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Oct 28, 2014

The 'Magic if' in Stanislavski System

11:01 AM
The Stanislavski system is a set of techniques intended for stress and actresses to carry out realistic and convincible emotions on stage. This form of acting method was originally invented by Constantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor, director and an employee of the Moscow Art Theatre. He utilized and developed this system from the year 1911 to 1916. It includes the notion of emotional memory in which an actor could utilize that memorization in order to portray the feelings and thoughts of their characters. 

Later on, from the year 1934 until 1938, this method of Stanislavski’s improved and become a set of physical actions done to convey those emotions. His system is produced as an outcome of Stanislavski’s many years of determination to discover how an actor can rule over the emotions and artsy factors of the characters their playing on stage. 

Moreover, the Stanislavski system, if elaborated thoroughly step by step, could be counted as very complex. But actually the main goal of this acting principle is only to train actors to deliver believable lines stated by natural ‘everyday’ people. 


Meaning that the whole concept of the system is Realism, in which the actors try to incorporate the events and actions that occur in our daily lives. 

In a lot of various ways, we can say that Stanislavski deserves to be dubbed as the father of today’s method of acting. In which characters insert a piece or a part of their personality to be implanted in the acting together with the character’s disposition. 

Some of the methods of the Stanislavski System include the ‘Magic If’. This is the technique that tells you to begin with asking yourself “What would I do normally if I was in the character’s shoes”. This is done in order to figure out the natural expressions that can be portrayed on stage.


 Although, later on, Stanislavski realized that the “What If” method might not be the best to determine the actors’ characterization. Thus he later provide the triggering question “What would I actually do in real life?” instead of “What would the [character’s name] do?”. 

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Another method is the principle that actors must consider and think properly about how they move and talk on stage. As their body language, accent and tone are the main factors in making the acting more convincible. 

Certainly being on stage with a lot of people watching you could be pretty intimidating and not part of your everyday life at all. Which is kind of ironic since the whole concept of this system is realism, in which Stanislavski has compelled actors to project ‘non-dramatic’ or ‘non-exaggerated’ behaviors. 


To briefly elucidate, still not all of Stanislavski’s ideas could be mentioned, but some of it, includes: acting with your imagination. Meaning that you invent yourself a background story for those characters. Another aspect is called: Circles of Attention. In which you focus on different ranges of stage features in order to help actors relax and concentrate before performing. He told us to focus first on small circle, which includes the actor and a single prop, and then later on this has to be evolved to the largest circle that involves all the people on stage and off stage. 

Then there is also the technique of communicating with the cast first, before making connections with the audience. Meaning that actors should find the correct relationship and communion with the other characters, in order to make the events of the story more believable for the audience. And the last one is called Tempo Rhythm, in which actors must learn to control the speed of their talking. Indicating that they should find a matching tempo rhythm of every line and also suit it with creative gestures. 

For me, the techniques of Stanislavski system that I can relate the most includes: the “What If” method, the use of body language, and also Tempo Rhythm. As before going in on stage or even when I’m just casually practicing the lines, I should ask myself the primary question “What would I really do if I was an employee of a depressed, wealthy women, in that specific situation?”. 


As I am playing one of the maids, in which she has this very empathic, caring, but sometimes irritating personality (this relates to the method of ‘Imagination’). Then I could also apply the technique of using hand gestures and other forms of body language to make my acting look more realistic. 

These body languages include: continuously stomping the foot, scratching your head, fixing your hair, or shaking your legs when you sit. I can use these ‘un-planned’ or ‘natural’ movements when I’m talking to the madam, for example when the guests rudely demands to meet with her, and then I could ‘unpurposely’ scratch my head as a sign of worry and confused. 

Lastly, another method that I could easily incorporate in my performance is the Rhythm Method in which I have to get used to delivering my lines properly. Have to prevent saying the lines too fast and thus without expression or meaning. 


Since I know that the pressure from the audience could get the best of your nerves, before performing I just have to relax myself, blocking out all disturbance and unnecessary thoughts and just act well. This means that I have to find the perfect patterns/tempo of rhythm in each word I say. 


Therefore, I conclude that the Stanislavski System is a great encyclopedia of how to act real on stage but still personifying the character and delivering their reactions to the happenings of the story successfully towards the audience 


(written by sasya)

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