Constantine Stanislavski is a man whom is a great insperation to all aspiring actors. He believes in a variety of techniques which allows the actor to create total realism and focus on stage. I am now going to talk about the Magic If explaining what it is and how it is important for the actor to under-go. If the Magic If were to be studied successfully then as an actor i should be able to make any character I play believable – not just to the audience, but to myself. I am aware of the work of Constantin Stanislavski, but I’ve never really looked into detail about his ‘System’.
Stanislavski believed that acting should not be thought of as ‘imitation’ but as a ‘process’. It isn’t a matter of external control, technique, and skillfully reproducing an experience but creating and conveying inner life, a sense of ‘being’, not ‘playing’. As an actor, I have to create ‘organic’ links between my own personality and the character I am playing. Although I must believe that I am that character, in that time and in that situation, it must be remembered that I mustn’t forget who, as an actor, I really am. To help create any role, I’ve always found it helpful to attempt many improvisations.
In the System this is known as the ‘magic If’. The magic If opens up many possibilities for the actor and can no doubt help them to explore new emotions. But to aid the Magic If is the ‘given circumstance’. This is the basis for the actor and the role. The given circumstances are: the story of the play, it’s facts, (the characters in the play, who they are and their purpose); events, (what happens in the play); time and place of action, conditions of life and finally the actor’s and director’s interpretation; the production, the sets, the costumes, the properties; lighting and sound effects.
The most important thing needed to create the realism and ‘Magic If’ is imagination. But of course the most important thing needed to do all this is my imagination. Stanislavski points out: “If you speak any lines, or do anything, mechanically, without fully realising who you are, where you came from, why, what you want, where you are going, and what you will do when you get there, you will be acting without your imagination”. Some good techniques to develop the imagination are to prepare the body by relaxation and then being taken on a meditation by some else.
This can help create a more power imagination, and if you can hold the images and believe them, it can also help in developing your concentration. To aid the imagination of a character i would be undergoing, I would research into the lifestyle he might have had, what he wore, ate, how he may have entertained himself and possibly different aspects of his personality. Relaxation techniques and meditations can also help in focusing and relaxing an actor on stage. Stanislavski created a devise known as ‘Circles of Attention’. This can be shown like ripples on a pond.
If the actor is in the centre of the pond, the ripples radiating out from the actor in an increasing circumference will eventual embrace the whole pond, or in this case the whole stage. To begin with, I would create a very small circle around me, focusing on myself and character, what I’m wearing and what I’m doing. Then I would spread the circle farther away, drawing in nearby objects and props or any characters stood by. Finally I would spread the circle around the stage, focusing on everything there and knowing where everything is.
To practice this I would stand in a room and go through the procedure of expanding the circle, and being aware of what’s in the room I’m in. I would practive this in the Art Centre as it is generally a large room and I would have to emphasise my movements and voice so all 3 sides of the stage could hear/see me. Stanislavski also calls for the use of the ‘Emotion Memory’; “Just as your visual memory can reconstruct an inner image of some forgotten thing, place or person, your emotion memory can bring back feelings you have already experienced.
“You would think that this would give a more emotional performance and convince the audience that the character is ‘real’. However, the use of your emotional memory with a character may end up with you not acting at all, but saying the words from the text as you bring up all your past emotions. I have just recently worked on the Emotion Memory in a workshop. I was called to bring out an emotion at a time when I was at my saddest. This I did, but I don’t think that if I was on stage and my character demanded sadness that I could recall that memory I had.
I would forget about the character and end up re-living the past. I think that it is important to remember how you felt at that time, without the reasons for it, and then call that up instead. An example of this would be when my character would have to represent sadness on stage. I would think of when my nan was dying from cancer or when my best friend died to bring the required emotions to my head. This would create more realism and make much more sense to the audience on stage. Happiness is easily shown and I feel that so is the sadness.
Anger, though, is something that I don’t express very often. I’m one of those people who ‘bottles’ everything up and walks away quietly. This is why, when representing anger, I would have to rely on my body movements and voice. Instead of yelling out the words, I would raise my voice but say them slowly, not projecting as far as I normally would do. I’d try not to move my body and maybe raise an arm (to reinforce my power over another character on stage. Stanislavski pointed out that all actors need to have a tempo/rhythm in their acting. This tempo/rhythm needed to be external and internal.
For example, the character may be worrying about something and could even be panicking and at the same time is in a room where other characters are talking about something as bizzare as the weather. The inner turmoil tends to be conceiled. ase, by a show of calm. This can lead to an interesting performance as the two tempo/rhythms contradict each other and i believe this creates a stronger visual impact on the audience. The whole System was designed to allow characters to become more indepth and Stanislavski spent many years trying to studying and experimenting with his System.
Studying it you can initially see where he was heading, the only problem being the length of time needed to complete the system, with a character. Unfortunatly, we havn’t got the required length of time available to us, so it is of great difficulty to fully study and complete Stanislavski’s techniques. However, Stanislavski’s ideas for realism and naturalism were a great influence on this last century, and parts of the System are still used today in rehearsal time when creating a role.
The Magic If has had a great impact on all aspiring actors as it has taught us how to develop our roles to create the most realism possible. Stanislavski’s techniques are of great importance as they truly indicate to the actor how to portray their characters role by looking at their personality and studying how they move around stage as a person. In conclusion, the ‘Magic If’ is very important for all actors as all mainstream actors follow the system and Stanislavski has become a big rolemodel to many because of it.