Marxists Internet Archive: Subjects: Marxism and Art: Literature: Children's Literature

Stanislavsky's Love of the Circus

A. Anastasyev

Written: 1963;
Source: The Soviet Circus: A Collection of Articles, 1967;
Translated: Fainna Glagoleva;
Compiled: Alexander Lipovsky;
Photographs: Y. Savalov and others;
HTML Markup: For in February, 2002.

Stanislavsky's world of art is boundless. The great feat of his life was the creation of the Moscow Art Theatre. and his "Collected Works" were his 30 roles and the more than 50 plays he staged at the Art Theatre. Among them were Chekhov's masterpieces, as well as The Lower Depths, Dr. Stockman, The Burning Heart, Armoured Train 14-69 and Dead Souls. As Gorky said to Stanislavsky, "Part of your work is concealed behind the curtain, a part which I especially value and admire: what a great and sensitive master you are in discovering new talents, what a skilled jeweller in educating and polishing them!" There was also his reform of the opera, the 8 volumes of his works, a priceless collection of experience and ethics, a manifesto of truth in art.

An actor's art is shortlived, as it lies within the boundaries of his lifetime. Stanislavsky refuted this bitter but just concept and not only because the characters he created (as was the case with many another great actor) were handed down in memory from one generation to the next. Stanislavsky discovered the laws of acting, he created a "system" which retained for ever his own vital stage experience and the experience of all that was progressive in the theatre. "Like a prospector, I can pass on to my descendants not my toil, my searching, deprivation, joys and disappointments, but only the precious ore I have mined," Stanislavsky wrote. "In my artistic field this ore was the result of a search that lasted my entire lifetime, it is my so-called 'system,' the method of acting I have come upon which makes it possible for an actor to create the character of his role, to reveal the life of the human spirit in it and to project it naturally on the stage in a beautiful, artistic manner."

One sometimes hears that Stanislavsky's "system" belongs solely to the Art Theatre, where it was born. This is a great delusion. The "system's" great power lies in the fact that its laws, if one is to understand them artistically, comprise the basis of every actor's art, no matter in which play or in which character he appears to the audience. This is true not only of actors in the theatre, but in films, variety shows and the circus as well.

Following is an excerpt from a letter Stanislavsky wrote to the Moscow Music Hall in 1933: "Who now doubts the fact that in your field the actor's work can reach the heights of true art. There is good reason why the famous political clown [Vitaly Lazarenko] drew all the government officials and representatives of the various parties to the circus whenever he appeared. There is reason why the famous Tanti-Bedini is, in my estimation, the only representative of the truly grotesque, one of the most difficult types of art in which only the basic and nothing superfluous is necessary. Naturally, in your field, as in ours, there are the lowly hacks with whom one must fight and who must be mercilessly done away with. But there are many true artists among you whom I greet with all my heart."

There are many such true performers in the Soviet circus. One can only hope that ail performers, no matter what their field, will acquire the truthfulness, the natural and beautiful artistic manner towards which the great master of the stage blazed the way.