Stanislavski - Givens and Magic "If"

The Stanislavski System   PART ONE
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                                                            Konstantin Stanislavski

FINDING TRUTH IN THE SCENE and IN THE CHARACTER
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"Given Circumstances" and the "Magic If"
Getting into the scene through what is given to you, and what you as the actor can imagine.

It's all in the Details...
(Everything the playwright gives you in the script. In the details that hide between the descriptions the playwright gives you, and in all of the additional details the actors and director add organically through their discovery of the story and the characters.

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To illustrate his technique in a fundamental way...
Sample Acting Exercises by Konstantin Stanislavski


Exercise 1- Given Circumstances (the Details)
The students will use space in the room to move, and they are to take direction from the instructor and do what is described.

PART 1
Sit, Stand and Walk with justification


(ie. Sit at a window to see why the police car stopped in front of the house next door...to see your lost dog come home...to wait for your long lost love)

(ie. Sit in order to rest...to get up...to get the phone when it rings)


(ie. Stand to be photographed...to receive an award...to get out)

(ie. Stretch in order to see better...to fix a pulled muscle...to run)
(ie. Walk to pass the time...to get to an interview you are late for)
(ie.Walk to annoy people in the apartment below...to see the city...to explore a hidden garden)

DISCUSSION 
-"what is happening in the moment when details are given to you?"
-"what is the best character you imagined that came from a detail just given?"
- "How do you get to the physical action from a detail?"

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Exercise 2 - The Magic "If" (or the "what if")
The students will use space in the room to move, and they are to take direction from the instructor and do what is described.

PART 1
Other verbs to play with...keep justifying your physical actions with the details I am giving you...

The Magic "If" that Stanslavski talks about is the game we all play as small children. Look at the details of the scene that are given and simple add the phrase "What if I were to..." and the physical actions (the things we do) immediately follow.

"What if I were to..."

Pack to go on vacation...to run away from home...to sneak out and get married...to steal grandma's jewelry 
Pack to leave for war...to come home.
Drive to get to the hospital to have a baby...to get to the beach 
Drive to see the sights...to find a former home...a long lost relative
Dig to put in your first garden...to find worms to fish with
Dig to bury a body...to find a buried treasure from a map
Break & Enter to save the prisoner...to get something that is yours 
Cook to feed a loved one who's running late...Cook to poison.
Arrange flowers for a wedding 
Arrange flowers for a funeral.

YOU GET THE IDEA!!!



MORE  - Magic "IF"

Test the inter-relationship of imagination/magic if by adding some given circumstances to aid belief in another series of exercises:


Exercise 3 - The Magic "If" and the building of a scene 

STEP 1


Given: You are alone
Everyone find your own space.

STEP 2

Given: There is your stove in front of you, saucepans and so on.
You are to do some cooking.


STEP 3

Now begin...cook!

A few questions to build the scene:
Givens will be created as we proceed so allow the scene to evolve as new discoveries are found about the moment. Let your imagination stack new details into the scene.
- who are you?
- where are you?
- what are you cooking?
- why are you cooking?

DISCUSSION
-"What happened to you as the questions were answered?"
-"Did you flow into the new givens?...or did you bogged down in the creation of it?"
-"Did your physical posture or stance change?"
-"Did you have a tempo adjustement?"
-"Did you start to attach emotions to the moment?...did the character begin to feel?"

We are like AI in that actors need all of the information they can find to trick an audience into thinking it's real.

Exercise 4 - The Magic "If" and the building of a scene 
STEP 1

Partner up 
Each pair of actors with be in the same kitchen

STEP 2
NEW SCENARIO
Allow new givens to develop and let the imagination as "What if I were to..."

You are an older sister/ brother having to prepare supper for awkward younger siblings. They are fussy; neither eat the same things; Mum, however, has specified they must have a balanced meal...

WRITE QUICKLY AS A TEAM
- who are you?
- where are you?
- what are you cooking?
- why are you cooking?
PUT THE WRITING ASIDE

PERFORM IN YOUR OWN SPACE

DISCUSSION
-"What changed when the other actor joined you in pretending?"
-"Did the new givens continue to be added as easily?"
-What was a strength your partner brought to the scene?"

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STEP 3
NEW SCENARIO - NEW PARTNERS!!!
Allow new givens to develop and let the imagination as "What if I were to..."
You are a busy chef in a popular restaurant (get specific) at half past ten on a Saturday night. Orders are coming from all directions, it is hot, the noise level is terrific...

WRITE QUICKLY AS A TEAM
- who are you?
- where are you?
- what are you cooking?
- why are you cooking?
PUT THE WRITING ASIDE

PERFORM IN YOUR OWN SPACE

DISCUSSION
-"What changed when the other actor joined you in pretending?"
-"Did the new givens continue to be added as easily?"
-What was a strength your partner brought to the scene?"

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STEP 3
NEW SCENARIO - - NEW PARTNERS!!!
Allow new givens to develop and let the imagination as "What if I were to..."
You are preparing a supper for a boy/ girl friend, wanting very much to impress with your capability; your parents are out for the evening, your special visitor is due to arrive in half an hour...
WRITE QUICKLY AS A TEAM
- who are you?
- where are you?
- what are you cooking?
- why are you cooking?
PUT THE WRITING ASIDE

PERFORM IN YOUR OWN SPACE

DISCUSSION
-"What changed when the other actor joined you in pretending?"
-"What is the hardest part of the magic if with a partner?"

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PART FOUR - REVIEW

Stanislavski's "Given Circumstances" and the Magic "If" 
After these exercises we should have a better understanding of:

A. How important details are in aiding an audiences level of belief-

The fuller the list circumstances ("givens"), the easier it is to find an honest and truthfulness in each moment or scene.


B. How different circumstances will change the basic actions the actor chooses in that moment.

We must listen even more when we are in partnerships on stage or in class.

C. How our imaginations play a huge role in the development of the character and the scene in a play, but only under the strong hand of the playwright. 


Tap into your inner child and play within the boundaries of each world you inhabit on stage or in class.






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