Stanislavski's approach to script analysis
I've been reading “Stanislavski and The Actor” (Jean Benedetti) and am really stoked to see how deeply my class’ approach to script analysis is grounded in Stanislavski’s work.
My tutor really resonated with me when he spoke a few weeks ago about us needing to earn the right to get on stage. He said it again this week - we need to do the work and it needs to cost us something. And we hear him say every damn week - the most successful actors work the hardest.
I’m loving this advice because not only is it something we can put into practice straight away, but it’s grounded in the Masters of the Craft. This is foundational, career building-block stuff.
Case in point - here’s what Stanislavski says about the script analysis that we’ve been picking through this term.
S. talks about the rehearsal process involving studying the play in three main phases - each with a specific goal.
PHASE ONE: "I AM BEING"
Moving your thinking from observing something to being part of it, using a creative subconscious to think and behave like the character, without thinking about it. Just being.
S. thinks we should spend 6 months on this Phase!
Given Circumstances - what happens, what are the sequence of events, what are the life circumstances of the characters?
Before time, After time - we need to supply what the writer left out. What has happened just before the scene opened? What will happen after the scene ends?
Super task - the company needs to decide what the play is about, what it’s themes are.
Episodes and facts - break the play down to major building blocks and show what happens in each block - our beats.
Actions and Tasks - what do I need to achieve in each beat and line? What action will I use to achieve this?
Through-Action - do all my actions hang together in a logical way? I does the sequence make sense? This helps ensure the coherence of the character.
Subtext (Inner Monologue) - what am I thinking at every point? What are the thoughts behind my actions?
Subtext (Mental Images) - what pictures do I see in my head at each action?
Subtext (Emotion Memory) - use my own experiences to deepen my feelings and reactions.
Through-Emotion - the sequence of emotions that I am feeling through my sequence of actions. It should align with my Through-Action.
PHASE TWO: "THE THIRD BEING"
In Phase One, all the dialogue and moves are improvised while we work through the process and develop our character. Phase Two looks at the structure and style of the text, its distinctive features (punctuation etc.) and lines this up with the actions that we have been planned.
The Third Being describes where the actor/role begins to merge through a combination of our life experience, imagination, physical characterisation and written text.
External Characterisation - we need to study our characters’ appearance, manners, ways of thinking, social mannerisms and see how they fit for that period of time. We need to explore the external environment - what was life like then? What books were read, how did people behave, what time of the day/year was it, what was the weather like, how did they speak, what did they wear, what was personal hygiene like?
Staging - how do our discoveries about the external characterisation impact the way our characters move around the stage and interact with each other? Moves are improvised during rehearsal, while we explore the text and try out things to see how our characters might interact.
Tempo-rhythm - each action, thought and response (physical, emotional, verbal) has its own tempo-rhythm.
PHASE THREE: "THE CREATIVE ACTOR"
Over Phases One and Two, we used the rehearsal process to break the play down into minute detail and examine it from both external and internal perspectives.
In Phase Three, we reconstruct it in a way that gives it artistic shape and texture - the creative actor strips away all the unnecessary detail and noise, until we focus in on the truth of each moment - moment to moment.
We lock in our stage direction and movement with the Director but at the same time, we need to keep asking - are our through-actions still clear, do we still have a clear sense of direction, where are the decision points, are our responses clear (physical, emotional, verbal)?
I’m loving my class this year. I’ve never worked harder - ever! And I’m super, super stoked to find ever-deeper roots in the work off the Masters.