“When you play an evil man, look to see where he is good. When you play an old man, look to see where he is young”.
This quote from Konstantin Stanislavski illustrates the transition he made – a transition that all actors must make – in creating complex characters, instead of portraying characters as black-and-white, two-dimensional figures. Every good person comes with a flaw, a devious side. Likewise, every “evil” person has a redeeming quality, something that makes them decent and, well…human. Every old character has a youthful quality, just as an immature person can be mature in some aspects of life. Stanislavski obsessed over finding this “truth”, finding complexity in characters that make them more than just caricatures.
Konstantin Stanislavski (January 1863 – August 1938) was a Russian actor, master teacher and theatre director. His tireless work to unlock blockages that he thought limited his acting performances and those of actors whom he directed, led him to develop new acting strategies and techniques. These strategies, once organized, would go on to shape the way all actors would approach the craft.
For this reason, Stanislavski is widely considered the father of modern acting theory. With the emergence of his techniques, which became known as the “Stanislavski System”, Stanislavski focused on inner motives and subconscious behavior as the basis of performance, rather than external, physical and vocal behaviors. His system, a game-changer in the craft of acting, would form the basis for other popular acting techniques, such as the Meisner Technique, created by Sanford Meisner, and the teachings of legendary acting teachers like Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg.