Stanislavski - Psycho-Physical Action (and Sense Memory)

Konstantin Stanislavski - Part 4
The Psycho-Physical Action

A series of physical actions tested in rehearsal and arranged in sequential order would trigger the necessary emotions in an actor’s performance on stage in a scene. 

Emotions are based in the unconscious (or subconscious) and can not otherwise directly come to surface when needed. They have to be brought out through indirect means. 

Hence his search for the conscious means to the unconscious’ led him to create this ‘Method of Physical Actions,’ a physical map plotted out for the actor. (scoring the script)

This ‘conscious’ physical mapping of action (blocking and staging notations in the script that an actor uses in rehearsal) would then arouse and eventually bring out the ‘unconscious’ emotions of the actor in the scene. 


Remembering through all 5 senses
Using actions to find emotional truth on the stage 

Authenticity is the goal. Sense Memory is used by the actor so that the moment on stage can be as "real" for the actor as possible and so then can the audience also experience the moment as "real". 

Real empathy and real sympathy from the audience is then guaranteed to follow which brings a communion in the theater based on humanity and truth. 

That communion of truthful emotion is what defines the modern theater.


EXERCISE 1 - sense memory

One by one actors are given the item to hold and mentally document details of how the item physically feels, smells, tastes, sounds, and looks. 

Then the item is taken away and the actor pantomimes the item for an extended period allowing full concentration and focus.

The coffee mug - 
The flower stem - 
The snow ball - 
The pencil - 

- "What is the hardest thing to keep in tact?"
- "Which was the easier item to hold in tact...why do you think that is?"
- "What gets in the way when we try to hold concentration on the item in our imagination?"

EXERCISE 2 - psycho-physical action

Give the item back and add a scenario

Coffee mug: You prep to start a new job as you take your first sip of coffee this morning.
Flower stem: You hold the stem as your new love leaves from your front steps after a 1st date
Snow ball: You are going to hit a bully with it.
Pencil: You are about to take the test of your life!

"What are you going to physically do with the item now that the scene has been added?" 

WRITE: (briefly) - a short list of givens for the character. Then write the specific actions that the character might do with the item in the scene. Try to keep the actions in a logical order. Do not write emotions.

Students perform their short scenes with the item using action map they wrote out.  

- "What changed when the scenario was added?"
- "What emotions followed the actions?"

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