The Paradox of the Method Actor

Rethinking the Stanislavsky Legacy
  • Dennis C. Beck


The founders of the American Method articulate an ambivalent attitude to the teachings of Constantin Stanislavsky. Lee Strasberg calls them “directly responsible not only for my own development, but for the creation of the Group Theatre” (DP 40). Yet when Stella Adler staged her historic confrontation in the Group Theatre after studying with Stanislavsky in 1934, Method teacher and director Robert Lewis recalls that Strasberg announced that “he taught the Strasberg Method, not the Stanislavsky System.”1 Adler and Sanford Meisner similarly recognize that their approaches are based in the Russian’s ideas but include their own additions (TA 6; MA 183). Because, however, Stanislavsky’s ideas form their point of departure, the American Method(s) share with the Russian teacher’s “System” essential qualities not necessarily related to the Realist style.2 Stanislavsky’s core concept of the performer’s dual consciousness, in fact, reasserts the humanity and agency of the individual/actor while also providing, like poststructuralist approaches beholden to Bertolt Brecht, a framework within which identities and their formative influences can be questioned and critiqued. In a century of totalitarian and technological forces that threaten the status of the individual, methods of performance that challenge authoritarianism represent a subversive opposition.


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Copyright information

© David Krasner 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis C. Beck

There are no affiliations available

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