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The Six Lessons of Acting by Richard Boleslavsky

Unlike any other individual, the Polish director, teacher and actor Richard Boleslavsky (February 4, 1889, to January 17, 1937) was solely responsible for the first dissemination of Stanislavsky’s teachings in the United States. As the central teacher and founder of the American Laboratory Theatre(1923–29), Boleslavsky taught the basic principles of Stanislavsky to many actors. He became a profound influence to those who went on to become the leading theater figures in the decades that followed including those teaching the Stanislavsky-based approaches of acting by the end of the 20th century. Boleslavsky’s book Acting: The First Six Lessons provided theater practitioners throughout the United States to obtain a primer from Stanislavsky’s work and he incorporates cognitive science into his teachings (Boleslavsky, 21).

Acting: The First Six Lessons is a book with the main principles of the approaches to acting based on Stanislavski work. The author has narrowed these approaches into six main concepts derived from the 29 chapters of a more than 600 pages work of Stanislavsky entitled An Actor’s Work on Himself. Both works have the same topics and contain a similar core on their general perspectives towards the calling of actors as being a spiritual one, but the topics arrangement in a different order. The book by Boleslavsky alludes to all the vital components provided by his teacher. Boleslavsky also means that he is using the pupil-teacher narrative for material personalization and accommodates other subjective aspects into his book. The structure of Acting is in the form of private conversations and tutorials that are meant to inspire, inform and tap the way into what Boleslavsky defines as the acting spiritual dimensions. The first lesson is in concentration.

He considers concentration to be an element of the human soul. It involves the use of the five senses. Thus, an actor has to learn the three crucial aspects of education which are training his or her soul, the intellectual and cultural concepts and the body. The second lesson that Boleslavsky highlights is the memory of emotion. He uses the cucumber story to inform readers about the conscious reactions. It involves using both the personal experiences and abreacts connections. The third lesson is on dramatic actions that Boleslavsky demonstrates using the parts of the tree. The truck of the tree symbolizes the reason and idea that a director proposes for his play. The branches are the several elements of the idea which the actor contributes. The leaves involve the representation of the ideas. The fourth lesson we learn from this book is on characterization. Boleslavsky indicates that an actor has to be present an unbelievable acting through pathological hypnotism. Characterization involves the creation of a unique soul and life through the emotional and physical personality. The fifth lesson is observation. A good actor or theater producer is one who observes the unusual aspects of everyday life. He then goes on to build a memory capacity of remembering these aspects. Having good observation also means enriching one’s inner life and appreciation of different personalities. The last lesson that Boleslavsky provides has a rhythm regarding consciousness, one’s emotions towards others and creating a personal rhythm (Pitches, 121).

Just like Stanislavsky, Boleslavsky also has a romantic view of art in that they both believes that it is possible to teach skills, but techniques are one own devising which contributes to the actor’s creativity. In so doing them mean to say that it is not possible to teach art since possessing art is equivalent to having a talent. As Robert says “the central aspect to Boleslavsky is the belief that man springs from a man’s idealism “(Roberts, 130). Another debatable aspect that most Americans have argued about is the way Boleslavsky extends Stanislavsky thoughts that the most central aspect of the work of an actor is action and emotion. They both believe that in any action or desire or spine is the heart of acting that cannot be in existence without emotion. However, no evidence support this point from Stanislavsky and Boleslavsky in rejecting the attachment to either effective or action memory, Indeed some scholars like Gordon may consider this to be mixed messages (Gordon, 38).

Boleslavsky is of great influence to many people in America for being Stanislavsky’s spokesman. Stanislavsky’s influence to the theater as a whole including the movie industry is undeniable. It is through Boleslavsky through his Laboratory Theatre that he managed to bring Stanislavsky‘s ideas of acting into real life. Boleslavsky also incorporates cognitive science into his teachings. Through this science, he incorporates his pragmatic and spiritual use of psychology. This holistic view has close connections with Stanislavsky-based acting approaches to research studies on cognitive science. Evidence from cognitive science does indeed support Stanislavsky‘s basic structure especially in the aspects of concentration, memory, imagination, action and feeling

Work Cited

Boleslavsky, Richard. Acting The six lessons. The Theater Arts Monthly, 1932

Gordon Marc. Stanislavsky in America. Russian Teachers of Acting. Medford, MA Tufts University Dissertation. 2006.

Roberts White. Richard Boleslavsky. His work and life in the theater. Ann Arbor; UMI Research Press.

Pitchers Jonathan. Stanislavsky and Science tradition of acting. New York and London: Routledge. 2006

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