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Actor Training ~ Breaking The Playwright’s Seal

wax-seal-letter copyIt is the responsibility of the Director (teacher) to assist the Actor in transcending the words (text), written by the playwright, into the language of the stage.  The language of the stage is ACTION.

In the many years of working with and directing actors I have arrived at a systematic method that assists actors to transcend the dialogue (text) into the language of the stage.  The language of the stage is not ‘words,’ but ACTION.  For those of you familiar with CONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI, you will know that in the early days of his directing actors, he would sit around a table for weeks/months on end and simply allow the actors to ‘read’ the play over and over.  Slowly, over this period, he along with the actors would ‘analyze’ the play making notes along the way.  These notes would eventually become the blueprint for the play.  Concepts of the play’s ‘meaning,’ ‘structure,’ ’emotional qualities’ and ‘form’ would be arrived at through this analyses at which point, after many weeks, the actors would finally get up from their seats and onto a stage to execute these concepts.  The point being, that actors were not permitted to get up on stage until a thorough ‘analyses’ had been undertaken. Stanislavski later (1910) abandoned this approach in favor of his “Method Of Physical Actions,” that entailed a much more active analyses as a way to rehearse.
“The method of physical actions is the result of my whole life’s work.”~ Constantin Stanislavski

JERZY GROTOWSKI (1933-1999) was a Polish innovative theatre director.  Some say that Grotowski not only continued Stanislavski’s work, but completed his (Stanislavski’s) work on the “Method Of Physical Actions.”  Grotowski went further: “The activity of rehearsals must now demand physical application of an order that leaves no part of the mind free (to ‘think’). This is not an intellectual process.  He believed that ‘knowledge’ actually got in the way of ‘being.’  “To know and to be, far from being equivalent, are actually mutually exclusive. Thoughts… never fully encompass him who has made it for in thought one is from the start divided into thinking and acting.  I am myself when I do not think about myself.  The actor accepts himself because he forgets about himself.  The solution has to come through the BODY.  In order that a man may forget about himself, he must be whole, within something – In what he is DOING.” ~ Jerzy Grotowski

Grotowski believes that the purpose of a theatrical role is to provide a discipline, a method by which the actor can free him/herself, by being willing to be ‘penetrated by the role’ (character) and thus reveal a part of the actor’s Self.  It is in this way that an actor brings a character to LIFE.  When an actor has the courage to be penetrated by the role in this way, he reveals a part of himself.  In so doing, he invites the audience to do the same and a true theatrical event is experienced by all present.

BREAKING THE PLAYWRIGHT’S SEAL — From the Page to the Stage
I believe that intellectual analyses alone is not sufficient to ‘break the playwright’s seal.’
“The Body rather than the mind is autonomously responsible for the authentic portrayal of the character.
When the gap between the Self and the Role is bridged physically rather than intellectually, the emotions seem to follow of their own accord.”
~ Stanislavski

wax-seal-letter copyThe BODY has it’s part to play in breaking the playwright’s seal.
Bodily IMPULSES must precede understanding.  Too much ‘thinking’ and ‘analyzing’ actually creates an obstacle to impulse.  Sometimes we just need to jump into the unknown and trust that we may discover something that pure reasoned analyzes would not have discovered.  And it’s important for the actor and director to discover the author’s intention, to discover a scene, to discover a character, to discover a moment.  It’s the discovery element that ignites inspiration and passion.  You could bring Shakespeare back from the grave and let him explain to you, for hours on end, the plot and meaning of his play Macbeth, and as informative, interesting and illuminating  as that may be, it will not necessarily assist the actor to do his work.  The actor is not simply there to speak the lines of the text clearly and coherently.
She/he is there to make a gigantic leap from the literary form to the theatrical form.  This requires a leap of faith, a process that engages the actor’s whole Physical, Emotional and Spiritual BEING!


Page                              …a LEAP OF FAITH…            Stage
The actor’s work, his job, what he gets paid for, is to make the intentions of the playwright come ALIVE in the form of ACTIONS expressed through BEHAVIOR .

Peter Sardi (February 2016)

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‘Breaking The Playwright’s Seal’



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