Category Archives: Constant Stanislavski


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

My system cannot be explained in an hour or in a day even. It must be systematically and practically studied for years. It does good only when it becomes the second nature of the actor, when he stops thinking of it consciously, when it begins to appear naturally, as of itself. (MLIA)


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

Much which seemed natural to me was in reality born of old theatrical frumpery. The most terrible thing of all is when self-conceit deceives the actor and when a disjointedness is formed between his body and his soul, between living over a part and its incarnification, when a muscular rebirth goes on in the body of the actor. Then his nature, his voice, his gestures, his mimetics, become crippled, like a spoiled and badly tuned piano. I was shaken. . . . (MLIA)



B.Brilliantov/Sputnik; Getty Images

(Valeria Paikova’s article appeared in Russia Beyond, 1/29/2021.)

Konstantin Stanislavsky’s ideas changed the face of theater as much as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity changed the understanding of physics. Stanislavsky wrote his name in the history books as the most influential theater practitioner of the modern era and a central mover and shaker in the world of acting and dramatic training.  
Theater was a source of palpable joy and jubilation to the tall, handsome and charismatic Konstantin Stanislavsky. A foremost actor, director and theater practitioner, he devoted his entire life to the Moscow Art Theater, turning an intuitive idea of what art should be like into reality. Brimming with energy and ideas, Stanislavsky was a brilliant actor, who preferred to portray two-dimensional characters undergoing major transformations. Basically, to help himself, Stanislavsky developed his own dramatic training method, widely known as the ‘Stanislavsky’ system. Super-hyped across the world, it became the foundation for the so-called ‘Method’ acting style. 

Konstantin Stanislavsky as Benedick in 'Much Ado About Nothing' in 1897.

The system, developed over four decades, is an attempt to understand how an actor, no matter what he does on stage, how tired, scared or frustrated he or she is, can experience creative joy “right here, right now”. The system, which arose as an absolute necessity for a given person (and actor Konstantin Stanislavsky), proved to be extremely useful for a wide variety of people in a variety of practical ways in different environments worldwide. Its quintessential ingredient was faith. First of all, according to Stanislavsky, an actor has to fully believe in the “given circumstances” in which they find themselves in the play. The biggest challenge therefore is to learn to believe. Faith, fantasy and vivid imagination are the three pillars of the system (which Stanislavsky modestly described as “my so-called system”.)

Konstantin Stanislavsky as Gaev in 'The Cherry Orchard'.

One way or another, one thing is certain: Stanislavsky was an outstanding teacher, whose famous students included future theater legends Yevgeny Vakhtangov and Vsevolod Meyerhold. His acting techniques and ideas had a far-reaching influence in the United States through the contribution of Lee Strasberg (the “father of method acting in America”).  Strasberg used Stanislavsky’s fundamental guidelines and observations in New York’s famous Actors Studio. He coached Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, just to name a few. Stanislavsky’s observations about his artistic and directorial experience provided vital clues to acting techniques worldwide. 

“Stanislavsky did not invent anything. Using the example of the great artists of his time, he tried to understand, study and, if possible, master the nature of stage play,” one of Russia’s greatest theater directors, Lev Dodin, believes“Stanislavsky wanted to comprehend the nature of human life on the stage, the nature of the birth of a new human substance on the stage, the artistic perfection of this new human being created by the imagination, nerves, intellect and body of the artist. [Stanislavsky] was looking for ways to create this phenomenon. Therefore, when an artist plays well, i.e. convincingly, contagiously, authentically, deeply, with empathy, compassion and joy, the artist plays according to the Stanislavsky system, regardless of whether he knows it or not.”

Family roots

It all runs in the family, they say, and it’s true that Stanislavsky, who had nine brothers and sisters, inherited his undying love for the arts from his loving parents.

The Alekseyev family in 1879.

Stanislavsky was born into a large and prosperous merchant family in Moscow. His real last name was Alekseyev. Konstantin’s father was a third-generation manufacturer and his mother was the daughter of a French actress. 

“I was born in Moscow in 1863 – at the turn of two eras. I still remember the remnants of serfdom… I witnessed the emergence of railways with courier trains, steamships, electric searchlights, cars, airplanes, dreadnoughts, submarines, telephones – copper-wire and wireless – radio telegraphy and twelve-inch guns. Therefore, from serfdom to Bolshevism and Communism. A truly interesting life in an age of changing values and fundamental ideas,” Stanislavsky wrote in one of his best-known works, ‘My Life in Art’. 

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The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

[To Gordon Craig—a genius as a stage director–] Hamlet was the best of men, who passed like Christ across the earth and became the victim of a cleansing sacrifice. Hamlet was not a neurasthenic and less a madman, but he had become different from other people because he had for a moment looked beyond the wall of life into the future world where his father was suffering. (MLIA)


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

[Gordon] Craig dreamed of having the entire performance take place without intermissions or the use of the curtain. The public was to come to the theatre and see no stage whatsoever. The screens were to serve as the architectural continuation of the auditorium and were to harmonize with it. But at the beginning of the performance the screens were to move gracefully and their lines were to take on new combinations. At last they were to grow still. From somewhere there would be light. . . . . (MLIA)


The words and wisdom of Constantin Stanislavski:

Gordon Craig dreamed of a theatre without men and women, without actors. He wanted to supplant them with marionettes who had no bad habits or bad gestures, no painted faces, no exaggerated voices, no smallness of soul, no worthless ambitions. The marionettes would have cleansed the atmosphere of the theatre, they would have given a high seriousness to the enterprise, and the dead material from which they were made would have given Craig an opportunity to hint at that actor who lived in the soul, the imagination, and the dreams of Craig himself.

But, as it became clear later on, the denial of actors did not interfere with Craig’s enthusiasm for the slightest hint of true theatrical talent in men or women. Feeling it, Craig would turn into a child, leap in joy from his chair, propel himself headlong at the footlights. . . . (MLIA)


Maeterlinck is a charming, kind, and joyful host and companion. For days at a time we spoke about art, and he was very glad to know that actors were entering so deeply into the very being, meaning, and analytical study of their craft. He was especially interested in the inner technique of the actor. (MLIA)


The production of the stage director and the playing of the actors, may be realistic, conventionalized, modernistic, naturalistic, impressionistic, futuristic,—it is all the same so long as they are convincing, that is truthful or truthlike; beautiful, that is artistic; uplifted, and creating the true life of the human spirit without which there can be no art. (MLIA)