Inner Motive Forces | An Actor Prepares | Constantin Stanislavski
Inner Motive Forces
An Actor Prepares
“NOW THAT WE have examined all the ‘elements,’ and methods of psycho-technique, we can say that our inner instrument is ready.
All we need is a virtuoso to play on it. Who is that master?” “We are,” answered several of the students.
“Who are ‘we’? Where is that invisible thing called ‘we’ to be found?”
“It is our imagination, attention, feelings.” We ran over the list. “Feelings! That’s the most important,” exclaimed Vanya.
“I agree with you. Feel your part and instantly all your inner chords will harmonize, and your whole bodily apparatus of expression will begin to function. Therefore we have found the first, and most important master—feeling,” said the Director. Then he added:
“Unfortunately it is not tractable nor willing to take orders. Since you cannot begin your work, unless your feelings happen to the function of their own accord it is necessary for you to have recourse to some other master. Who is it?”
“Imagination!” decided Vanya.
“Very well. Imagine something and let me see your creative apparatus set in motion.”
“What shall I imagine?”
“How should I know?”
“I must have some objective, some suppositionMM”
“Where will you get them?”
“His mind will suggest them,” put in Grisha.
“Then the mind is the second master we are seeking. It initiates and directs creativeness.”
“Is imagination incapable of being a master?” I enquired. “You can see for yourself that it requires guidance.” “What about attention?” asked Vanya.
“Let us study it. What are its functions?”
“It facilitates the work of the feelings, mind, imagination and will,” contributed various students.
“Attention is like a reflector,” I added. “It throws its rays on some chosen object and arouses in it the interest of our thoughts, feelings and desires.”
“Who points out the object?” asked the Director.
“In that case, all of these elements choose the object and initiate the work, whereas attention must limit its action to an auxiliary role.”
“If attention is not one of the masters, what is it?” I pursued.
Instead of giving us a direct answer, Tortsov proposed that we go up on the stage and play the exercise we were so tired of, about the madman. At first, the students were silent, looked around at each other, and tried to make up their minds to get up. Finally, one after another we arose and went slowly towards the stage. But Tortsov checked us.
“I am glad that you mastered yourselves, but although you gave evidence of willpower in your actions that is not sufficient for my purpose. I must arouse something more lively in you, more enthusiastic, a kind of artistic wish—I want to see you eager to go on the stage, full of excitement and animation.”
“You will never get that from us with that old exercise,” burst out Grisha.
“Nevertheless, I shall try,” said Tortsov with the decision.
“Are you aware that while you were expecting the escaped lunatic to break in by the front door he has actually sneaked up the back stairs and is pounding at the back door? It is a flimsy affair. Once it gives way . . . What will you do in these new circumstances, decide!”
The students were thoughtful, their attention all concentrated, while they considered their problem and its solution, the erection of a second barricade.
Then we rushed to the stage and things began to hum. It was all very like the early days in our course when we first played this same exercise.
Tortsov summed up as follows:
“When I suggested that you play this exercise you tried to make yourselves do it, against your desires, but you could not force yourselves to become excited over it.
“Then I introduced a fresh supposition. On the basis of that, you created for yourselves a new objective. This new wish, or wishes, was ‘artistic’ in character and put enthusiasm into the work. Now tell me, who was the master to play on the instrument of creation?” “You were,” was the decision of the students.
“To be more exact, it was my mind,” corrected Tortsov. “But your mind can do the same thing and be a motive power, in your psychic life, for your creative process.
“Therefore we have proved that the second master is the mind or intellect,” concluded Tortsov. “Is there a third?”
“Could it be the sense of truth and our belief in it? If so, it would suffice to believe in something and all of our creative faculties would spring into action.”
“Believe in what?” was asked.
“How should I know? That is your affair.”
“First we must create the life of a human spirit and then we can believe in that,” remarked Paul.
“Therefore our sense of truth is not the master we are seeking. Can we find it in communion or adaptation?” asked the Director.
“If we are to have communication with one another we must have thoughts and feelings to exchange.”
“It’s units and objectives!” was Vanya’s contribution.
“That is not an element. It represents merely a technical method of arousing inner, living desires and aspirations,” explained Tortsov. “If those longings could put your creative apparatus to work and direct it spiritually then . . .”
“Of course, they can,” we chorused.
“In that case, we have found our third master—will. Consequently, we have three impelling movers in our psychic life, three masters who play on the instrument of our souls.”
As usual, Grisha had a protest to make. He claimed that up to the present no stress had been laid on the part that the mind and the will play in creative work, whereas we had heard a great deal about feeling.
“You mean that I should have gone over the same details with respect to each one of these three motive forces?” asked the
“No, of course not. Why do you say the same details?” retorted Grisha.
“How could it be otherwise? Since these three forces form a triumvirate, inextricably bound up together, what you say of the one necessarily concerns the other two. Would you have been willing to listen to such repetition? Suppose I were discussing creative objectives with you, how to divide, choose and name them. Don’t feelings participate in this work?”
“Of course they do,” agreed the student.
“Is will absent?” asked Tortsov.
“No, it has a direct relation to the problem,” we said.
“Then I would have had to say practically the same thing twice over. And now what about the mind?”
“It takes part both in the division of the objectives and in naming them,” we replied.
“Then I should have repeated the same thing a third time!
“You ought to be grateful to me for having preserved your patience and saved your time. However, there is a grain of justification for Grisha’s reproach.
“I do admit that I incline toward the emotional side of creativeness and I do this purposely because we are too prone to leave out feelings.
“We have altogether too many calculating actors and scenic productions of intellectual origin. We see too rarely true, living, emotional creativeness.”
“The power of these motive forces is enhanced by their interaction. They support and incite one another with the result that they always act at the same time and in a close relationship. When we call our minds into action by the same token we stir our will and feelings.
It is only when these forces are co-operating harmoniously that we can create freely.
“When a real artist is speaking the soliloquy ‘to be or not to be,’ is he merely putting before us the thoughts of the author and executing the business indicated by his director? No, he puts into the lines much of his own conception of life.
“Such an artist is not speaking in the person of an imaginary Hamlet. He speaks in his own right as one placed in the circumstances created by the play. The thoughts, feelings, conceptions, and reasoning of the author are transformed into his own. And it is not his sole purpose to render the lines so that they shall be understood. For him, it is necessary that the spectators feel his inner relationship to what he is saying.
They must follow their own creative will and desires. Here the motive forces of his psychic life are united in action and interdependent. This combined power is of utmost importance to us actors and we should be gravely mistaken not to use it for our practical ends. Hence, we need to evolve an appropriate psycho technique. Its basis is to take advantage of the reciprocal interaction of the members of this triumvirate in order not only to arouse them by natural means but also to use them to stir other creative elements.
“Sometimes they go into action spontaneously, subconsciously. On such favorable occasions, we should give ourselves up to the flow of their activity. But what are we to do when they do not respond?
“In such cases, we can turn to one member of the triumvirate, perhaps the mind, because it responds more readily to commands. The actor takes the thoughts in the lines of his part and arrives at a conception of their meaning. In turn, this conception will lead to an opinion about them, which will correspondingly affect his feelings and will.
“We have already had many practical demonstrations of this truth.
Think back to the beginnings of the exercise with the madman. The mind provided the plot and the circumstances in which to place it. These created the conception of the action and together they affected your feelings and will. As a result, you played the sketch splendidly. This instance is an admirable example of the part of the mind in initiates the creative process. But it is possible to approach a play or a role on the side of feelings if the emotions give an immediate response.
When they do so responsibly, everything falls into place in the natural order: a conception is forthcoming, a reasoned form arises and in combination, they stir your will.
“When, however, the feeling does not rise to the bait, what direct stimulus can we use? The direct stimulus for the mind we can find in the thoughts taken from the text of the play. For the feelings, we must seek out the tempo rhythm that underlies the inner emotions and the external actions of a part.
“It is impossible for me to discuss this important question now because you must first have a certain amount of preparation to enable you to grasp deeply enough what is significant and necessary. Moreover, we cannot immediately pass to the study of this problem because it would necessitate making a big jump ahead and would interfere with the orderly development of our program of work. That is why I shall leave this point and take up the method of arousing the will to creative action.
“In contrast to the mind, which is directly affected by thought, and to feel, which response immediately to tempo-rhythm, there is no direct stimulus by which we can influence the will.”
“What about an objective?” I suggested. “Doesn’t that influence your creative desire and therefore your will?”
“That depends. If it is not particularly alluring it won’t. Artificial means would have to be used to sharpen it up and make it lively and interesting. On the other hand, a fascinating objective does have a direct and immediate effect. But—not on the will. Its attraction is to emotions. First, you are carried away by your feelings; desires are subsequent. Therefore its influence on your will is indirect.”
“But you have been telling us that will and feeling were inseparable, so if an objective acts on the one, it naturally affects the other at the same time,” said Grisha, eager to point out a discrepancy.
“You are quite right. Will and feeling are like Janus, two-faced. Sometimes the emotion is in the ascendant, at others, will or desire preponderates. Consequently, some objectives influence the will more than the feeling and others enhance the emotions at the expense of the desire. In one way or another, directly or indirectly, the objective is a magnificent stimulus and one which we are eager to use.” After a few moments of silence, Tortsov continued:
“Actors whose feelings overbalance their intellects, will naturally, in playing Romeo or Othello, emphasize the emotional side. Actors in whom the will is the most powerful attribute, will play Macbeth or Brand and underscore ambition or fanaticism. The third type will unconsciously stress, more than is necessary, the intellectual shadings of a part like Hamlet or Nathan der Weise.
“It is, however, necessary not to allow any one of the three elements to crush out either of the others and thereby upset the balance and necessary harmony. Our art recognizes all three-person in their creative work all three forces play leading parts. The only type that we reject as too cold and reasoning is that which is born of arid calculation.”
There was silence for a while and then Tortsov concluded the lesson with the following statement:
“Now you are wealthy. You have at your disposal a great number of elements to use in creating the life of a human soul in a part.
“That is a great achievement and I congratulate you!”