Jonathan W. Marshall
West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, Perth
On Not Leaving the Stanislavskian Stage: A Descriptive Survey Of Opinions Regarding the Stanislavskian Heritage in Australasia
On 8-10 April 2021, WAAPA will host (in association with The S Word) the annual S-Word symposium (https://www.facebook.com/The-S-Word-2021-Stanislavski-and-Translation-108533854068989/). I have therefore conducted a survey the opinions of Australasian pedagogues and artists regarding Stanislavski’s approach today. I was particularly interested in stories, opinions, tales; about what we might want to remember with regards to, for example, the epic battles between followers of Lukacs’ model of social realism versus local avant-gardists, between Stanislavskian Naturalists versus the Australian New Wave, all of which must be set against the vast array of alternative acting approaches which face artists today. I sought from my subjects thick description and illuminating anecdote, rather than objectively mapping teaching in the region (see Ian Maxwell, Peta Tait, Melanie Beddie and others for analyses which include such mapping). In the today’s world of not just the postmodern but the postdramatic, many of us have yet to leave Stanislavski behind and (albeit often grudgingly) still place him close to the heart of any definition of acting. Like Vladimir and Estragon, whilst many of us planned to take our leave of Stanislavski’s stage, we have yet to do so.
The responses I received to my inquiries were generous, informative, and often funny. I heard about classes in which adults rolled on the ground pretending to be oranges (surely all of us in theatre once wanted to act a tree?), about visits to Russia where “What stayed with me was … the prick of doubt that what I had been taught at … our national drama school was … compromised by a Cold War sleight-of-hand.” I heard of teachers who insisted Stanislavski’s “objectives” apply to performance art as well as drama, and that the influence of German theatre and Ostermeir’s version of realism is causing a revival of in (post-)Stanislavskian Naturalism. In this presentation I will offer some initial propositions as to what might be gleaned from this, and share some historical anecdotes and personal observations.
Dr Jonathan W. Marshall is an interdisciplinary scholar with a background in history. Marshall’s 2016 monograph “Performing Neurology: The Dramaturgy of Dr Jean-Martin Charcot” examines the theatrical qualities and associations of the sometime visitor to Russia and contemporary of Stanislavski, the French neurologist Charcot (who worked with Ribot and others on reflex, emotions, etc). Marshall has written extensively on butoh dance, nervous performance, photomedia, landscape performance, and other topics. Marshall is based at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University, Perth. See https://edithcowan.academia.edu/JonathanWMarshall