Inspiration for Actors in the 21st Century

“Stanislavsky and his company, the Moscow Art Theatre, performed plays by Chekhov and Gorky in the United States during 1923 and 1924. By the time they got to America, these productions were almost 20 years old and only reflected Stanislavsky’s very early experiments in “memory of emotion” and “inner concentration”. The Americans embraced the Russian experiment passionately and misguidedly by overemphasizing personalized emotional circumstances. Stanslavsky’s system, now watered down to a “method”, proved effective for film and television, but in the theater created an unfortunate emotional indulgence. Americans have turned this early, quickly abandoned and severely limited “system” into an acting religion. It has become the air we breathe, and we are not aware of its omnipresence.

Today, much of our highbrow theater remains an imitation of Western European tradition. Europeans are, generally speaking, a literary culture. Americans are an aural culture. Our dominant tradition is Evangelical. Altho we pretend to be at ease with literature on our stages, we are in fact ill at ease. This pretense of ease makes for a false feel in our theaters.

American theater practicioners today are too timid in our exploitations of the shoulders upon which we stand. Compared to the profession of theater’s rapid growth and complex adjustments to the innovations, events and movements of the past several decades, our artistic progress now seems fainthearted. Acting is the only artistic enterprise in America which has not significantly changed during the past three quarters of a century. Most acting today looks as it did in the 1930’s. Our work has not grown enough and our goals are too narrow.

I want an artistic explosion. Our present high-technology lifestyle demands a theater experience that cannot be satisfied by video and movie screens. I want acting that is poetic and personal, intimate and colossal. I want to encourage the kind of humanity onstage that demands attention and that expresses who we are and that life is bigger. I want to find resonant shapes for our present ambiguities. I want to contribute to a field that engenders moments on-stage that broaden the definitions of what it means to be human.”

- Anne Bogart, “A Director Prepares”

WIlliam PacholskiComment