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Konstantin Stanislavski
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Konstantin Stanislavski

Konstantin (Constantin) Stanislavski (January 5, 1863 - August 7, 1938) was a Russian theatre and acting innovator.

He was born Konstantin (Constantin) Sergeievich Alexeyev in Moscow to a wealthy family, if not the wealthiest in Russia. He had an early interest in acting and took the stage-name Stanislavski to preserve the reputation of his family.

In 1888 he established the Society of Art and Literature at the Maly Theatre, where he gained experience in aesthetics and stagecraft. In 1898, he assumes the role of principal director of the Moscow Open Theatre, later known as the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT). From there, based on the realist tradition of Aleksandr Pushkin, he developed his ideas of what he called the The System and which would later be adapted by Lee Strasberg in the United States to become method acting - actors would research the situation created by the script according to their character's motivations and their own experiences. Ideally, the actor would make his motivations identical to those of the character in the script. He could then replay these emotions and experiences in the role to achieve a more genuine performance. The 17th century play Tsar Fyodor was the first used to demonstrate his ideas.

He laid the foundations of modern opera and boosted the works of writers such as Maxim Gorki and Anton Chekhov, whose works could be well used by his methodology.

Stanislavski survived both the 1905 Revolution and the 1917 one, apparently Lenin intervened to protect him. In 1918 Stanislavski established the First Studio as a school for young actors and wrote several works: those available in English include the biography My Life in Art, An Actor Prepares, Building a Character, and Creating a Role.