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Who Was Stanislavski?

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Mark Westbrook answered
Stanislavski or Stanislavsky as it is often also spelled, was a Russian actor and director known as the 'Father of Modern Psychological Acting'. Reacting to the mechanical and highly stylised forms of acting and terrible working conditions that were prevalent in the Russian Theatre, Stanislavski and his life time business collaborator Nemirovich-Danchenko founded the Moscow Art Theatre (MXAT), which became the base for Stanislavski's development of a new style of theatre.

The Russian public were astounded by the works that were staged at the MXAT, the realistic performances, different sets for each production and the attention to detail in all aspects of the production was revolutionary. Throughout his career, Stanislavski worked to develop his own acting and this lead to his development of a system of acting known incorrectly as Method Acting (this is actually the US variant of his work) or the Stanislavski System.

Stanislavski left his ideas in the form of several books, translated in English as 'An Actor Prepares', 'Building a Character' and 'Creating a Role'. Much of this work is translated by non-theatre writers and so lacks the specificity to make these works useful beyond a vague record of his ideas. He also left an autobiography 'My Life in Art'.

Throughout his life and career Stanislavski worked to develop a flexible and fluid system of acting that would help actors to sustain wonderful performances over many performances. His life was long and his ideas changed drastically over the years; this accounts the variants in understanding and practice of Stanislavski's work today.

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