In the world of acting, you are constantly yelled at to be creative and to follow your impulses. Your impulses are small, fast trains that drive you towards fulfillment in an acting scene. If you don’t ride the train, then you’ll fail. Where did this acting approach stem from?
Well, where did the acting approach originate?
Constantin Stanislavsky, of course. Everyone worships Stanislavsky and his system; he is considered a god in the acting world. (If you, the reader, do not know what his system is, I advise you to check out the post on Stanislavsky’s System.) Dedicated actors knows who he is, where he lived, what he did, how he did it, etc. Respected actors who practice his ideas religiously are worshipped and/or scrutinized such as Marlon Brando, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, Joaquin Phoenix, and Robert De Niro. Additionally, these actors’ disciples want to imitate and eventually duplicate their professional lives.
Alas, I present to you all a naysayer who’s made nuanced and intricate claims concerning Stanislavsky and his method which remain underrepresented.
Who’s the naysayer?
The naysayer I am specifically talking about is Jerzy Grotowski.
Well, who is he?!
Grotowski is known as a revolutionary director in the theatre world. He wrote an article named “Reply to Stanislavsky” about his ideas and views on Method acting and the reception Stanislavsky has received. Specifically, Grotowski wrote about how Stanislavsky is worshiped and imitated by his own disciples in the theatre world for a wrong and vain reason: they want to create their own method and get recognized the same way Stanislavsky did and was.
What’s so different between Grotowski and Stanislavsky?
Well, Grotowski argues that an actor’s method should be individualistic and should resonate with her own life experiences; whereas Stanislavsky is advising actors to follow his own. When people are forced to wear a uniform, they feel constrained and identical to others. Lack of individuality does not work well with acting. Essentially, Stanislavsky’s System should be used as a foundation; the actor should build her own method, or idea on it, on top. Actors should not all use the same exact method for every scene because it will eliminate their capability to be creative. If all actors end up acting identically, television and film will feel boring, lack independence, and be distasteful.
People who live in an artistic world must be independent and open to everything thrown at them. Ultimately, open-mindedness and independence is what Grotowski strives for. Grotowski’s argument is strong and respected by many because he lacks bias. He initially worshipped Stanislavsky and adopted the method as his own technique, but eventually broke out from the box Stanislavsky locked him in. He realized that all previous and respected acting approaches stopped him from experiencing the power of creativity.
What does Regina think?
Well, in Reply to Stanislavsky, Grotowsky made a great claim: “When I realized that the problem of building my own system was illusory, and that there is no idea system that could serve as the key to creativity, then the word “method” changed its meaning for me” (32). Every actor should learn how to be independent as soon as they can. Actors should not enter the acting industry yearning to duplicate and imitate another actor’s life and ideals. The vain yearn will limit creativity. Theatre and acting thrive on creativity. Stanislavsky’s method is completely worth learning about. (Learn about it as much as you can!) What Grotowski is trying to teach us is to take the knowledge of another human being, process it through your body and mind, and essentially turn it into something yours. Let the misrepresented be known!
1. Grotowski, Jerzy. “Reply to Stanislavsky.” Trans. Kris Salata. TDR 52.2 (2008): 31-
39. Web. 6 Mar. 2015.