My Life in Art, published in English in 1924, is Constantin Stanislavsky’s autobiography with more than 500 pages and an unsavory amount of stories about his life as an artist. The reader learns about his pivots, triumphs, failures and essentially all of his experiences.
Pros of the Book
The book, My Life in Art, starts off with a depiction of his life as a young child and gradually sails you through his growth into a teenager, a young adult, a mature adult, and ultimately an older and wise adult. What is remarkable about this book is the mere detail of each important moment in his life. He adds dialogue and vivid images of what his life looked like. For instance, Stanislavsky wrote in the first chapter of My Life in Art:
Here is one chip of the past,—a figure astounding in its wholeness and strength. One of my aunts became dangerously ill when she was very old. Feeling the approach of death, she ordered the servants to her into the parlor. "Cover the mirrors, the candelabra, and the drapery with canvas," she demanded. The servants hastened to obey her. The dying woman lay in the middle of the room and continued to order them about. "Put the table for the coffin here. Take the plants to the greenhouse. Put this near the table. That is not right. This to the right, and this to the left." At last the table was ready to receive the coffin, and the plants were arranged to her taste (Stanislavsky 3-4).
It is safe to say that many of the written experiences were beautifully dramatized; and who can blame him? He is an actor, and actors story-tell for a living. Nonetheless, you can tell that he is not writing for show; he is sincere and genuine, admitting to many of his failures as an artist.
Cons of the Book
The book contains long chapters that speak of technicalities and lingo which mostly actors, directors, playwrights, etc. will understand. So, yes, it can get hard to keep up with the book if you are not immersed in the theatrical world. A great example of this is Chapter 22 in My Life in Art; it is dedicated to the play, Uriel Acosta. Stanislavsky is detailed in his summary, his own interpretation, and his approach to the text of the show. The information the reader receives from the book can be perceived as irrelevant—especially if the reader is not an actor or even learning about the play. Some of the chapters in My Life in Art are heavy for even theatrical artists because the book holds pages that speak of historical facts. My Life in Art can almost feel like an entertaining textbook. Many can finally argue that it is something theatrical students should read at school, not for their own convenience.
I am an actress who cherishes the art behind any subject–especially the art of acting and education. I strongly believe (and Stanislavsky does, too) that education influences art greatly. Actually, this view is believed by many people around the world. Therefore, the pros outweigh the cons.
Now, I say to you: read the book for your own convenience. I promise it will serve you well. It holds wise information that can be applied to any aspect in life: personal, professional, etc.
I am currently reading My Life in Art and find it exceptionally helpful as an artist. I am learning about the versatility of a man who is considered perfect and revolutionary in the theatrical world. His stories are filled with subtle hints of insecurity and confidence at the same time. Artists find the paradox beautiful because it is what makes him (and us) human. Actors represent the everyday lives of flawed humans on a stage and/or behind a camera. Acting essentially thrives on imperfection.
Ultimately, I recommend My Life in Art for people who want to learn the ordinary life of a man who changed the world of acting. You’ll learn that your experiences should never be taken for granted. All of your experiences, like Stanislavsky’s, are important. And I will end this book review with a genuine yay!