Stanislavsky Method

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stanislavsky Method


the name given to the theory and methodology of stage art developed by K. S. Stanislavsky.

Conceived as a practical guide for the actor and stage director, the Stanislavsky method has become the aesthetic and professional foundation of stage realism. In contrast to previous approaches, it does not study results but clarifies the causes of a given result. The Stanislavsky method is the first theory of stage art to master subconscious creative processes and to analyze the integration of the actor with his role.

The Stanislavsky method is a summary of the creative and pedagogical achievements of Stanislavsky, his predecessors and contemporaries in the Russian theater, and outstanding theatrical figures abroad. Stanislavsky was guided by the traditions of Pushkin, Gogol, A. N. Ostrovskii, and M. S. Shchepkin, and the dramaturgy of Chekhov and M. Gorky had a particularly strong influence on his aesthetic views. The evolution of the method was inseparable from the activity of the Moscow Art Academic Theater and its studios, where the method underwent a lengthy process of experimental development and verification through actual practice. During the Soviet period, as a result of the achievements of socialist culture, the Stanislavsky method has become an integrated scientific theory of theatrical art.

The Stanislavsky method is a theory of realism in the theater, a realism that Stanislavsky called the art of a sense of truth on the stage. This art requires not imitation but a genuine sense of artistic truth. Created anew at each performance, this sense of truth is a living process that conforms with the previously conceived idea of the role. The actor reveals independently or with the aid of the director the essential idea (the core) of the play and then seeks to fulfill the ideological and creative intent, which Stanislavsky called the super-objective. The attempt to achieve the super-objective was defined as the through-going action of actor and role.

The theory of the super-objective and through-going action is the foundation of the Stanislavsky method. This theory emphasizes the playwright’s world view and the indissoluble link of the aesthetic and ethical foundations of art. The actor’s purposeful, integrated performance within the given circumstances of the play is the basis of the art of acting. Action on the stage is a psychophysical process involving the actor’s intelligence, will, and feelings and his outward and inner talents, called by Stanislavsky the elements of creativity. These elements include imagination, concentration of attention, the ability to communicate, emotion memory, speech technique, and a sense of truth, rhythm, and plasticity of motion. The continuous perfecting of these elements, which engender the actor’s true inner creative state on the stage, constitutes the actor’s mastery of his art.

The Stanislavsky method is also concerned with the actor’s mastery of his role, which culminates in the actor’s merging with the role. In the 1930’s, influenced by the materialist world view and by I. M. Sechenov’s and I. P. Pavlov’s theory of higher nervous activity, Stanislavsky came to recognize the fundamental importance of physical actions in the mastering of the inner meaning of a role. The method of work that Stanislavsky developed late in life became known as the method of physical actions. Stanislavsky devoted particular attention to the actor’s speech and his mastery of the author’s text. He believed that in order to make the word a true instrument of action, words should be spoken only after the role’s meaning had been established by physical actions. Before memorizing and uttering the author’s words, the actor must have a need to utter them, an understanding of the causes engendering them, and a mastery of the logic of the given character’s thoughts.

As the greatest theoretical achievement of the Soviet theater, the Stanislavsky method helped establish socialist realism in the theater. Einriched and made more profound by the principles of communist partiinost’ (party spirit) and of national spirit, the method constitutes the foundation of the training of actors and staging of plays in Soviet theaters. Stanislavsky did not consider his system complete. He urged his students and followers to continue the work he had begun in the study of the principles of theatrical art, indicating the path to be followed. Stanislavsky’s theatrical ideas, aesthetics, and methodology have been applied throughout the world.


Stanislavskii, K. S. “Rabota aktera nad soboi; Rabota aktera nad rol’iu.” Sobr. soch., vols. 2–4. Moscow, 1954–57.
Toporkov, V. K. S. Stanislavskii na repetitsii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Gorchakov, N. Rezhisserskie uroki K. S. Stanislavskogo, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1952.
Abalkin, N. Sistema Stanislavskogo i sovetskii teatr, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1954.
Knebel’, M. O deistvennom analizep’esy i roli. Moscow, 1961.
Blok, V. Sistema Stanislavskogo i problemy dramaturgii. Moscow, 1963.
Kristi, G. Vospitanie aktera shkoly Stanislavskogo. Moscow, 1968.
Prokof ev. V. N. Vsporakh o Stanislavskom, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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