Stanislavsky [Alekseyev], Konstantin Sergeyevich
- Paul Sheren
(b Moscow, 5/Jan 17, 1863; d Moscow, Aug 7, 1938). Russian theatre and opera director, actor and theorist. He directed and performed in operettas in his family’s private theatre and prepared for an opera career with the tenor Fyodor Komissarzhevsky, turning to drama only because his voice proved unsuitable for opera. In 1898 he and Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko founded the Moscow Art Theatre, where they encouraged new playwrights such as Chekhov and Gorky and experimented with naturalistic staging. Out of this distinguished ensemble developed the Stanislavsky system, the theatre’s most widespread approach to acting and directing. According to the system actors prepare their roles from within instead of concentrating on external presentation; they determine their character’s psychological and social background, even extending beyond the specific dramatic situation. Combined with the actor’s self-awareness and ‘emotion memory’, this leads to complete identification with the character, in turn resulting in an intensely realistic performance. Stanislavsky approached setting, costume, movement, light and sound with similarly studied concern for detail and accuracy. His early musical training and Chaliapin’s influence made him especially sensitive to tempo and rhythm, and he proposed classes in music for his actors. He was among the first producers to ‘orchestrate’ serious dramatic scenes with music and sound effects to support underlying moods and ideas. He believed that dramatic art was moving towards ‘the synthesis of music and drama, of words and sound’....