Friday, September 7, 2007

Stanislavsky's elusive word

The book An actor prepares by the great Russian theatre director Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavsky is known to virtually everyone interested in acting, and is perhaps the single most influential manual for actors of the twentieth century.

I have read it carefully and jealously keep a copy close
by on my shelves, not because I plan to become a professional actor (although I would not rule out that I might, at some point in time); rather, I take the sentence " all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" very seriously, and therefore strive to play my roles well (notice that I said roles, as they are plural, being a neophite practitioner of conscious personality shifting).

This wondrous manual has so much to commend it, that I have decided to refrain from saying anything at all about it. Instead, let me spend a few lines on a single elusive word.

A strange expression crops up quite frequently in Stanislavsky's method: perezhivanie. What does perezhivanie mean? In my russian vocabulary it is simply translated as experience. I remember asking my russian friends about it, and being told that perezhivanie is used frequently in common speech in the sense of enduring, living through: Ja perezhivaiou....

As a matter of fact, perezhivanie is a compound: the prefix -pere- stands for again (who has forgotten Gorbachev's battlehorse pere-strojka, i.e. re-construction?), but also through, whereas -zhivanie- is from the verb stem zhit', to live.

Stanislavsky asks the actor to live through the part, to re-live it, mentally, physically and emotionally. This is of course hardest in the extreme (particularly on the emotional side), yet a lofty goal for someone who wishes to bring a role to life.

Do you want to explore new roles? Do you feel like sneaking out of your skin from time to time and be free? Do you think there is more to you than what everyone (included you) knows about yourself?

You do?

Then keep this single magic word in your pocket, and never forget it: perezhivanie.


mansi said...

Dear Polymathicus,

How many languages do you speak/understand?

Polymathicus said...

Not as many and not as thoroughly as I would like.

Anyway, in your comment to my "Monte Cristo" posting you referred to your natural personality shifting talents.

You may want to take a look at "An actor prepares". I am sure your natural skills could benefit from this book.

mansi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mansi said...

I definitely intend to check the book on my next visit to Borders.
Thank you for your suggestion.

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