The Use of Stanislavski's Ideas to Guide Actors During the Rehearsal Process

The Use of Stanislavski's Ideas to Guide Actors During the Rehearsal Process

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The Use of Stanislavski's Ideas to Guide Actors During the Rehearsal Process

Stanislavski's ideas on relaxation, concentration of attention and
tempo-rhythm went into great detail. He had very distinct, yet simple
to follow ideas on each three, which actors still use and study to
this day.

Stanislavski dwelled on concentration of attention to a great extent.
The use of attention when playing a role was considered very
important. Concentrating on the attention was a skill that came from
practise and focus, beginning in rehearsal and continuing into the
final performance. The theory of concentration of attention is being
able to concentrate on a particular part of the scene, which could be
an object, a physical move or listening to the speech. This allows the
actor to concentrate on the part of the play and know what is going on
and happening around him, so there are no free moments. This means
that each performance is similar, as the same objects of attention
will aid the same actions, movements and speech. It keeps the
performance consistent. Taking the theory of concentration a step
further, Stanislavski devised the 'circles of attention'. This was
where an actor would create a 'circle' in his or her own performance
where they would devote their entire attention. Anything outside the
circle would cease to exist. This would mean the performance would be
totally dedicated, without any disruption from anything else, like a
noise from the audience, or anything out of the ordinary. Not all
performances allow for this approach to attention, as some may require
the need to monitor the audience and connect with them. This would be
the case when a speech is delivered directly to the audience. Or in
the case of a comedy, an actor needs to observe the audience reaction
and alter the performance. This is where concentration of attention
becomes more complex. A performer must be able to split the mind into
two. The first part being committed to the act, the second being able
to take into account any external conditions. As a director, the use
of concentration of attention is important to allow the performers to
act at their best ability. The relevant use of concentration would be
essential. For instance, when playing a singular, solitary part, like
that of Davoren at times in 'The Shadow of a Gunman', the use of
circles of attention would be very useful. Sitting at his typewriter,
attempting to write poetry, he has no interaction with any other
characters, and requires no audience response. Therefore, he can
devote his entire concentration into the role and the scene around
himself. However, if playing the role Mrs.

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Grigson, the two-minded
approach would need to be employed. Here, her role involves much
interaction, between Davoren, Seamas and her own husband too. She
needs to both be concentrating on her own role in the play and, at the
same time, be able to pick up on what the other actors in the scene
are doing, monitoring if anything in her own performance needs to be
adjusted to make the act better.

Stanislavski stressed the importance of physical relaxation, as in his
own opinion, muscular tension interfered greatly with the actors work,
and his attempts to get into a role. He made a point of practising
relaxing muscles on a daily basis, and getting into a habit of
relaxation, both on and off the stage Stanislavski felt that an actor
should be aware of the body, and have great control over its
movements. The awareness of body language was very important, and
selecting the correct gesture and facial expression, type and tone of
voice, pace and expression was essential. However, this great control
of the body's movements was only possible through thorough relaxation.
If an actor is relaxed, he is able to perform best, with no tension to
bring the quality of the performance down. As a director, I feel it
would be necessary to make my actor arrive well in advance of a
rehearsal or performance. This would allow them plenty of time to
adjust, relax and become the role sufficiently. A late actor, worried
about the time, rushing and running about would lead to a rushed,
tense and hasty performance, and this should be avoided at all costs.

Lastly, tempo-rhythm was devised by Stanislavski, which was involved
with an actor's own outer and inner rhythm. He felt that an actor must
find his own rhythm, whilst being surrounded by others actors who have
their own rhythm. Therefore, an actor may be frenzied with worry,
which would be his inner rhythm, whilst all the others acting in the
scene may be discussing something very different, such as the weather,
or something equally dull, which is the outer rhythm. Stanislavski
stressed the importance on keeping actor's own rhythms very distinct
and separate, so that each other don't pick up each other's rhythm's,
leading to a general rhythm, which can be tedious and slow. He once
said,

'You must get accustomed to disentangling and searching out your
own rhythm from the general, organised chaos of speed and
slowness going on around you on the stage.'

As a director, it would be very important that each actor knows what
each other is doing, how they are acting and their own rhythms. The
use of contrasting rhythms would have to be employed and the inner and
outer rhythms of an individual actor need to be different to create
the contradiction, leading to greater tension within the role.

Most importantly, as a director, I feel it is necessary, that the use
of relaxation, tempo-rhythm and concentration of attention compliment
each other. For instance, a relaxed actor is most suitable to be able
to concentrate fully, even if it is in circles of attention or a more
two-minded approach. Similarly, the relaxed actor is most able to use
tempo-rhythm and control himself appropriately. Each technique, it
needs to be stressed, are not independent of each other, but need to
be used together to result in the best performance.
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