The Chekhov acting technique is based on imagination and concentration as engines of creative individuality to characterize the role. Dramatic art is an artistic manifestation that requires a series of scenic, vocal, body, and performance techniques, as well as scenographic, lighting, and other technical methods, with which the dramatic piece will be governed. This technique is considered a “toolbox,” where you can use any of them to achieve a more vivid, inspired, and present moment performance.
Real inspired acting is never DOING, it is always HAPPENINGMichael Chekhov
What is the Chekhov acting technique?
The Chekhov acting technique requires training on the image, which attends to a series of points: concentration, irradiation, imagination, qualities of actions, atmosphere, objective improvisation. All this marked by the feeling of ease, feeling of form, feeling of beauty, feeling of totality, which endows the actor with the liberation of harmful tensions.
Michael Chekhov’s concept of psychological gesture consists of the relationship of physical gestures with a mental state. Using phrases of everyday use to refer to the condition of a person would be, for example, “come up” or “come down,” “with the weight of the world on the shoulders,” etc. They report moods and feelings through physicality.
In other words, it is reaching the feeling through the sensations produced by physicality. Some examples of psychological gesture training would be push-pull, open-close, hug-penetrate, back-tear, crush-lift.
Despite creating an excellent method, Chekhov advocated that each actor should have their own technique and that whatever it was, and after practicing it, it should be forgotten: “know-how” and then “know how to be.”
The Chekhov acting technique allows the interpreter a safe space for training and repetition in the functions. The actor will no longer need to resort to moments of his private life, but creative energies. This will allow him to create from an emotional and physical space innocuous to himself, just like a child who enters and leaves a game that is enjoying. The actor does not take anything of the character to his house or his daily basis.
How did the Chekhov acting technique originate?
Michael Alechandrovich Chekhov was one of the most significant theater personalities in the 20th century. He worked in Russia, Europe, and the United States, and during his extensive life journey established a relationship with almost all of his contemporaries who were at the forefront of new trends in the world of theater. However, his work went mostly unnoticed for many years.
Chekhov began his professional career at the Moscow Art Theater in 1912. At the time, this was the workplace of Stanislavsky, Nemirovich Dachenko, Vachtangov, and Meyerhold, all leading reformers of the Russian theater. Stanislavsky, in particular, was experimenting with new working methods for the actors, and the exceptional talent of Chekhov was immediately prominent in this circle.
In this environment, new trails opened, new forms of expression and imagination. All these playwrights with Michael Chekhov at the head were looking for objective principles that would take the actor, beyond his personal emotion, to the imaginative principles with which to achieve an “inspired performance”.
Chekhov rejected naturalism. From an early age, during his time at the First Moscow Theater Studio, he elaborated his theory, becoming one of the most influential figures in the Studio, for his virtuosity in acting and transformation.
In 1942 he finished his book “On the technique of acting.” Later a shortened version of it was published under the title “To the actor.”
The Method is a version of the Stanislavski technique popularized in New York by the Group Theater, a collective theater formed in 1931. It consists of a set of techniques developed for actors and actresses to create in themselves the thoughts and feelings of characters they play.
He was nominated for an Oscar for director Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Remember.” He would die in Hollywood in 1955. His influence in the United States was widespread. His methodology is currently widely recognized and in use by many acting schools, and even links to current theatrical studies of neuroscience.
His book “On the technique of acting” is one of the most influential books on interpretation and must-read for anyone who has a particular interest in the subject. In their interviews for “Inside the Actors Studio,” Johnny Depp and Anthony Hopkins mention that Chekhov’s book has been a significant influence on their careers.
Why is it necessary to know the Chekhov acting technique?
Throughout the history of western theater, the way actors interpreted has varied as the place of the performance and the type of plays, as well as the variety of technical needs, have evolved.
However, we can find that communication is a fundamental part of the essence of this event. Therefore the actor’s interpretation is subject to the fleeting nature of the theater and the fact that the exchange of information has to work.
It is known that the theater is produced because one does and one watches. Hence the importance that the actor has to be capable of communicating the idea of ‘the play’s author or director. This way, the message reaches the viewers, and they can react to what is received, either through empathy or reflection.
For this reason, it could be said that one of the actor’s main characteristics is being credible, that he has plausibility in what he does (although it is an unnatural style), because only in this way will such a movement occur in the audience.
The needs of the actor on stage to carry out his task effectively are high, and therefore it must also be supported by a vocal and body technique. Training your physical tools seems essential, as it is in other disciplines such as dance.
However, the technique always hides the danger of coldness, of lack of sensitivity. Thus, it is stated that the method must not be seen and must serve as a support so that the emotions can flow freely above it.
the chekhov acting technique
Michael Chekhov’s system is to stimulate creative imagination rather than emotional memory. According to him, everything has to be imagined, including the atmospheres of the work. Chekhov’s interpretation system is based on the creation of interior images and physical activity to generate emotions in the actor.
Through the imagination, the actor can create new bodies with different imaginary centers. This will lead him to develop characters from the verisimilitude since they allow him to experience life on the scene, from the famous “as if …” what was happening in it was true, but without having to resort to the real experiences of the actor.
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