This was right up my alley! Last fall I wound up assistant-directing the mini-opera for the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. I was primarily in charge of the chorus, who were playing microbes who lived in the guts of the two leads. (The entire ceremony is here and the final act of the opera–the Revolt of the Microbes–begins at one hour and 27 minutes.) Trying to figure out the motivations of gut microbes–Stanislavski doesn’t really have much to help with that. That’s not what he meant when he said “Find the part inside yourself.”
Much of Carol’s paper centered around the Method-trained Leonard Nimoy as an example of the unsuitability of the Stanislavski approach to SF acting. Carol argued that the Method could not have provided an adequate framework for the creation of Spock as a character; that Method teachers never understood or respected Nimoy’s accomplishment; and that maybe if the Method hadn’t messed with his head, the poor man wouldn’t have had to write back-to-back books titled I Am Spock and I Am Not Spock.
Carol had an anecdote I’d never heard before: that Stanislavski used to bring a dog to rehearsals, and that the dog knew when people were done “acting” and would go wait by the door as soon as the actors dropped character. “Stanislavski set out to fool the dog.”
To fool the dog. If I ever write a book about acting, there’s my title.
In grad school, I wrote a couple of papers on the intertwined histories of method acting and psychoanalysis. The Method, at its beginning, was heavily influenced by Pavlov and the emerging science of psychology. When the technique came to the United States, for a variety of reasons, it became entwined, both intellectually and socially, with Freudian psychoanalysis.
But that was 100 years ago! In 2015, the science of human understanding has gone so much further, in so many directions that neither the couch nor the maze could have predicted. Psychology is no longer defined by the twin doctrines of psychoanalysis and behaviorism. We’ve seen so many extraordinary advances and insights from cvolutionary psychology, the cognitive revolution, neurobiology, narrative and cross-cultural psychology, and more subfields and interdisciplinary crossroads. Stanislavski’s great breakthrough–and for all I may snark at the excesses of the American Method, Stanislavski was one of the artistic giants of his not-too-shabby age–was fueled by the breakthroughs in psychology that were happening in his time. Psychology is still having breakthroughs. But who are the Stanislavskis of our age who are bringing psychological science into the theater?