The Method. An Overview of Acting Theory According to Konstantin S. Stanislawski and Lee Strasberg

Seminar Paper, 2006
9 Pages, Grade: 1-2


Table of Contents


1. General Definition

2. Konstantin Stanislawski
2.1. The Stanislawski System
2.1.1. Psycho-technique
2.1.2. Experiencing and Embodying
2.2 Stanislavski’s Aftereffect

3. Lee Strasberg
3.1. “The Method”
3.1.1. The “Creative if” in Strasberg

4. Summary and Outlook

Further Sources


In the paper at hand the development of the “method” is presented in overview from its beginnings until today.

The first chapter, 1. General Definition, is, as the title indicates, meant to define the title of the paper and provide insight into what lexica understand as the “method”. In the second chapter Stanislawski’s system is explained with particular consideration for his psycho-technique. The third chapter provides information on the further development of the system by Lee Strasberg. The fourth chapter summarizes the entire paper and also provides a brief outlook into the future.

1. General Definition

“The Method” or “Stanislawski System” describes a specific acting theory, which based on Konstantin S. Stanislawski’s ideas was further developed by Lee Strasberg. This technique was supposed to let the actor appear as authentic as possible to the audience[1]. In order to be able to implement such a theatrical performance, Stanislawski developed a method, in which the actor has to concentrate on an emotional event in his life in order to thus breathe life into his role and not let it appear to be a role. A difficulty presented by Stanislawski’s system is to maintain the play’s spontaneity when you have to repeat the same emotional experience multiple times because it is not supposed to appear studied to the audience[2].

2. Konstantin Stanislawski

Konstantin Sergeywich Stanislawski[3], born on January 5, 1863 in Moscow, was a director, producer, actor and in 1898 the co-founder of the “Moskauer Allgemeinzugängliches Künstlerisches Theater”, the Moscow Generally Accessible Artistic Theater . Mainly, he is known for developing his system of an acting theory though that today is known as the Stanislawski system or the Stanislawski method. He wrote books and several fragments, which includes his best known work “Die Arbeit des Schauspielers an sich selbst. Tagebuch eines Schülers”[4] (An Actor Prepares), which was to make his theory accessible to those following later as well. Konstantin S. Stanislawski died on August 7, 1938 at the age of 75 in Moscow[5].

2.1. The Stanislawski System

Stanislawski created a system that is to enable the actor[6]

“to create the character of the role, to reveal the life of the human spirit within it and to embody it perfectly naturally on stage, in a beautiful artistic form”[7].

At the forefront of his theory is the interaction between the internal, the psychological, and the external, the physical, the body. In everyday life the body automatically expresses the inner emotional feelings but on stage the actor had to consciously use a certain mimicry and gestures to express the emotions of the role. Stanislawski, however, wanted the role itself to become alive and for this its emotions were to become the actor’s to create as much authenticity as possible. This is best expressed by the following quotation:

“Only that, which actors experience, can they embody.[8]

2.1.1. Psycho-techn ique

Stanislawski’s theory thus deals with how an actor can summon a certain emotion and embody it on stage. That is, the actor should be able to summon unconscious and inarbitrary processes consciously and with control. This can be done in two ways:

First you feel and that brings on a physical reaction, or

the physical activity, the gestures and the mimicry result in a psychological emotion.


[1] See.: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, 2003, p. 848

[2] See.: Dictionary of the Performing Arts, Moore and Varcharver, 1999, p. 460

[3] Stanislawski was his artist name, his actual last name was Alexeyev(Leach, 2003).

[4] The book “Die Arbeit des Schauspielers an sich selbst. Tagebuch eines Schülers” (An Actor Prepares) is meant to be a textbook for actors. In the book itself he describes his teachings or his theory from the perspective of a student.

[5] See.: Stanislavsky, Konstantin Sergeyevich . Encyclopædia Britannica, Retrieved December 19, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica 2006, Ultimate Reference Suite DVD.

[6] Stanislawski himself did not describe a closed, complete guide with the word system, he viewed himself as a researcher of an already existing phenomenon that he can, however, not write down as a whole, completed work. (see Hoffmeier, 1993, p.146).

[7] Stanislawski, 1951, p. 681 [Orig.: „die Gestalt der Rolle zu schaffen, in ihr das Leben des menschlichen Geistes zu offenbaren und sie auf der Bühne ganz natürlich, in schöner künstlerischen Form zu verkörpern“]

[8] from Roselt, 2005, p. 232 [Orig.: „Nur was Schauspieler erleben, können sie verkörpern.“]

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The Method. An Overview of Acting Theory According to Konstantin S. Stanislawski and Lee Strasberg
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Katharina Mrak (Author), 2006, The Method. An Overview of Acting Theory According to Konstantin S. Stanislawski and Lee Strasberg, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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