The Playgoer: A New Stanislavsky

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

A New Stanislavsky

Stanislavsky's An Actor Prepares has been the bedrock of American acting training for generations.

But guess what, the version you've been reading all these years is totally bunk! OK, well that's what the scholars are saying. And thanks to one of them, Jean Benedetti, we'll now be able to read something closer to what he actually wrote.

Released in the US in severely edited and liberally translated versions spanning 3 volumes--An Actor Prepares, Creating a Role, Building a Character--these were the best we could do given the complications of Russian translation and cross cultural publishing during the Cold War. (Word used to be you could only get accurate Stanislavsky translations via Cuba!)

In fact, what the man wrote--starting only in the 1930s, toward the very end of his teaching and his life, mind you--was a massive two-volume set simply entitled The Actor's Work on the Self and The Actor's Work on the Role.

As London Times critic Benedict Nightingale explains:

[T]he obvious problem - that there can be no totally authoritative text - is worsened by the fact the two volumes were published many years apart. The result was that Stanislavski's disciples, especially in America, absorbed the first, which is largely about actors' need to explore and exploit their inner selves, and neglected the second, which talks in detail of technique and the discipline required onstage.
Benedetti's new condensation of the work into one big volume--being sold as just The Actor's Work--is still "edited," though. So I do hope someone will publish (or first, translate!) The Full Stanny one day.


Anonymous said...

Anatoly Smeliansky is the considered authority on Stanislavsky's books... some years ago he published the Complete Works.

An Actor Prepares is not really inaccurate. In fact, that along with My Life in Art are the only books Stanislavsky actually wrote. The others are a hodgepodge of notes assembled and interpreted by Soviet editors.

So if new translations are forthcoming, they may be better, but they still won't be translations of Stanislavsky's words.

Playgoer said...

Thanks for the clarification, anon. I see how I may have oversimplified.

Still, I feel it's a landmark publication in English that will be the most widely available new version, at least.