‘Artists who go not go forward go backward’ Konstantin Stanislavski
‘There is no standing still, only evolution and involution’ Jerzy Grotowski
Recently I have been teaching my IB students the Method of Physical actions and linking character and ensemble work to contemporary dance and specifically Laban technique. This week however, I have been reading ‘At work with Grotowski on Physical Action’ by Thomas Richards, and wanted to share some of the content of the book, and ideas for the IB program that have come to mind.
1. Finding one’s own way
The book opens with the two quotes written above and then goes on to talk about physicality and finding one’s own way of working. This is a key message to our students during the IB course. They are inquirers, reflective, open-minded risk-takers that need to, in the words of Stanislavsky:
‘Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that works for you’ (Moore, 1984)
Link to the course: When working with Practitioners remind students to take notes in their journals of the key things that inspire them, that they will implement and that they will reinvent and make their own. Encourage them to be experimental and reflective. Also, encourage them to try out the methods as the Practitioners intended them, as they develop skills in TIM and employ techniques in Devising, TIW and TIP.
2. Truth in Theatre
When Grotowski speaks about how when he was a student of dramatic art Stanislavsky’s work was ‘the key that opens all the doors of creativity’ (Grotowski, 1980) and goes on to speak about actions. Stanislavsky writes that we must, as actors and directors, prepare the ground ‘to lay the rails, that is to say to create the physical actions reinforced by truth and conviction’. (Stanislavsky, 1988)
Link to the course: When thinking about TOK in Theatre then this is a good time to step back and ask students what TRUTH in theatre is for them. When watching the work of others they can comment on whether it was truthful and why? These are very useful reflections that can go in the TPPP and also relate to their own work in their IPP in case they are inspired by the search for truth as a director, designer, performer etc.
3. Activities versus Actions
Grotowski expressed the same idea, about there being truth and conviction behind the action. He states that an activity becomes an action when there is a how and a why behind the action, and give the example of the actor who can take a drink of water (activity) or he can take a drink of water while he stalls the conversation and sizes up his partner, then speaks when he has had enough time to come to a conclusion (action). (Richards, 1995, p30). He then goes on to speak about audience awareness and the action engaging them, while simultaneously being used to observe them.
If you want to read more, the method of physical actions is written about in depth in the book, ‘Stanislavski in Rehearsal’ by Vasily Toporkov, who was a disciple of Stanislavski.
Link to the course: When working with any performance the students at IB level are thinking about the audience – the impact on them, the actor’s relationship to them. For the PPP this example can be used as a starting point or development for the purpose of their work and how to achieve intended impacts. Again the focus is on experimentation and taking risks.
Grotowski, Jerzy. Risposta a Stanislavskikji. Florence: La casa Usher, 1980
Moore, Sonia. The Stanislavski System. New York: Penguin Books, 1979, 1984 (1960)
Richards, Thomas. At work with Grotowski on Physical Actions. London, New York: Routledge, 1995
Stanislavski, Konstantin. The Work of the Actor on the Role. Ed. Fausto Malcovati. Roma-Bari, Italy: Editori Laterza, 1988