Stanislavski Technique

Constantin Stanislavski is the stage name of Constantin Alexeyev, a Russian actor and an acting teacher who invented a system that revolutionized acting and put the foundations for the work of those that came after him. His teachings changed how actors prepare for the role and behave on stage for those that lived during his time and for generations following. 

Constantin Stanislavski started acting at a very young age. His father created a  small theatre just for his son to practice the art of acting. Yet he was not contemptuous of the results he achieved on the stage. He didn't give up. Instead, he committed his life to researching a method of acting that would be realistic and not artificial like those before him.

Ultimately the turning point came in 1897 when together with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, he started the Moscow Art Theatre. Constantin Stanislavski developed and later formalized naturalistic performance techniques within the Moscow Art Theatre. 

When the Moscow Art Theatre visited the United States, it caused a sensation as it was superb compared to any acting seen in the West. Soon Richard Boleslawski, a Polish migrant to the United States and a student of Constantin Stanislavski, started teaching "the method" to many actors in New York. Among his students were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, future founders of the Group Theatre. 

The Group Theatre was very successful, but Stella Adler doubted some aspects of the technique. She ultimately visited Paris to meet with Constantin Stanislavski and raised her concerns. She then learned that "the method" evolved, and Constantin Stanislavski abandoned the emotional memory substitution replacing it with the necessity of planting events from the character's existence. When she came back to America, Lee Strasberg didn't accept the new developments, and Stella Adler, together with Sanford Meisner followed the later version of Stanislavski's technique developing it further. 

One of the best students of Constantin Stanislavski that we can still watch was Michael Chekhov, nominated for the academy award for his performance in Alfred Hitchcook's movie Spellbound.

Inner Technique

Outer Technique


The actor should be capable of identifying the tension in each one of the muscles and releasing this tension by an act of will.  

One of the exercises that help with relaxation is the one introduced by Lee Strassberg. When the actor needs to sit on a chair in a position where one could sleep. Then gradually releasing the tension in the body while still having control of every single muscle involved actor learns to reach new levels of relaxation.

Concentration and Sensory recall

An actor needs to be able to observe every single detail or object. 

Take a slice of lemon or other fruit, feel its texture, weight, and smell, then bite into it. Focus on the taste and the feeling inside your mouth. After some time, try to reproduce the sensation, without the fruit, and recall its texture, weight and smell. Try to bite into the imagined fruit. 

If you were fully concentrated when inspecting the fruit the first time, then you have just experienced sensory recall. 


Something that is trivial for a child, the older we get becomes more and more problematic is imagination. Remember when a stick was a lightsaber, or a machine gun, or when a heap of dirt behind your house turned into a mountain? Or when the dolls came to life or toy cars speeded up through streets at light speed? 

How this applies to acting? Let's say you have a scene in a restaurant, and you have to eat a huge yummy stake. The only problem is that the prop department prepared the dish out of paper mache. What a yummy piece of cardboard, Bon appetite. 

Emotion memory and Substitution

Substitution and Emotional Memory is a technique introduced by Constantin Stanislavski that uses real past internal experiences of the actor as a source of emotions for the external acting. According to Constantin Stanislavski, you have to go deep into your own real-life experiences and then, recall the feeling of the moment and reapply it through substitution on the scene to create a truth full performance that would be realistic. The internal feelings would trigger the required physical reaction.

This technique got later abandoned by Constantin Stanislawski as it was causing mental instability, and instead of using emotional memory from the actor's real life, Constantin Stanislawski opted to use the events from the character's storyline instead. 

The Magic If 

According to Stanislavski, the actor should perform the role following the rule of "the magic if". In the simplest form the actor has to ask himself: "If I were in the specific situation and I wanted what the character wants, what would I do".  This technique is especially, important nowadays with the use of blue box and CGI where many things in a scene have to be imagined as they'll get added in post-production. 

Let's say you're a professional mighty ghost hunter in real life, but you are asked to play a young girl scared of darkness. Then even though you are in real life a fantastic superhero, you have to play the scene as if you were a young girl scared of darkness.

Public Solitude

The actor has to be completely engrossed in the part. Public solitude means that the actor has to forget forget the fact of being watched. An Actor can achieve that by focusing on the specific action, dramatic task or simply the character's objective. 

Generally, public solitude is experiencing yourself as being in private while being in public.

Objective, Superobjective and Actions

According to Stanislavski's technique, there has to be a reason for everything happening on stage. The character needs to have the reason and motivation of performing specific actions. For example, in a scene, you might wish to get to the door on the other side of the stage. But why? You need to have a reason, maybe because there's a dead body in the room and you have to run? Maybe running away from the crime is your ultimate goal. In such cases getting out of the room is your objective but running away with the crime is your super objective. Your super objective is the reason for your character's existence in the play. 

The objective needs to be: Singular (one thing), Immediate (right now), and Personal (important to you)

An Actor Prepares

The first book in a series focuses on internal aspects of acting.

Building a Character

The second book in a series focuses on the external aspects f acting.

Creating a Role

The third book in a cycle in Russian "An Actor's Work on a Role" published in 1957

Acting: The First Six Lessons

The book by Richard Boleslavsky - a student of Stanislavski and teacher of Lee Strasberg

A Dream Of Passion: The Development of the Method

The book by Lee Strasberg describing "the method" based on the early Stanislavski system

Stella Adler: The Art Of Acting

The book written by Howard Kissel depicting 22 lessons on the teachings of Stella Adler based on the late Stanislavski system

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