The Playgoer: Michael Chekhov

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Michael Chekhov

Charles Marowitz argues for the legacy of Michael Chekhov, one of the least understood but perhaps most influential 20th century acting teachers.

Nephew of the Chekhov, favorite actor of Stanislavsky's (his Hamlet was hailed as monumental), he ended up an emigre acting coach in Hollywood making cameos as kooky old men in films like Hitchcock's "Spellbound." It's a fascinating life, as recounted in Marowitz's full length biography.

From the article here's some of his provocative conclusion:

The "System," [Stanislavsky's] and its offspring "The Method," had a certain inevitability about it in the late 20th century and inspired some of the best works of psychological realism, viz. Odets, Miller, Williams, Inge, Mamet, etc. But we are now in a new and different millennium and our sense of what is both "true" and "real" has shifted into unexpected areas. We demand more than psychological equivalents to personal and social perceptions, more than dramatic replays of what we are buffeted with from an incessant media that deals in "sound bytes" instead of insights. Though glutted with "information," we are famished for "wisdom." Perhaps the time has come for a theorist, rooted in metaphysics and spirituality, improvisation rather than formulae, inspired hunches rather than dogmatic certainties, to make an appearance.

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