The Studio / About the Chekhov method
"All true artists bear within themselves a deeply rooted and often unconcious desire for transformation."
Michael Chekhov first developped his method in the Moscow artists' theater. What primarily characterises his work is the bringing together of ideas of the Stanislavski system with Rudolf Steiner's ideas about art.
The central question for Chekhov which also guided his methodical research was: how does the artist reach the level of artistic inspiration? Is this a matter of chance or are there ways and possibilities that can consciously lead to it and that can be methodically schooled?
Chekhov found the source in the transformation of thinking. He recognised, as others had already done, that the everyday consciousness was of no help for the craetive process. He described the analytical, intellectual reasoning as a "murder". Help should not be looked for by suppressing the thinking activity but rather by transforming it in an imaginative thinking.
After the mastering of different pre-exercises and the enhancing of his power of concentration, the student can become more awake in his observing and is able to see inner pictures and to transform them. He is then able to perceive the stage character before his very eyes. After some time this character is infused in the phantasy of the actor with a life of its own and begins to converse with him. ("Show me Malvolio how you open the garden gate, how you blow your nose".)
Chekhov's request is not new. It was and is for many artists a matter of fact that an inner seeing marks the beginning of their working process. Thus Goethe, Pirandello, Dickens and many other authors saw their dramatic heroes perform before their eyes and spoke with them before they wrote down what they had "seen and heard". This technic is far removed from psychological interpretations. The actor "sees" what his character is doing and can bring this inner perception to an outer expression.
A new hurdle often appears at this point of the artistic process, which Chekhov describes with Hamlet's words: "O,that this too-too solid flesh would melt", for it is often the body of the actor that is not enough transparent to let the inner vision manifest itself. To overcome this hurdle Chekhov developped his psychophysical exercises. These exercises train the fine correspondances between body and soul and achieve a balance between thinking, feeling and willing.
Chekhov often described his method to his students with
the following words:
Concentration - imagination - incarnation
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