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Comparison of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski

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Comparison of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski

Introduction

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Thesis Statement

            The constructivist’s idea of theatre as a changeable human construct has been presented by B. Brecht, V. Meyerhold and C. Stanislavski in their own different perspectives. In the Meyerhold’s theatrical style, he incorporated the audiences’ participation in order to reveal the dynamic nature of entertainment associated to the reality experienced by the viewers. Meanwhile, Brecht utilized a naturally established theatre to form his social reality symbolizing the changeable nature of human construct.

Lastly, Stanislavski’s theatrical styles following symbolism, constructivism and improvisation had generated his own dynamic styles of presenting human constructs targeting the naturalist precepts of performance.

            Theatrical ideas utilized by the three principal proponents, B. Brecht, V. Meyerhold and C. Stanislavski, had significantly supported the idea of “theatre as a changeable human construct” influenced by social reality constructed under one’s own self-improvised and natural presentations of art. As supported by Eddershaw (1996), the ideas of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski occupied a common ground I theatrical practice wherein an actor’s inner feelings are trained to mediate outwardly enabling natural expressions of their character portrayals[1].

Despite the obvious similarities in the theatrical concepts employed by the three directors, each of them was still able to maintain their own original constructivist entertainment styles.

Discussion

            Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski shared almost common principles and ideas that contributed dramatically in the field of performing arts during the revolutionary periods of theatre. Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski, together with other directors (Artaus, Grotowski and Copeau), had started the theatrical transition believing in the dynamic nature of theatre as a changeable human construct[2]. In the new theatrical style conceived by the three directors, the artist did not bother presenting his/her own perspective of the external world; rather, the artist should present it according to the images of the world beyond him/her creating an illusion of self-contained presentation and social reality portrayal[3].

Bertolt Brecht

            The famous German dramatist and director – Bertolt Brecht – had utilized the idea of theatre presentation as an instrument of directing social change[4]. As for Brecht, the idea of theatrical presentation involved the anathema of human construct, which was deemed modifiable through series of reality exposure guided by chain of varying events. The idea of Brecht’s theatre was to reveal the naturalistic scenes in order to create a natural atmosphere that shall demonstrate reality and the changes necessary. Brecht’s theatre had applied the distillation of objective audience’s expectation on the preplanned concepts of his works. Similar to the value placed in a human construct, Brecht applied the same principle in his theatrical performances. As for Brecht, anticipation and predetermination of story sequence were the reason why theater cannot instill a purposive social change among its audience[5]. Brecht thought of the idea of utilizing the concept of dialectical theater presentation employing the science of human relationships over the subject pre-determinism[6].

In order to setup the natural reality in his theatrical entertainment, Brecht would break the normative perspective of monotonous events and series of pre-planned sequences of action in an effort of encouraging his audiences to refrain from accepting the concept of dictated faith and predetermined paths[7]. In order for Brecht to destroy the illusion of predetermined theatrical presentation, he would apply various strategies, such as audience exhortations and break up commercials with often commentaries on the action. In addition, Brecht notably limited the influences of unrealistic elements, such as musical accompaniment and support, in order to induce the audiences’ reaction towards the lyrics without the influence of such distorting sounds[8]. In one of his famous stage plays, The Flight over the Ocean (1929), he would place an unexpected large sign behind the performers urging spectators to sing along with the actors in order to distort the possibly building assumption among the audiences. Brecht adapted the Marxist’s Gesamtkunstwerk in order to maintain the essence of independent art.

In Brecht’s theatre, he commonly broke the rules of obvious and sequential acts, and applied series of unexpected compositions. When dealing with his actors, he emphasized the value of creating one’s unique role far from one’s commonly adapted portrayals[9]. Particular moral or political messages carried by Brecht’s trained actors were relayed to the audience in an effort of preventing spoon-fed acts and creating a sense of audience participation. Brecht focused on constructing new precepts by individualizing the roles of his actors, creating a naturalistic and reality based presentation and applying theatrical distortions against the building audience assumption in order to create a social change brought theatre dynamism.

Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold

            The German born Russian theatrical director and producer, Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold, established his theatrical style following mainly the concept of theatrical symbolism, constructivism and artistic improvisations, while despising the theatrical presentation of social realism[10].  Meyerhold utilized the style of Stanislavski to start his experimental work on theatrical improvisation, transcending materialism and using symbolism to create the deeper side of his theatrical productions[11]. In order to apply these concepts, Meyerhold implemented his stylized theatre that liberated the performers from all predetermined sceneries creating a three-dimensional space for the incorporation of natural and creative powers of the performers.

            Meyerhold emphasized the value of movement and rhythmic diction among his performers and theatrical productions[12]. Other elements of the theatre, such as props, scenic backgrounds, musical accompaniments, were applied minimally in order to emphasize the realistic essence of the performance. In a stylized theatre, the pattern of assimilation starts from the author directing it towards the director, and after assimilating the creations of the two proponents, the actor freely reveals the union of the three ideas towards the spectator (a.k.a. Theatre of the Straight Line)[13]. Meyerhold had a very different approach in handling his performers. He incorporated the physical trainings from gymnastics and commedia dell’arte improvisations[14]. In the concept of stylized theatre, the director provides direction to the actor rather than controlling the movement and style of the performer[15]. The performers would normally rely on their physical plasticity and emotional expression other than props and scenic elements of the performance. In order to use theatre as an instrument of change, he utilized the symbolism and creative improvisation of his performers emphasizing possible change against the idea of predetermination[16]. Meyerhold believed in the natural creativity and role assimilating talents of his performers, and with this, he planned to distort the speculating audiences by diverting different possible alternatives of the scenery[17].

Constantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski

            The Russian actor and director, Constantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski, established five separate qualities concerning the proper function of theatre, namely (a) to be a moral instrument, (b) to civilize, (c) to increase sensitivity, (d) to heighten perception and (e) to uplift the spirit[18]. Stanislavski became the significant symbol of theatrical realism among Russian theatres following his productions with Chekhov and Gorki, such as The Sea Gull (1895) and The Cherry Orchard (1904). Throughout the years of Stanislavski’s experience in theatrical acting, he was able to technically master wide range of roles, while identifying some major points that need to be changed. In his years as a director, Theatrical directions of Stanislavski comprised a liberalistic precept wherein performers were encouraged to perform by adapting to the expressions and emotions of human relationships, and not only on the technicalities of the roles being portrayed.

“The greatness of Stanislavski lies as much in his own flexibility as in his adherence to the cardinal principle of inner truth on the stage[19]”

Despite the perfect mood, lightings, technicalities in the act of the performers and the intelligence of the scripts, Stanislavski still did not achieve the aim of directing the message of the theatre to the audience; hence, he improvised his system of direction. The theatrical style of Stanislavski was relatively known as the Experimental theatre or western theatre due to its dramatic impact on the western theatrical culture.

Stanislavski believed that the only way to get through the speculative audience was to create a more humanistic approach rather than technical performances. He proposed the idea of utilizing emotions and common humanly behaviors encountered throughout our everyday lives[20]. Guided by the ideology of constructivism and improvisation based on expressional realism, Stanislavski developed his system of training and rehearsing performers at the Moscow Arts Theater wherein the main focus was performing through inner emotional experience rather than the technical expertise of portraying stage roles[21]. According to the concept of Stanislavski System, the performers must be trained to create the imagery of their characters or portrayals by assimilating human expressions, emotions and sensation by natural means, embodying it to the stage, and consequently, attaining the naturally-derived artistic form directed to appeal towards the speculative audience.

Comparing the Ideas on “Theatre as a Changeable Human Construct”

The three proponents had indeed contributed in the field of revolutionary theater in relation to its purpose of changing society channeled through its dynamic and constructive nature. B. Brecht, V. Meyerhold and C. Stanislavski had utilized theater far more than an entertaining tool but most importantly as a means of delivering social realty, and implicating the possibility of construct modification towards the speculating audiences. During the time of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski, theater had become an instrument for showing a distinct repetition of selfsame performances every night without establishing a representational space populated by actors portraying different characters[22]. Starting with Stanislavski as an actor and director, he was able to administer appropriate lightings, music and technicalities of the act; however, the performance still ended up with expected outcomes. In order to revoke such conflict, he applied the principle of realism in the context of theatrical performance aiming to train his performers by acting more than the technicalities and elements of the theatre; rather, he emphasized the value of assimilating humanly expressions and emotions in order to form a naturally-derived art. In this concept, he developed his experimental theatre/ western theatre utilizing the expressions and emotions derived from the reality of everyday human living[23]. Furthering the concept of realism and constructivism applied by Stanislavski, Meyerhold enriched the idea by applying locomotion and rhythm to the performers’ humanistic acts. Meyerhold proposed his stylized theater utilizing a performer-audience line of delivery in an effort of breaking the forming speculation in the process of performance. Most classically needed elements of the theatre, such as music, lightings, props, etc, had been applied minimally in order to emphasize the emotions, movements, and improvisations of the performers. Meyerhold applied the concept of direction initiated by Stanislavski wherein he encouraged his performers to adapt the role by internalizing the subject and not merely studying the science of their action[24]. The concept of Biomechanics, founded by Meyerhold, emphasized the use of creativity, freedom of improvisation and natural act in order to break into the speculations of the audiences. Unlike Brecht’s dialectic materialism, Meyerhold’s stylized theater aimed at compelling the use spectators’ imagination by simply creating the different possibilities s single scenery can produce[25]. Lastly, Brecht utilized the concepts of Meyerhold in an effort of breaking the expectations of the audience through his epic theatre. Brecht’s style in demonstrating his artistic theater precepts involves the Marxism and dialectical materialism. Under this view, he proposed the application of different stage exhortations and comical entries in order to create a diversion for the speculative audience. The main aim of Brecht’s theatre was to create a naturally established stage atmosphere with expressional acts and individualized roles creating different branches of possible alternatives. Brecht applied historical circumstances as product of reality experiences than those psychologically perceivable roles and activities portrayed by performers.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski had indeed created their parallel versions of revolutionary theatrical concepts. Brecht’s epic theatre applied dialectic materialism via a series of breaks and exhortations in order to divert the expectations of the audience to other possible sequences. Meanwhile, Meyerhold utilized his performers in order to break the speculations of the audience. He also utilized different ideas, such as biomechanics, artistic improvisations and expression to train his performers. Lastly, Stanislavski founded the central theme of revolutionary theatre with his Stanislavski System emphasizing the idea of natural and human-based performances, which directed change by breaking the speculations of the audiences.

Bibliography

Benedetti, J. and Crowley, A. L.,Stanislavski and the Actor: The Method of Physical Action. London, New York: Routledge. 1998 2

Drain, R. Twentieth-century Theatre: A Sourcebook. London, New York: Routledge. 1995 243

Eddershaw, M. Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances. New York: Taylor & Francis. 1996 23

Hart, T.A. and Guthrie, S. R. Faithful Performances: Enacting Christian Tradition. London, New York: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2007 62

Kuritz, P. The Making of Theatre History. New York, U.S.A: Paul Kuritz Press. 1988 383

Mackey, S. and Cooper, S. Drama and Theatre Studies: for use with all Drama & Theatre Studies A & AS specifications. London, New York: Nelson Thornes Press. 2000 233

Mitter, S. and Shevtsova, M. Fifty Key Theatre Directors. New York and London: Routledge. 2005 52

Pitches, J. Vsevolod Meyerhold. London, New York: Routledge. 2003 52

Puchner, M. Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-gardes, New York, U.S.A: Princeton University Press. 2006 231

Redmond, J. Drama, Dance, and Music. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press. 1981 239

Roach, J. R. The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, Michigan, U.S.A: University of Michigan Press, 1993 197

Robertson, J., Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan. California, U.S.A: University of California Press. 1998 59

Roose-Evans, J. Experimental Theatre: From Stanislavski to Peter Brook. London, New York: Routledge. 1989 6

Schumacher, C. Naturalism and Symbolism in European Theatre, 1850-1918. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. 1996 236

Turner, J. Eugenio Barba. London, New York: Routledge. 2004 46

Wiles, D. A Short History of Western Performance Space. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press. 2003 252

[1] Margaret Eddershaw, Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances (New York: Taylor & Francis) 1996 23
[2] Jane Turner, Eugenio Barba (London, New York: Routledge) 2004 46
[3] Joseph R. Roach, The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Michigan, U.S.A: University of Michigan Press) 1993 197
[4] Shomit Mitter and Maria Shevtsova, Fifty Key Theatre Directors (New York and London: Routledge) 2005 52
[5] Martin Puchner, Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-gardes (New York, U.S.A: Princeton University Press) 2006 231
[6] Paul Kuritz, The Making of Theatre History (New York, U.S.A: Paul Kuritz Press) 1988 383
[7] Mitter and Shevtsova, 52
[8] Kuritz, 383
[9] Trevor A. Hart, Steven R. Guthrie, Faithful Performances: Enacting Christian Tradition (London, New York: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.) 2007 62
[10] Kuritz, 384
[11] David Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press) 2003 252
[12] Richard Drain, Twentieth-century Theatre: A Sourcebook (London, New York: Routledge) 1995 243
[13] Claude Schumacher, Naturalism and Symbolism in European Theatre, 1850-1918 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press) 1996 236
[14] Kuritz, 384
[15] Drain, 244
[16] Wiles, 252
[17] Drain, 244
[18] Sally Mackey and Simon Cooper, Drama and Theatre Studies: for use with all Drama & Theatre Studies A & AS specifications (London, New York: Nelson Thornes Press) 2000 233
[19] James Roose-Evans, Experimental Theatre: From Stanislavski to Peter Brook (London, New York: Routledge) 1989 6
[20] Jean Benedetti and Alice L. Crowley, Stanislavski and the Actor: The Method of Physical Action (London, New York: Routledge) 1998 2
[21] Jennifer Ellen Robertson, Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (California, U.S.A: University of California Press) 1998 59
[22] Puchner, 231
[23] James Redmond, Drama, Dance, and Music (Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press) 1981 239
[24] Kuritz, 383
[25] Jonathan Pitches, Vsevolod Meyerhold (London, New York: Routledge) 2003 52

Cite this Comparison of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski

Comparison of Brecht, Meyerhold and Stanislavski. (2016, Sep 04). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparison-of-brecht-meyerhold-and-stanislavski/

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