“Players (actors) trust their instinct, both in creating and sustaining a performance – but instinct can lead them astray when repetition has dulled the first creative invention.” John Gielgud
“The very best that can happen is to have the actor completely carried away by the play. Then regardless of his own will he lives the part, not noticing how he feel, not thinking about what he does, and it all moves of its own accord, subconsciously and intuitively.” – Constantin Stanislavski
“An actor, in these days, has often to make up his mind whether to be popular or to be a good actor.” – John Gielgud
Now, I have a feeling these two guys know what they’re talking about. So, I think I should listen.
You know, you pick up a book that you first read over 30 years ago when you were immersed in passionate exploration and discovery, and you think you remember it, you think you don’t really need to read it again even though it’s been sitting on that shelf taunting you for months. Then you pick it up, and you read, and it’s like someone opened the window to let the fresh cool air in, the air your lungs have been gasping for, the air that will lift your spirits, your imagination, your inspiration. And I’m reading the words of Mr. Stanislavski and I feel like I’ve reconnected with an old friend, an old friend who is saying, “Mark, don’t you remember? We talked about all of this a long time ago. You’re on the right path. We’re all here to support you. Welcome back.”
Why is it that we so quickly forget those that have initially inspired us? Why are we so quick to dismiss them with “that’s old news” or “I already know that” or “it’s common sense, I don’t need to revisit that” or (the saddest) “I’ve moved beyond that, I don’t need that anymore”.
When I was writing Directing Feature Films I considered re-visiting an one of Stanislavski’s books. I didn’t. Felt I didn’t have the time. When I am teaching first time directors I often tell them to read Stanislavski. Maybe they do, I don’t know. But I know I am not following my own advice. When I am consulting with film directors and actors and writers I often referred to the writing and work of Stanislavski believing I remember it well. I don’t, not well enough.
So, now as I am taking the first halting steps towards my fourth book “The Travis Technique: Directing the Actors” (working title) I realize that I must once again emerge myself into the world and writing and teaching of the masters. Not only Stanislavski (but what a great place to start) but also Sanford Meisner, Robert Lewis, Stella Adler, Jerzy Grotowski, Viola Spolin, Peter Brook and more.
So, we’re beginning at the beginning. And what a wonderful place to be on our journey.
Tomorrow we’ll hear some more from our old friend, Constantin. We’ll ask him a few questions. See what he has to say. Feel free to join this dialogue. The more we talk together the grander the journey.