“On The Technique Of Acting” Quotes

I recently read “On The Technique Of Acting: The First Complete Edition of Chekhov’s classic To the Actor” by Michael Chekhov. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. As always, if you like the quotes, please buy the book here.
Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 6.07.16 PM“When criticized that his notion of Kobe was not what the playwright intended, Chekhov replied that he went beyond the playwright and the play to find Kobe’s true character.” (xii)
“The idea that an actor can “go beyond the playwright or the play” is the first key to understanding the Chekhov Technique and how it differed from Stanislavsky’s early teachings.” (xii)
“Chekhov’s performance was based not on recapturing the experience but on a feverish anticipation of the event.” (xiii)
“Chekhov’s Technique dealt primarily with images, especially visceral ones, that short-circuited complicated and secondary mental processes. Instead of telling the actor “to relax,” Chekhov asked him “to walk [or sit or stand] with a Feeling of Ease.”” (xvii)
“We soon find that we have only to consciously illuminate two or three light bulbs before a chain reaction begins and several more light up without our ever having to give them special attention. When a sufficient number of these light bulbs are shining brightly, we find that inspiration strikes with much greater frequency than before.” (xxxvii)
“This longing for knowledge makes the real artist brave. He never adheres to the first image that appears to him, because he knows that this is not necessarily the richest and more correct. He sacrifices one images for another more intense and expressive, and he does this repeatedly until new and unknown visions strike him with their revealing spell.” (6)
“When one hears an artist say, “I have built my art upon my convictions.” Would it not be better for an artist to say that he has built his convictions upon his art? But this is only true of the artist who is really gifted. Haven’t we noticed that the less talented the person is, the earlier he forms his “convictions” and the longer he tenaciously clings to them?” (6)
“The real beauty of our art, if based on the activity of the Creative Individuality, is constant improvisation.” (19)
“People often want to experience something other than that which they need to experience.” (21)
“The audience became for Vakhtangov the transmitter of public opinion. He listened to it and kept pace with his time, but was never subservient to it.” (22)
“Do the Psychological Gesture and the acting alternately, until it becomes evident to you that behind each internal state or movement in acting is hidden a simple and expressive Psychological Gesture that is the essence of the acting.” (65)
“The nonactor reads the play absolutely objectively. The events, happenings, and characters in the play do not stir his own inner life. He understands the plot and follows it as an observer, and outsider. The actor reads the play subjectively. He reads through the play and by doing so he inevitably enjoys his own reaction to the happenings of the play, his own Will, Feelings, and Images. The play and the plot are only a pretext for him to display, to experience the richness of his own talent, his own desire to act. The nonactor reads the liens while the actor reads between the lines, sees beyond the characters and events of the play.” (71)
“Choose two simple contrasting psychological moments. For instance, one of them can be the word “yes,” pronounced with wrath and power. The other can be the word “no,” spoken softly and full of pleading. Pronounce this “yes,” and then continue to act without any previously thought-out theme, knowing only that your final aim will be the pleading “no.” Allow your soul to make a free and unbroken Transition from one pole to the other.” (73)
“All the lines, all the situations in the play are silent for the actor until he finds himself behind them, not as a reader with good artistic taste, but as a n actor whose responsible task is to translate the author’s language into the actor’s.” (77)
“As soon as the actor becomes aware that the Psychological Gesture is an incessant movement and never a static position, he will realize that its activity is inclined to grow and its Qualities to become stronger and more expressive.” (81)
“Each character on the stage has one main desire, and one characteristic manner of fulfilling this desire. Whatever variations the character may show during the play in pursuing his main desire, he nevertheless always remains the same character. We know that the desire of the character is his Will (“what”), and his manner of fulfilling it is its Quality (“how”). Since the Psychological Gesture is composted of the Will, permeated with the Qualities, it can easily embrace and express the complete psychology of the character.” (90)
“The actor should never worry about his talent, but rather about his lack of technique, his lack of training, and his lack of understanding of the creative process. The talent will flourish immediately of itself as soon as the actor chisels away all the extraneous matter that hides his abilities – even from himself.” (155)
“Chekhov would then being to ask questions; the first was always “Is this predominantly a ‘Thinking’ character, a “feeling’ character, or a ‘Will’ character?'” (160)
“When acting, it is quite valuable to know whether you are working with a character who has strong Will forces and relatively little intellectual power or one who has a strong Feeling life but little ability to take hold of his Will forces.” (160)
“Chekhov would further inquire, “What kind of Thinking does your character have?” Thinking can be cold and hard, like a little black rubber ball, or quick and brilliant, traveling in flashes. It can be fuzzy, light, slow and ponderous, sharp, jagged, penetrating – the types and qualities of Thinking are almost unlimited.” (161)
“The same holds true for Feelings. “What kind of Feeling does your character possess?” The character can have a Feeling life that is intense and passionate, lukewarm and lugubrious, or basically bitter like a lemon. The character can have predominantly heavy Feelings that drag it down, or light sun-filled Feelings that easily radiate to all other characters. The variety is endless.” (161)
“Mischa was also very insistent about our knowing at every moment what our characters wanted. He often said, “Art is not like life. Art cannot be like life, because in life most people do not know what they want. But the actor must always know what the character wants. The character must always have clear-cut Objectives!”” (161)
He said, “For the actor, it is not enough ti simply have an Objective – nor even to feel a tepid desire for something. You must visualize the Objective as constantly being fulfilled. For example, if your Objective is ‘I want to escape from this room,’ then you must see yourself escaping, perhaps in many different ways – through the door, through the window, etc. It is the vision of the Objective being fulfilled that creates the impulse for a strong desire. This is what will bring your role to life.”” (162)
“Chekhov consistently encouraged me to discover the differences between the character’s personality and my own. “it is the differences which the actor must portray, that is what makes the performance artistic and interesting,” he said. “The similarities will be there by themselves!”” (162)
“Don’t try to mentally justify it. Just do it.” (163)
Read the script silently as many times as possible
Describe the plot of the script to a friend
“Baptize” the emotional sections
Make a list of your character’s physical activities
Make friends with the set
Make friends with the camera
Make friends with the audience
“Read the script silently as many times as possible.
Resist the temptation to say your lines aloud for as long as you can. Do not try to analyze or even consciously think about the script or the part. This allows your creative unconscious the greatest possible freedom in bringing forth a truly original interpretation of the role.” (167)
“Baptize” the emotional sections.
This means to find successive sections in your script and name each one according ot its principal emotion, feeling, or sensations, so that from the emotional point of view each section will differ form the next ones.” (167)
Make a list of your character’s physical activities.
Include those that are given in the script and those that you may wish to invent for this part.” (168)
“Chekhov believed that it was important for actors to be aware of how much they really need and love their audiences. He said that when actors are not conscious of this love, or are ashamed of it, they are in danger of becoming jaded and patronizing toward the audience.” (170)
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