So much mystery and veneration surrounds the writings of the
great Russian teacher and director Stanislavski that perhaps the
greatest surprise awaiting a first-time reader of An Actor
Prepares is how conversational, commonsensical, and even at times
funny this legendary book is. After many productions with the
Moscow Arts Company, Stanislavski sought a way to introduce his
new style of acting to the world outside of his rehearsal hall.
The resulting book is a "mock diary" of an actor describing a
series of exercises and rehearsals in which he participates. He
details his own emotional and intellectual reactions to each
effort, and how his superficial tricks and mannerisms begin to
disappear as he increasingly gives over his conscious ego to a
faith in the creative power of his subconscious. Rarely has any
writer on the theater achieved the sort of lucid and inspired
analysis of the acting process as Stanislavski does here, and his
introduction of such now-standard concepts as "the unbroken
line," "the magic if," and the idea of emotional memory has laid
the groundwork for much of the great acting of the 20th century.
While much excess and nonsense was to follow in the steps of
Stanislavski's writings, his original texts remain invaluable,
and surprisingly accessible, to any actor or student of drama.