An Actor Prepares

Presence in Performance: Questions of Identity College

"When we are on stage, we are in the here and now."

“What is important to me is not the truth outside myself, but the truth within myself.”

–Constantin Stanislavsky

The System

It began, over a century ago, with a man named Constantin Stanislavsky. Considered the father of modern acting, he would revolutionize acting with the creation of his system—a grammar of acting he began developing in 1906. The system is based on the actor being as fully “in the moment” as possible, while always staying one step away from complete belief. In its all-encompassing approach to conveying truthful performance, the system expounds techniques and training deeply rooted in mindfulness practice. Used correctly, the effect was a profoundly moving performance, as rarely seen before. Actors started drawing from their own emotional experiences in order to fully inhabit their character and solidify their presence on stage. These fascinating and, more recently, controversial methods employed naturally raise existentialist questions about compartmentalizing, distinguishing, and recreating identity in both life and art.

Before the widespread use of Stanislavsky’s system, the prevalent mode of acting in the 19th...

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