful. Her expression was first serious and then sombre; there was a look of terror in her eyes for an instant, then she nodded her head affirmatively.



“Now you are no longer laughing,” said Tortsov. “Indeed, the very memory of that scene has almost brought you to tears. Why? Because in creating that scene you followed an entirely different path. You did not make a direct assault on the feelings of your spectators. You planted the seeds and let them come to fruition. You followed the laws of creative nature.

“But you have to know how to induce that dramatic state. Technique alone cannot create an image that you can believe in and to which both you and your spectators can give yourselves up completely. So now you realize that creativeness is not a technical trick.

It is not an external portrayal of images and passions as you used to think.

Our type of creativeness is the conception and birth of a new being—the person in the part. It is a natural act similar to the birth of a human being.

“If you follow each thing that happens in an actor’s soul during the period in which he is living into his part, you will admit that my comparison is right. Each dramatic and artistic image, created on the stage, is unique and cannot be repeated, just as in nature.

“As with human beings, there is an analogous, embryonic stage.

“In the creative process there is the father, the author of the play; the mother, the actor pregnant with the part; and the child, the role to be born.



“There is the early period when the actor first gets to know his part. Then they become more intimate, quarrel, are reconciled, marry and conceive.

“In all this the director helps the process along as a sort of matchmaker.

“Actors, in this period, are influenced by their parts, which affect their daily lives. Incidentally the period of gestation for a part is at least as long as that of a human being, and often considerably longer. If you analyse this process you will be convinced that laws regulate organic nature, whether she is creating a new phenomenon biologically or imaginatively.

“You can go astray only if you do not understand that truth; if you do not have confidence in nature; if you try to think out ‘new principles,’ ‘new bases,’ ‘new art.’ Nature’s laws are binding on all, without exception, and woe to those who break them.”


constantin stanislavski


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On The Threshold Of The Subconscious | An Actor Prepares | Constantin Stanislavski (Part 1)

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