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Re: Stanislavski en francais Dr John Schranz



Dear Andre,

I face my usual problem at this stage - that of finding no difficulty in
reading complex issues in French but of not being able to write about
complex issues in that language, unfortunately.

However, on seeing your letter to the Liste of today, I cannot not comment
on the sad truth of what you say - Stanislavski is indeed profoundly
betrayed by the Hapgood "translations" published in America.  Those
publications misrepresented Stanislavski, primarily because his writings
were re-engineered to suit the then growing Hollywood film industry, where
emotive memory becomes clearly very useful, because in filming "takes" are
very short, sometimes only a few seconds.  Moreover, in filming many
"takes" of one fragment are filmed, one after the other, "take one", "take
two", take three", "take four" and so on ... to faciltate chosing a
suitable "take" in the montage stage.  Unlike live performance, therefore,
filming amounts to editing and montage of large amounts of "takes" ... and
the actor has little difficulty in sustaining the "emotional memory" for
the few seconds necessary for each take.  Of course, in live performance
the actor would have no "pauses between takes" ... and he would have to
keep the performance alive ... which becomes very stressful if one were to
play on emotional memory.  But of course the problem is much more complex
than this.  Exceedingly more complex.  

The thing is that the "psychological" phase of emotional memory was only
the early second phase of Stanislavski's work.  There is a wonderful letter
which Stanislavski wrote to tghe famous Olga Knipper, when he was directing
her in A Month in the Country, in 1911.  Knipper nearly had a breakdown
when she tried to apply his system and she wanted to back out of the play. 
Stanislavski sent her  a bunch of red roses together with a letter in which
he promised her that he would not insist on his system and that he will not
bother her any longer with the jargon of the technicalities.  Even more
illuminating are two replies he gave to questions by actors during
rehearsals, quoted by VO Toporkov in one of the most important books on
Stanislavski's work.  An actor asks him "What is the nature of the emotive
state here?"  And Stanislavski replies "Emotive state?  What's that?! 
Never heard of it!"  ... and Toporkov tells us that he said this with an
expression of utter surprise.  Toporkov adds that an actress who had worked
with Stanislavski for several years asked him one day, during a rehearsal,
"I have kept notes of all the wonderful comments you made in rehearsals
over all these years Konstantin!  What do you suggest I do with them ?" 
And to her utter shock Stanislavski replied "Burn everything!"  One has to
understand that this was the final phase of Stanislavski.  Toporkov's
fundamental book is called "Stanislavski in Rehearsal - The Final Years". 
It is a book in which Stanislavski is revealed as changing much of his
former approach, much of his work of his earlier two phases.

However, one must keep in mind that this was the hallmark of Stanislavski,
perhaps even his quality of genius.  Jean Norman Benedetti, in his
"Stanislavski, a Biography", states that Stanislavski often changed his
mind before the ink dried on the paper on which he was writing.  Indeed,
even his style shows this.  Many of his sentences are loaded with strings
of adjectives, or adverbs, one after the other, sometimes six or seven
adjectives or adverbs, separated only by commas.  Clearly he was hunting
for the best nuance for what he wanted to say ... but he left all the
adjectives in, showing the peripeteia of his thoughts.  Even the changing
structure of his books shows this constant flux of thought in Stanislavski,
as the first structure of My Life in Art (an diary style autobiography, in
which he lists ALL the plays which he had been involved in) changes when he
writes The Work of the Actor upon himself.  In the latter he keeps the
diary format ... but now it is a book written nearly as a novel, with
fictional "characters", a theatre pedagogue, Torzov, and an apprentice
actor, Kostya ... of course each of them is clearly an aspect of
Stanislavski himself as the diary form of the novel indicates.  The diary
is kept by the "student", Kostya, and moreover the diary records only the
work in the studio, without the extensive reference to plays which was
predominant in the first book.   This form changes again when he comes to
the third book - The Work of the Actor upon the Role.  Here the diary form
is still kept, and even the fictional form is retained, with the same two
"characters", Torzov and Kostya.  As in the first book, Stanislavski
returns to the "plays" setting.  But he restricts himself to only three
plays this time, unlike the structure of My Life in Art, and he builds all
the comments on the preparations for those three plays.

This ever-changing approach is not reflected, unfortunately, in the way in
which the Hapgood editings of his writings altered his work.  The situation
was not helped much by the copyright difficulties which any other potential
English language translations faced.  It is interesting, for instance, to
note that in 1925, barely one year after the publication of the American
edition, Stanislavski "revised" My Life in Art and republished in it
Russian.  Some time in the late 50's the Foreign Languages Publishing House
(Moscow) printed an English translation (by G Ivanov-Mumijiev).  This book
seems to have been distributed free to institutions - in fact it bears no
date of publication and no copyright, and a copy of it was donated to the
University of Malta in April 1962 by the then Ukrainian Republic.  This
note by the Russian translator is extremely indicative:  "Stanislavski was
60 when he started writing My Life in Art.  At that time the Moscow Arts
Theatre was touring Europe and North America.  Given very little time to
complete the book, which was to be published first in English, Stanislavski
missed many things of which he wanted to tell his reader.  The manuscript
was completed in February 1924.  Thrre months later, in May, it was
published by an American firm and it is this book that English-speaking
readers know.  On his return to Moscow, Stanislavski set out to prepare the
Russian edition and the editing was so heavy that it may safely be said
that he actually rewrote the book.  The original manuscript, he said, was
'too naive'.  Thus it is only the 1925 Russian edition that can really be
considered final."

Indeed, what you say in your email to Queatre readers is extremely
pertinent.  Much emphasis has been wrongly placed on the early phases of
Stanislavski's work ... when undoubtedly the later years are incredibly
neglected or unknown, largely because of the nonrepresentative slant given
to his work by the American translations.  I wish not to be misunderstood. 
Stanislavski did not renounce his early work!  His later research simply
re-illuminated it, sharpened its focus, refined its terminology ... to such
an extent that one could mistakenly think that he had completely changed
his previous views ... but it would be a grave error for one to think so. 
Stanislavski, as any real researcher, was constantly clarifying his own
thoughts.  He went on doing this for an incredibly long time, an incredible
number of years.  If one were to read his later writing after a superficial
reading of his early writings and of his early work (especially if made
from the American translations) one could be led to think that he had
thrown his former work out of the window.  But one would be very far from
the truth.  His latter work simply removes from his former work that which
might have confused others, that which others might have misinterpreted,
that which others might have misread!!  The earlier intuitions, unclear
perhaps at the time when they first manifested themselves, are
consolidated, reinforced, enriched and essentialised to a wonderful degree
by the later work.

Grotowski, whose death last Thursday makes it even more important for us to
read carefully into the work of this century's masters, speaks of this
constant flux of thought on the part of Stanislavski.  He says that
Stanislavski's discoveries of the final stage do not mark a point of
arrival on the part of the Russian master.  He stopped only because he
died, says Grotowski.

It is sad that this is not more generally realised.

Please excuse my writing this in English ... but I would never have managed
to get this well exposed had I tried to put it in French ... and it would
have, moreover, taken me very long hours.  I hope you will understand and
that you will accept my apology.

Sincerely,

John J Schranz
____________________________________________________________

Dr John J Schranz
19 Triq Torri Gauci
San Pawl Tat-Targa, NXR 06, MALTA
Tel & Fax 00356 41 28 31
Lecturer & Co-ordinator Research Programmes, Theatre Studies Programme,
University of Malta

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