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258Comparative Drama four centuries, from the Lord Chamberlain's Men and the Admiral's Men under the Privy Council, through Drury Lane and Covent Garden under the court patronage ofCharles II,to the great State companies under die court patronage of the Arts Council, must have something going for it. Asian theaters show us something ofthe world we have lost. It will not be regained in our major theaters , nor in the Southwark Globe, that Heritage Site ofBard Lite. New Sitesfor Shakespeare reads to me like an elegy for a fallen world. John Russell Brown knows his piazzas. His heart is in the back streets. Ralph Berry Stratford-upon-Avon SharonM.Carnicke.StanislavskyinFocus.RussianTheatreArchive Series 17. Amsterdam, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998. Pp. xv + 235. $23.00. In her study ofthe (mis)interpretations ofKonstantin Stanislavsky (18631938 ) in the Soviet Union and the United States, Sharon Carnicke convincingly shows that the transmission of ideas across linguistic and cultural boundaries is fraught with potential dangers. Forvarious political, ideological,and cultural reasons, the two countries developed vasdy different visions of Stanislavsky's theory of acting; Soviet theater emphasized the physical aspects of the great director's System, while in the United States its psychological techniques were considered the key to successful acting. In the confusion there also emerged important cultural myths, such as the equating, in the United States, of Stanislavsky's System and the Method, which should be rightfully attributed to Lee Strasberg. Carnicke focuses on three major areas to show how this situation came about: Stanislavsky's tours ofthe United States; those in the United States who translated, transmitted, and carried on his legacy; and the repressive context of Stalinist Soviet Russia. After this eye-opening historical overview, she re-examines Stanislavsky's writings in the original Russian and demonstrates that, due to censorship, publishers' demands, poor translations, and the fact that Stanislavsky's theories were constantly growing and changing, both cultures have not yet been exposed to the full range of his ideas, which is so large and complex that Carnicke implicitly asks whether one can speak of a single Stanislavsky "System." The cultural dilemma in which Stanislavsky and his followers found themselves is apparent in Carnicke's description ofStanislavsky's tours ofthe United States with the Moscow Art Theatre in 1923 and 1924. Stanislavsky met with President Coolidge at the White House but was unable to speak because proto- Reviews259 col demanded that foreign visitors speak through their ambassadors, which the Soviet Union did not have because it officially had not yet been recognized by the United States. Stanislavsky received negative reactions in the press in both the United States (fear of communism) and the Soviet Union (suspicion of capitalist sympathies). Once the group reached the NewYork area, where much of Russia's emigre cultural elite had settled, the feeling surrounding the group changed. Established and future directors and actors praised the Russians' performances for their realism, and almost immediately began the formation of the American interpretation of the System. Carnicke points out many ironies associated with this situation. What American audiences saw was far from the System at its best; the actors were exhausted by the frantic pace ofthe tour (380 performances in twelve months); by 1923 Stanislavsky had moved beyond realism in acting, but for political reasons he was forced to select the most "realistic " ofthe MoscowArt Theatre's works for production in the United States, and regardless he was no more than a figurehead director at this time. Despite these ironies, ideas attributed to Stanislavskywould come to dominate stage and screen acting in the United States. The process was started by Richard Boleslavsky, a Russian emigre who was Stanislavsky's spokesperson. Boleslavsky gave lectures, published articles on Stanislavsky, and later founded the American Laboratory Theatre. He also stated that "it would be impossible to impose any foreign ideal uponAmerican soil" (38), words proven to be prophetic by The Group Theatre and The Actors Studio, which were guided by Stanislavsky's ideas (as they understood them) and also by a "commitment to the American context" (39). This first generation of American Stanislavskian actors was instructed almost exclusively by Russian emigres who, Carnicke argues , could not have been aware...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 258-261
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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