Experience how the pressure of performance demands adjustments
in the way you approach your work.
Consider the place of emotion and the necessity of spontaneity in
Examine the impact of your own fear of failure and desire for
Experience how the presence of the audience ushers in a whole
new phase of growth.
Reflect on your own sense of purpose as an actor and your capacity
At last you are ready to put your work before an audience. This is an exciting
and, for most of us, an anxious time. As public performance approaches, it helps
reduce anxiety to ...view middle of the document...
Stanislavski said it
Our art ...requires that an actor experience the agony of his role, and weep his
heart out at home or in rehearsals, that he then calm himself, get rid of every
sentiment alien or obstructive to his part. He then comes out on the stage to
convey to the audience in clear, pregnant, deeply felt, intelligible and eloquent
terms what he has been through. At this point the spectators will be more
affected than the actor, and he will conserve all his forces in order to direct
them where he needs them most of all-in reproducing the inner life of the
character he is portraying. 1
The important idea here is that in performance "the spectators will be
more affected than the actor." This is necessary for several reasons. First,
strong emotion will interfere with an actor's craftsmanship; as Stanislavski
put it, "A person in the midst of experiencing a poignant emotional drama
is incapable of speaking of it coherently." Second, emotions are unreliable
in generating a performance that must be done repeatedly and on schedule.
Think of an opera singer who, at the moment the music requires a certain
note with a certain feeling, cannot say to the conductor, " I' m not feeling it
yet, give me four more measures." This is why Stanislavski once brought a
trapeze artist into his training program to help the students experience how,
when the moment comes, you must put aside all your fears and ambivalence,
and simply jump.
Everything you do in every performance should feel spontaneous, "as if for
the first time," as Aristotle put it, no matter how many times you have done
it before. To achieve this spontaneity, you must keep your awareness on your
objective, rather than on the mechanics of your external action, just as a base
ball batter must think only about the ball and not about his swing. Otherwise
you will only be going through the motions, repeating the external aspects
of your performance without reexperiencing the internal needs that drive the
Notice that spontaneity does not mean that your performance is erratic
or wildly changeable: During the rehearsal process, you gradually refine your
external action until it becomes dependable, consistent, stageworthy, and auto
matic, just as the baseball batter has rehearsed all the aspects of his swing until
he can do it without thinking. As Stanislavski said,
Constantin Stanislavski, Building a Character, trans. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood (New York:
Theater Arts Books, 1949), p. 70. Theater Arts Books, 153 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10014.
PART THREE �The Performance and After
A spontaneous action is one that, through frequent repetition in rehearsal and
performance, has become automatic and therefore free. 3
Because you are able to perform your action without thinking about it, your
mind is free to concentrate fully on your objective and to experience your action
as if for the first...