In this discourse I am going to analyse the collective work of two 20th century most influential theatre practitioners: Constantine Stanislavsky and Edward Gordon Craig. A subject becomes more interesting after mentioning that, there could, in any case, be no question of their coming to an agreement of basic questions of principle. Both were far too committed to their ideas for that.
However each could supply something of what the other needed. Craig was happy to have found theatre and took theatre seriously; Stanislavsky needed stimulus, a fresh mind, controversy, anything rather than the back-biting and derision to which he was so often subjected to. As we know from their correspondence, various ideas for plays had been floated but both men harboured a desire to do Hamlet. Now, the question to answer: to what extent could the cooperation of two producers taking totally different view on the theatre issue be successful?Craig believed in the need to create a production as a whole, and held therefore that all its parts, including the contribution of the actor, should be subordinated to one man’s conception, that of the director. He asserted- the director was “the true artist of the theatre” and suggested viewing actors as no more important than marionettes. The human actor must leave to be replaced by a non-human “instrument”. Performer should not impersonate, but present and interpret a character… Not reproduce nature like photographer, but create as an artist. He therefore advocated the abolition of the actor in the traditional sense as being ‘the means by which a debased stage realism is produced and flourishes’.
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2 Stanislavsky had his own, totally different technique of working with actors… His ‘system’ focused on the development of artistic truth on stage by teaching actors to “live the part” during performance.He proposed that actors study and experience subjective emotions and feelings to manifest them to audiences by physical and vocal means – ‘To achieve the perfection’- ‘state of becoming a character, not pretending to be one’, an actor had to go through Stanislavski’s original- psychological process. Working in a small rehearsal studio, rather than on the main stage, was to emphasize the intimacy of the play and create right atmosphere. Environment played an important role in helping actors gain the state of meditation, helpful in the rehearsal process which consisted in finding the feelings, the sychological states, contained in those sections and relating them, through emotion memory, to personal experience.
He kept the actors under tight control, using what he was later to call the ‘sitting-onhands method’. They were not allowed to speak their text either in full or full voice. Cuts were made in the longer speeches and used as sub-text, to be thought only…Great emphasis was laid on non-verbal communication. The actors were expected to ‘radiate’ their mental states. 3 1 Charles, R. L.
, 1964.Gordon Craig’s Concept of the Actor. Educational Theatre Journal, Vol.
16, No. 3, pp. 258-269. 2 Styan, J. L. , 1981. Modern drama in theory and practice 2. 1st ed.
Cambridge. Cambridge University Press 3 Benedetti, Jean, 1999. Stanislavski his life and art. 3rd ed.
UK: Methuen Drama. If we look carefully at these approaches, we realise that the different does not rely only on the way of reading and representing reality, but also who is going to read and make a decision how to present this reality to the audience.Craig is saying that a director should not be a photographer, but in the same time he makes an actor to take a picture of director’s vision of the world… He has his ‘Ubermarionette’ theory, but in the same time he does not help to put these marionettes (actors) to the move, as sometimes he gives them almost no directions at all. “This champion of the Ubermarionette was prepared to allow the actors total freedom of choice in the means they selected to convey his abstract ideas.
Thus, while the cast were willing to try anything he cared to suggested nothing. 4 Stanislavsky wants to share the creative process with his actors. I believe his technique gave actors a real freedom to express themselves… By his directions he helped them to discover real emotions. Does it mean that real emotions can not work well in the symbolic situations? I think that there is no conflict between these two. Symbolic and poetic state can be accomplished not only throughout creation of “unrealistic pictures”. Stanislavsky strongly relied on his working method and hold on his system.
He opened the Studio in which he wanted to carry out experiments in the production of non-naturalistic drama. But the truth was that he was dissatisfied with the acting, which failed to meet the demands of the director’s stylization. Whenever the Art Theatre attempted to convey some higher meaning beyond psychology it failed. In 1908 Stanislavsky published “Report on the Decade’s Artistic Maturity”, and reported to his Board of Directors that the theatre was incapable of interpreting poetic drama, and Shakespeare, in particular.
On the one hand the company seemed unprepared for sincerely and simply breathing life into the great feelings and lofty ideas of a universal genius. On the other, the essential the essential objectives of the theatre did not permit us to seek artistic inspiration in commonly used theatrical techniques. ”5 Foreign talent like Craig could provide necessary impetus… For Craig, The Moscow Art Theatre provided him the opportunity of revealing on a stage of European celebrity his theories in action; as he himself was aware that no other management would have been so lavish of time, money and cooperation.And just like that- four years passed between the first meetings and the opening night of Hamlet, years spent in discussions, practice sessions, and experimentation; thousands of pounds were spent.
Even though, at first sight it is visible that both artists could benefit from working together, it is still difficult to understand why Stanislavsky picked out no one else but Craig. Yet quite ironic that Craig’s contrivances might more readily have been carried through by other Russian directors.His ideas, though well in tune with the trends of progressive thought in the theatres of Moscow and Petersburg, were fundamentally at odds with Stanislavsky’s goals. For a start, Craig saw Hamlet as the mono-dramatic expression of a personal obsession, while Stanislavsky was pursuing his own aims of the actor’s psychology and realising a role from within. Both men detested and deplored routine in the theatre, but they differed mightily on the scale and the direction of the reforms to be undertaken. To better understand Craig’s reasoning, we should more carefully review a metter of his influences. Therefore it is good to cite an important publication, which appeared in 4 5 Ibid.
Laurence Senelick, 1976. “The Craig-Stanislavsky “Hamlet” at the Moscow Art Theatre”. Theatre Quarterly VI, pp. 57.
6 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 111 1908 (the same year that Craig was invited by the Art Theatre) in St Peterburg: Theatre, a book about the new theatre.Its contributors, among them the symbolist poets Bryusov and Bely, the designer Aleksandr Benois, the director Meyerhold and the socialist ideologue Lunacharsky, were members of the salons organised by classical scholar and poet- Vyacheslav Ivanov’s Wednesdau7; and so his deeplyphilosophical-mystical concepts permeated the book which, oddly enough, was dedicated to Stanislavsky, by no means an initiate or a sympathiser.One of the more weird essays, and one especially apposite to Craig, was ‘The Theatre of a Single Will’ by the decadent poet, playwright and novelist Fyodor Sologub8. He prescribed the theatre in which the poet’s will would reign supreme. “Sitting beside the stage, the poet would read his works, even to the stage directions, and the actors would be mannequins, illustrating his recital.
”9 “The drama,” he wrote, “is the product of a single concept, just as the universe is the product of a single creative idea. 10 “So the artist is equated with divinity, a romantic notion; but Sologub cherished no romantic notions about the divinity of most men. Since the human being is no more than a pawn in the hands of fate, there is nothing degrading about being a puppet on stage, manipulated by the superior being capable of creativity. ”11 When analysing Sologub’s secrets figures of speech we can easily sight similarity with Craig’s idea of the stage director as prime mover in the theatrical work, and his reduction of the actor to UberMarionette -more unter than uber in this case.One Russian theatre historian recalled, “The real attraction to Craig who had rejected not only realism but real life in the theatre generally and replaced the actor with a marionette would have been simply inexplicable of the Art Theatre, were we not acquainted with the nature of Stanislavsky who had become constricted within those confines he himself had created for his theatre and from which he continually sought an outlet. ”12 Though we know that Stanislavsky’s recourse to Craig was uninformed and random…
In the same time when he began co-operation with Craig, Stanislavsky invited also another new, “fresh” brain- Benois, known for his colorful sense of the rococo. He was involved in the production of Moliere and Goldoni, in hopes of broadening the company’s stylistic base. The real fan of Craig worked in Petersburg, and we are talking here about- Vsevolod Meyerhold13. Meyerhold was the only director in Russia (besides Craig), who attempted to impose a single directional vision by conventionalizing an acting style.
His experiments with formal grouping and hieratic stylization are visible in the 7 Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov (February 16, 1866–July 16, 1949) was a Russian poet and playwright associated with the movement of Russian Symbolism. He was also a philosopher, translator, and literary critic. He had published a number of influential articles, expanding on Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy, and calling for return of the theatre to the temple of Dionysus, wherein spectator and actor would merge once more in the dithyrambic chorus.Fyodor Sologub (February 17, 1863 – December 5, 1927) was a Russian Symbolist poet, novelist, playwright and essayist.
He was the first writer to introduce the morbid, pessimistic elements characteristic of fin de siecle literature and philosophy into Russian prose. 8 9 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 112 Fedor Sologub, 1908, Teatr odnoj voli, Teatr: kniga o novon teatre (St Peterburg,), p. 185. 11 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 112 12 E.A.
Znosko-Borovskij, 1925, Russkij teatr nacala XX veku, Praga, pp. 205 13 Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold (born German: Karl Kasimir Theodor Meyerhold) (10 February 1874 – 2 February 1940) was a Russian director, actor and producer whose provocative experiments dealing with physical being and symbolism in an unconventional theatre setting made him one of the seminal forces in modern theatre. 10 productions of Sologub, Ibsen and ,Maeterlinck at Vera Kommissarzhevkaya’s theatre.Craig saw some of Meyerhold’s work, and Meyerhold knew a lot about Craig’s doings, however they didn’t have chance to meet until 1935, when Craig confessed in an article for The London Mercury that “given the opportunity, he would haunt Meyerhold’s rehearsals exclusively, to gain an understanding of such an exceptional theatrical genius. ”14 The Meyerhold’s words about Craig was not humbler in complements, as in 1909 he wrote, regarding Craig as both a precursor and a fraternal adversary of naturalism… “It is remarkable that in the very first year of this new century, E.
G. Craig flung a challenge to the naturalistic theatre… therefore, this young Englishman is the first to set up initial guideposts on the new road of the Theatre. ”15 “What Meyerhold found so attractive in Craig’s writings and sketches was support for the notion of the conventionalized essence of stage art, the need to create an enriched and monumental poetic theatre, theatre of symbols related to the traditional forms of the pre-modern theatre which had engendered the new techniques of stage expression. 16 Shall we come back to the mentioned before notion of ‘mono-drama’. Whence in Craig this idea? Maybe because he seemed to see Hamlet in himself, “Hamlet almost seemed to be myself.
.. Hamlet was not only a play to me nor a role to be played – I somehow or other lived Hamlet day by day. ”17 His son Edward added, “he saw in the Ghost his own father, Hratio was Martin, Hamlet was himself, and the actors… were his familiars in the theatre, beautiful creatures from the land of his imagination.Ophelia was a mixture of all the foolish girls that he had known! ”18 Very probable that concerning mono-drama Craig looked up to Evreinov.
According to Evreinov, and audience member can experience aesthetic pleasure in the theatre only when he co-experiences those things that happen to the characters, sympathising with and sharing their emotions. He believed that the most effective means of promoting co-experience would be to reduce the angle of perception to a single protagonist, who would be the audience’s alter ego in a mono-drama. 9 He wrote: “Now what I mean by mono-drama is the kind of dramatic presentation which, while attempting to communicate to the spectator as fully as it can the protagonist’s state of mind, exhibits on the stage around him the world just as the protagonist perceives it at any given moment of his stage experience. ”20 Craig wanted the play to present a dream-like vision as seen through Hamlet’s eyes. Hamlet was supposed to be the only character who is real.
To support this interpretation, Craig planed to add archetypal, symbolic figures-such as Madness, Murder, and Death…Moreover he wanted to have Hamlet present on-stage during every scene, silently observing those in which he did not participate… “He mooted the idea of a golden thread, a kind of symbolic umbilical cord, invisible to the other characters, binding the Queen to Hamlet in the court scenes. ”21 Another aspect of Craig’s early conception which links to the symbolist drama was the desire for stasis.
22 “I should like to have as little movement as possible throughout 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 114 Vs. Mejerxol’d, 1913, ‘Edvard Gordon Craig’, in O teatre, St Petersburg, pp. 05 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 114 E. G.
Craig, 1957, Index to the Story of My Days, pp. 162 Edward Craig, 1968, Gordon Craig, N. Y. , pp.
259 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 117 Nikolay N. Evrejnov, 1909, Vvedenie k monodrama, St. Petersburg, pp. 8 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 120 the play.
.. Shakespeare’s ideas are in the word. To translate them into movement, into acting, is only possible of this acting and movement. ”23 In these points Stanislavsky didn’t agree with Craig.As far as movement was concerned Stanislavsky objected that the audience would grow restless if the eye were not engaged by varied stage pictures. Craig favoured stylized abstraction, while Stanislavsky wanted to explore psychological motivations. Stanislavsky hoped to use the production to prove that his recently-developed ‘system’ for creating internally-justified, realistic acting could meet the formal demands of a classic play.
“For Craig, another point of identification with Hamlet was the image of him as a great reformer: ‘in the course of a single month he ennobles Denmark and Napoleon idn’t do that in a lifetime. ‘ Stanislavsky himself a reformer, magnified this idea and, leading a discussion during Craig’s absence in 1911, he stated, ‘As Christ came to purify the world, so Hamlet passed through all the halls of the place and purified it of its accretion of vileness. ‘ Hamlet=Christ=Dionysus, perhaps? But in the same session, Stanislavsky pronounced his own unwillingness to adopt Craig’s monodramatic approach; ‘Because of his love for Hamlet he shades everyone in dark colours, he makes all the rest of the characters into toads, buffoons, allows them nothing human. 24 As we can see, there was so much obscurities and disagreements between Stanislavsky and Craig.
Nevertheless, very often, these distinctions were inspiring, and very special production of Hamlet was born. So many techniques were developed both artistic and technical. The ‘system’ had developed out of Stanislavski’s experiments with symbolist drama, which had shifted the emphasis of his approach from a naturalistic external surface to the inner world of the character’s “spirit”.Craig had a chance to work out in practice his exceptional idea: use of a single, plain set that varied from scene to scene by means of large, abstract screens that altered the size and shape of the acting area. Craig’s sketches and dream was aptly commented by Grigori Kozintsev25 in his book; this is the abstract from what he wrote: “Craig was the first to insist the Shakespeare’s tragedies are concerned not only with human passions and the relationships between the main characters in the plays, but first and foremost, with the conflict of some sort mighty visual powers… 26 Summarising, I hope that after reading this work, you don’t have any more doubts that the the cooperation of two producers taking totally different view on the theatre issue could be, and was successful.
By this success I’m calling the whole experiment that took place….
All the new idea that were born… And primarily apparition that realism and symbolism can be connected on stage, and can bring very interesting effects. 22 23 Ibid. Laurence Senelick, 1976.
The Craig-Stanislavsky “Hamlet” at the Moscow Art Theatre”. Theatre Quarterly VI, pp. 79.
24 Theatre Research International, Volume 6, Issue 02, Mar 1981, pp 121 25 Grigori Mikhailovich Kozintsev (22 March 1905 – Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg, 11 May 1973) was a Soviet Russian theatre and film director. He was named People’s Artist of the USSR in 1964. 26 Girgori Kozintsev, 1976, King Lear: the space of tragedy.
The diary of a film director. , Tr. Mary Mackintosh, London, pp/156-7.