Stanislavski's three questions
let's clear things up about our characters
When he arrived, theatre was theatrical, melodramatic and fantiastic.
The over the top ‘theatrical’ styles which included directly addressing the audience, gave way to a more naturalistic style. His actors performed as though there were a ‘fourth wall’ separating the actors from the audience.
It was funny challenge: Everyone’s watching you, ACT AS NORMAL AS POSSIBLE. Whereas the olde tymie theatre was more honest - this is all a show check us out - gave way to an attitude of revealing ‘truth’ by pretending really hard that the situation people were in were actually real.
His ‘method’ of acting greatly influenced Stella Adler and Lee Strasbourg. The Strasbourg schools in New York and LA have some notable alumni. The list is far too long put here. Some of my favourites include: Scarlett Johansesn, Jerry Orbach, Sally Field and James Baldwin. Check out the alumi list here.
Central to Stani’s ‘method’ are the three questions. They are:
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What do I want?
I find these even more useful as a therapist, leader and writer than I ever did as a performer. I use these questions to help me understand the people I’m dealing with.
First, who am I?
Who am I to this person? What role are they putting me in? Next, when someone is with me, what is the story they tell themselves to answer the ‘who am I question’? Sometimes I’ll flat out ask a person. Most times though, merely imagining that question and using it as a way to either confirm or refute a hypothesis / guess / fantasy can be super fruitful.
Second, why am I here?
What is life about for me? Again, I try to imagine what the answer to this question might be. And, each time I encounter someone, I’ll ask them - what brings you here. Even if the answer is obvious - I’m here at the hockey rink to play hockey - I’ll ask as sometimes a whole world can unfold from that singular moment.
Finally, what do I want?
This is the doozie.
I ask this of myself all the time. Whether I’m buying groceries, making lunch or just spending a moment in the universe, tapping into desire, I can connect with what moves me or other people forward. MOTIVATION. We can either go towards or away. There are only two directions. This one is about moving forward and easily leads to where the resistance lives - how people arrest and depress their excitement and slow their own progress.
So, who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you want?
Let me know a bit about the character have and the role you play in the comments below. And, in doing so, let us all in on some of your motivations. What moves you?