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26 review for Training an Actor

  1. 4 out of 5

    Johnny

    You’ve probably heard of the difference between “technical” acting (using externals to convey the character) and “method” acting (drawing from your internal being to project the character to those observing). The “Stanislavski Method” or the “Stanislavski System” would be the proper name for the latter, named for Konstantin Stanislavski’s approach, derived from over 40 years of directing in the Russian theater of the early 20th century. Sonia Moore was the foremost instructor in this method and You’ve probably heard of the difference between “technical” acting (using externals to convey the character) and “method” acting (drawing from your internal being to project the character to those observing). The “Stanislavski Method” or the “Stanislavski System” would be the proper name for the latter, named for Konstantin Stanislavski’s approach, derived from over 40 years of directing in the Russian theater of the early 20th century. Sonia Moore was the foremost instructor in this method and her name was synonymous with her New York studio where many famous actors of stage and screen were exposed to the “Stanislavski System.” After a brief introduction, Training an Actor: The Stanislavski System in Class is largely a transcribed group of sessions from Mrs. Moore’s classes, followed by some appendices which clarify the scenes the students were working on and demonstrate one or more of the techniques Moore used to help actors find the characters they were to portray. There is a quotation from Tchaikovsky on the frontispiece (p. 30 in my edition, prior to the body of the book proper) that not only applies to Moore’s pedagogy, but should be understood in many disciplines. “Inspiration is a guest who does not like to visit lazy people.” Moore’s emphasis on work, continually thinking and working to craft the character and build the rapport with another (other) actor(s), is consistent with that sentiment. As she notes in one discussion, “Our final objective is to achieve on stage a state of subconscious creativity, which is inspiration. This is our goal, rather than the conscious work. But conscious work is the means which prepares the most favorable ground for possible inspiration.” (p. 98) Repeatedly, Mrs. Moore emphasizes the need for work and the need for allow one’s view of characters (and inherent thoughts and actions thereof) to change (pp. 186-187). I particularly liked the quotation from director Eugene Vakhtangov which reads: “Art is search, not finished form.” (p. 244) Indeed, Moore and her mentor, Stanislavski, believed in rather a fluid relationship between thought, action, and word, as well as between form and content. “The director is really competing with the author in his search for the most expressive form for the content. Although the director has no right to distort the play, he is not obligated to express himself only for the author. He must express himself through the playwright.” (p. 295) Perhaps the single most emphasis in Moore’s sessions is the concern with what she calls tempo-rhythm (pp. 60, 61, 195-196, 203, 235, 241, 245, 275, and 306, in particular). By tempo-rhythm, she seems to indicate what some (including myself) call “pacing,” but she obviously means more. She is talking about the inner motivation that governs how fast one does something, a psycho-physical relationship (see also p. 35, 138-139, 196). An actor thinks, immersing oneself in an inner monologue which defines the character and allows that inner monologue to influence the character’s on-stage actions and the pace at which those actions are executed. And there must be action: “If you cannot project something, it does not belong on the stage. It’s as simple as that. There is no art if it does not reach the audience.” (p. 43) That last sentence can apply equally to any form of art. I am not currently involved in performing or directing. I picked up Training an Actor: The Stanislavski System in Class out of a combination of nostalgia and curiosity. I was rewarded in terms of both. There are many jewels and many quotations in the book which are useful for more than one discipline. We often hear the illustration that for art, the most important thing is what to remove—much like Japanese “ichiban” floral arranging. Moore quoted Soviet director, A. D. Diky, with an even more vivid illustration concerning a watch mechanism: “Even if you place a diamond into the mechanism, the watch will stop.” (p. 304) As a result, I suggest that while there may be more recent volumes on the acting craft/art, Mrs. Moore’s approach is valuable and stimulating enough that it still deserves to be on the shelves of would-be actors, directors, or even artists in other genres of performance/representation.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Lewis

    I enjoyed this book. I've always liked theater, but never studied seriously. This book shows a series of acting classes as they happened, transcribed from the tapes, edited for clarity, and with the names changed to protect the innocent... Mostly, "Ken". The actors are learning Stanislavski's system of acting from Sonia Moore, who is clearly an expert teacher and drama critic. The format is a delight, because the transcriptions, with light interjections to explain the action or context, read like I enjoyed this book. I've always liked theater, but never studied seriously. This book shows a series of acting classes as they happened, transcribed from the tapes, edited for clarity, and with the names changed to protect the innocent... Mostly, "Ken". The actors are learning Stanislavski's system of acting from Sonia Moore, who is clearly an expert teacher and drama critic. The format is a delight, because the transcriptions, with light interjections to explain the action or context, read like a play. As the directors and actors must fill in the gaps around the dialogue, the reader of this book must do the same. The strange thing about the format is that most of the work the actors are doing is finding the right physical actions to express the inner and outer life of their characters. But these actions are not depicted in the book. They are only described in dialogue. If you were acting out this book as if it were a play, you would be choosing the right actions to depict that the students are choosing the wrong actions. This makes me laugh just thinking about it. The book suffers a little from a lack of focus. In the book we are told that plays have a superobjective, and every line and gesture should contribute to it. In real life, there are wasted spaces, loose ends, dead ends. I think that's true of this book, even though the best incidents have been selected. The superobjective of this book is clearly to introduce and promote Stanislavski's acting system, and to depict that process of introduction in a meta way. Not every episode is equally valuable to that end. I tried to give this book 4 stars, but at the end of the day I just can't. It is too weird. It inspired me to buy Chekhov's plays and go read Stanislavski even though I have no plans to act in a theater. It taught me about performance and acting in a way that has changed how I view drama and cinema. I look forward to using its insights as a music performer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ella Mitsch

    Really enjoyed this book! I need to get into reading more non-fiction books and not only that but non-fiction books about subjects and topics that I enjoy talking/reading/thinking about.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chad Bearden

    Reading about acting methodology is important for a theater teacher, but I find equally invaluable a book that also shares illuminating glimpses into the teaching process as well. As a slavish devotee of Stanislavski, Sonia Moore has the basics of his method down pat. She's so unflinchingly sold on the value of the Stanislavski system, the berating of her poor students when they don't follow his path takes on an almost comic quality. Moore's aim with "Training an Actor" is basically to follow the Reading about acting methodology is important for a theater teacher, but I find equally invaluable a book that also shares illuminating glimpses into the teaching process as well. As a slavish devotee of Stanislavski, Sonia Moore has the basics of his method down pat. She's so unflinchingly sold on the value of the Stanislavski system, the berating of her poor students when they don't follow his path takes on an almost comic quality. Moore's aim with "Training an Actor" is basically to follow the mold set by no less than Meisner and Stanislavski himself; that being a book as a dialogue between teacher and students. In his ABC trilogy, Stanislavski played the impish instructor always two steps ahead of his students, leading them playfully to theatrical enlightenment. Meisner played the impish instructor who pretended he was a curmudgeonly old wiseass while actually having a heart of gold. Sonia Moore plays the...well, she doesn't play anything. She just says what she thinks, and what she thinks usually has something to do with you not doing something right. The entirity of the book is basically the same story over and over again: Moore asks her students to prepare a scene, then asks to see it the following day. She then tells them how horrible it is and why and reminds them that Stanislavski's system has been proven by scientists to be the only possible way to be a successful actor. She did not site her sources for this claim of scientific verifiablity, but she was obnoxiously insistent, so I'll take her word for it. And while the insistence does grow obnoxious, it also starts to have a strange side effect: you start to internalize all the things she's trying to tell you. Through sheer repetition of scenework and restating of the basic maxims (find the superobjective, find an analagous personal experience, write a character biography, build motivations by creating concrete physical actions, etc.) not only do her students grow more successful and independent, but you, the reader, also start to take ownership of the process. There were multiple times when I wished I could take the stage with those students to show how I'd do the scene. I've read and utilized Meisner and Stanislavski, so I didn't really learn a great deal about acting from "Training an Actor". It's value for me was far more about the process of teaching acting to eager students. On those grounds, I learned a great deal, and would recommend Ms. Moore's work to other would-be teachers and directors.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Wynn

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arpan

  9. 4 out of 5

    Raed Algendale

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vipin

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian R

  12. 5 out of 5

    Magalie Etrillard

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashutosh Gautam

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sasslow

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ibrahim

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cc

  19. 4 out of 5

    Blessing Ekwuluo

  20. 4 out of 5

    BookDB

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vytautas

  22. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Smit

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rahul Das

  24. 4 out of 5

    McPhaul M.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Pankajkumar

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

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