processes developed by Stanislavski

  • Affective memory: also known as emotional memory where the thoughts of something similar that has happened in the actor’s past informs their approach to characterisation.
  • Beats: the sections of a script that combine psychological gesture, tempo and circles of attention that reflect a particular goal, motivation and state of mind. A new beat is created when one or more of these shift in the script.
  • Circles of attention: identifying the proximity to self a character’s attention is directed. Close meaning within their own immediate space (as in when remembering an important detail). Middle meaning directed towards someone outside a character’s personal space with whom the character is dialoguing. Distant meaning directed across the theatre space or beyond (as in regarding a horizon or spotting an approaching figure in the distance). Changes in circles of attention often reflect changes in thought processes.
  • Given circumstances: the cues and clues found in the dramatic text such as the setting, time, action and situation, what other characters say and do.
  • Magic If: What would I do if I was this character? The imaginative process of sympathising with a character’s values, attitudes and worldviews.
  • Objective: what the character wants or their goal at a particular moment in the script. This may include what the character wants to avoid or escape from.
  • Obstacle: what stops a character from achieving what they want.
  • Psychological gesture: an extended action performed by a character designed to achieve a particular goal or outcome. For example, rummaging through a dusty old attic to find a long lost journal.
  • Super objective: the life goal of a particular character.
  • Tempo: identifying the pace with which a line or an action is completed to reflect attitude, mood or motivation. Often changes in tempo reflect changes in motivation or intention.
  • Through line: the thread of a character that is consistent through the scene or text and links to the character’s objectives.
  • Units of action: represents a change in the objectives of a character communicated through the overall patterns in the ‘beats’ of a scene.

It is important to note these processes changed over the course of Stanislavski’s work with his actors. Many of his processes have been developed and extended by other directors including Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, Michael Chekhov, Richard Boleslavsky and Sanford Meisner.