One of the Most Common Forms of Theatre

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Throughout this essay the focus of various practitioners will be explored thoroughly from the paths of life they took and how they became so successful, to the impact that their work had on other practitioners and in general the industry itself. The industry of theatre has had many influential practitioners who have impacted the industry for the better thanks to their philosophy, methods/techniques and success. This essay will look closely at the practitioners Konstantin Stanislavski and Antonin Artaud comparing and contrasting their impact on theatre and why they are so different but still respected immensely, the research of this essay will be made evident quoting and referencing information from various books written on the practitioners, other resources will also be included throughout this essay that will look into the work of both Stanislavski and Artaud.

Throughout the history of theatre there have been many practitioners who have influenced and help evolve the industry, arguably one of the most notable of practitioners was Konstantin Stanislavsky born 17th January 1863, in Moscow, Russia. From an early life Stanislavsky found himself revolved around theatre. Stanislavski was most famous for opening the Moscow art theatre which he founded in 1897, he opened the theatre with the playwright Vladimir Nemirovich- Danchenko. 

Stanislavski used a lot of his own idea’s and his own acting techniques, he then later became famous for a certain acting technique which is called the Stanislavski system, it is the most authentic and well-known system used throughout the world of theatre. He became extremely famous for his style, often frustrated by his own acting experiences as he felt nothing was ever taken seriously so he developed the era of realism and naturalism and that became stellar throughout his successful career within theatre and throughout, instantly gaining a huge audience worldwide and is still one of the most common forms of theatre today.

Antonin Artaud born 4th September 1896, Marseille, France was a practitioner that also influenced and had an impact on theatre, well known for being the twentieth century’s most radical influencer. His early life wasn’t a normal upbringing and his troubles affected him throughout his short life, he was one of eight but six of his siblings died due to a childhood illness, Artaud himself wasn’t a healthy child contracting meningitis at four years of age. He went off to the war but was withdrawn early due to continuous sleepwalking and being unstable to serve his country. 

Because of his mental state and his mind working in absurd ways compared to most he always seemed to have strong beliefs, he believed theatre had become far too hung up on realism and he was fixated on theatre to return to its origin magic, myth and ritual. He invented a new style of theatre that was inspired by Balinese dance he called this ‘Theatre of cruelty’ he wanted to captivate his audience in a different way making them feel uncomfortable fearful and leave them with hallucinations, he redefines the nature and the purpose of drama in his book ‘The Theatre And Its Double’.

Both practitioners had their own styles and way of portraying an engaging style of theatre, Stanislavsky’s system involved the approach to keep the performances as real as possible ensuring his work would be authentic and natural, he put a lot of time and effort into getting the right emotions out of his actors to match the roles they would play. He was obsessed with realism “Stanislavsky observes, whether the production and the acting is realistic, conventional, right-wing or left-wing, impressionistic or futuristic so long as it is convincing, that is” […] he asked for so much from his actors to create the most genuine and believable piece he goes on to share opinion “Any stage convention that does not answer those demands is, in Stanislavsky’s opinion, a bad stage convention”. 

On the other hand Antonin Artauds idea of realism was slightly different, he always had negative thoughts and wanted to portray his theatre in that light, his invention of Theatre of cruelty allowed him to elaborate on his feelings towards society which he seemed to have a real personal problem with describing it had become ‘sick and complacent’ . 'Theater of Cruelty means a theater difficult and cruel for myself first of all. And, on the level of performance, it is not the cruelty we can exercise upon each other by hacking at each other’s bodies, carving up our personal anatomies, or, like Assyrian emperors, sending parcels of human ears, noses, or neatly detached nostrils through the mail, but the much more terrible and necessary cruelty which things can exercise against us. 

We are not free. And the sky can still fall on our heads. And the theater has been created to teach us that first of all.' Despite both practitioners seeming to be polar opposite to one another they did have their similarities, in the manner that they both wanted to access the emotions towards both the character and actor. Also they both felt that the emotional connection between audience and the performance was number one priority, both imitating real life stories in a lot of their work.

Why the Stanislavsky system? Konstantin Stanislavsky actually never intended to invent this fresh, unique style of acting his intention to begin with was always to find a style of acting that would be more fitting to realism of the 20th century as he felt the style side of drama of the 19th century had become stale. His methods and techniques took off by storm and developed into at a rapid pace. 

Stanislavsky believed that his style would enable everyone the freedom as the actor they needed to create the most believable characters possible but they had to believe in the work they were inventing, “If you are looking for something, don't go sit on the seashore and expect it to come and find you; you must search, search, search with all the stubbornness in you!”. His system was created to make believable material, he also used symbolism. He undertook a much praised and respected production of Shakespeare’s famous play Othello, whose verse was, on the face of it, outside the realms of realistic production.  

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