By David Richard Jones
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Additional info for Great Directors at Work: Stanislavsky, Brecht, Kazan, Brook
KONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKY 19 ters, not one of them faceless or undefined, each with at least one moment of passion when those in the audience and on stage are caught up by that character's problem or condition. Today we realize that these features of The Seagull explain much of Chekhov's continuing popularity within the theatre: actors love to act the parts, and they love the ensemble nature of the work. But in 1898, it was the wrong play for Stanislavsky, and it was a revolutionary dramatic structure by any standards then prevailing in Europe.
A third turn was interrupted. This was theatricalizing the play's beat structure. But a glance at Chekhov's play reveals that Stanislavsky was in fact rephrasing the material, giving it a shape different from the author's. Chekhov's characters enter talking, then sit and stay seated until their exit. When they sit, it is in the middle of the first conversational topic, the first beat. Stanislavsky instead organized the characters' movements to emphasize the topic divisions. By removing the couple from the stage a second time, he avoided a doublefocus blur when Konstantin and Sorin entered.
A third kind of truth is more general, less technical. The "spiritual meaning of life" is sometimes an important insight into life, sometimes the kind that can be peddled door 38 KONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKY to door. More frequently, it is the realization that life is spiritual, that we are spiritual, and that reality has a spiritual dimension. A symbolist believing this has a wide open field. A realist faces the task of evoking the spiritual from the material. "25 Such statements served him well, as a warning against excesses of naturalism and formalism, as a buoy in the shifting waters of Soviet art policy, and as a common language with such colleagues as Gordon Craig, Isadora Duncan, and Eleanora Duse.