Comparing Stanislavski and Brecht’s acting techniques Early life Bertolt Brecht was born in Augsburg, Bavaria. On the 10th February 1898 Brecht’s home life was comfortably middle class, despite his occasional attempt to claim peasant origins. Thanks to his mother’s influence, Brecht knew the Bible, a familiarity that would impact on his writing throughout his life. From her, too, came the “dangerous image of the self-denying woman” that recurs in his drama. When he was 16, the First World War broke out.
Fearing persecution, Brecht left Germany in February 1933, when Hitler later took power. Stanislavski was born in Moscow on the 17th on januray 1863. Stanislavski had a privileged youth, growing up in one of the richest families in Russia, the Alekseyevs. He was born Constantin Sergeyevich Alexeyev – “Stanislavski” was a stage name that he adopted in 1884 in order to keep his performance activities secret from his parents. As a child, Stanislavski was exposed to the rich cultural life of his family. His interests included the circus, the ballet, and puppetry.
Increasingly interested in “living the part,” Stanislavski experimented with the ability to maintain a characterization in real life, disguising himself as a tramp or drunk and visiting the railway station, or disguising himself as a fortune-telling gypsy. Techniques Brecht remained a lifelong committed Marxist who, in developing the combined theory and practice of his epic theatre-Epic Theatre proposed that a play should not cause the spectator to identify emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical view of the action on the stage.
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Brecht thought that the experience of emotion left an audience complacent. Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective in order to recognise social injustice and exploitation and to be moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to communicate that the audience’s reality was equally constructed and, as such, was changeable.
The distancing effect is achieved by the way the “artist never acts as if there were a fourth wall besides the three surrounding him. The audience can no longer have the illusion of being the unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place. ” The use of direct audience-address is one way of disrupting stage illusion and generating the distancing effect. In performance, as the performer “observes himself,” his objective is “to appear strange and even surprising to the audience. He achieves this by looking strangely at himself and his work.
Whether Brecht intended the distancing effect to refer to the audience or to the actor or to both audience and actor is still controversial among teachers and scholars of “Epic Acting” and Brechtian theatre. By disclosing and making obvious the manipulative contrivances and “fictive” qualities of the medium, the viewer is alienated from any passive acceptance and enjoyment of the play as mere “entertainment. ” Instead, the viewer is forced into a critical, analytical frame of mind that serves to disabuse him of the notion that what he is watching is necessarily an inviolable, self-contained narrative.
This effect of making the familiar strange serves a didactic function insofar as it teaches the viewer not to take the style and content for granted, since the medium itself is highly constructed and contingent upon many cultural and economic conditions Stanislavski’s ‘system’ is a systematic approach to training actors. Areas of study include concentration, voice, physical skills, emotion memory, observation, and dramatic analysis. Stanislavski’s goal was to find a universally applicable approach that could be of service to all actors. Yet he said of his system: “Create your own method.
Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you. ” Many actors routinely identify his system with the American Method, although the latter’s exclusively psychological techniques contrast sharply with Stanislavski’s multivariant, holistic and psychophysical approach, which explores character and action both from the ‘inside out’ and the ‘outside in’. Emotion memory-Stanislavski’s ‘system’ focused on the development of artistic truth onstage by teaching actors to “experience the part” during performance.
Stanislavski hoped that the ‘system’ could be applied to all forms of drama, including melodrama, vaudeville, and opera. He organised a series of theatre studios in which young actors were trained in his ‘system. ‘ At the First Studio, actors were instructed to use their own memories in order to express emotion. Stanislavski soon observed that some of the actors using or abusing this technique were given to hysteria. He began to search for more reliable means to access emotion, eventually emphasizing the actor’s use of imagination and belief in the given circumstances of the text rather than her/his private and often painful memories.
The Method of Physical Actions- In the beginning, Stanislavski proposed that actors study and experience subjective emotions and feelings and manifest them to audiences by physical and vocal means. While in its very earliest stages his ‘system’ focused on creating truthful emotions and embodying them, he later worked on the Method of Physical Actions. This was developed at the Opera Dramatic Studio from the early 1930s. Its focus was on physical actions as a means to access truthful emotion, and involved improvisation. The focus remained on reaching the subconscious through the conscious.
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