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The creative method the National Association of educational broadcasters presents least Rosberg on acting. Here first is Lyman Bryson is the work of an actor truly created or is it just the interpretation of somebody else's creative work. An actor reads what somebody else has written. He goes through his paces under the close supervision of a director he is working with other people who are trying harmoniously to carry out a concept of a play. Is this really creative. Is the third creative in any case. Mr Lee Strasberg in his conversation with Bill cabinets has some very strong opinions on the subject. It seems to me here that in common with many of the other areas of knowledge which have been explored in the 20th century it is important to stress that one of the basic emphasis in the knowledge about the end of the day is the idea that the theatre essentially is a creative
art that the fact that it uses the script as a basic item should not therefore be interpreted as as making it only an interpretive art and interpretive art is an art in which. One uses material in the same aunt to imitate In other words if I am a painter and I imitate a painting that someone else has already made then I am imitating it. But if I paint a piece of sculpture the solution of how that piece of sculpture should be created in terms of painting has not yet been solved for me. Therefore even though I am using another art form so to say the copy from it's no different than using a human being or any other object in nature. So to say to paint from and in this sense it seems to me first of all that we should recognise the theatre as today being a
creative on. Your listening to least Rosberg on acting. For it or for it. Or a creative method. Or. The actor as Creator our. One of 10 conversations with creative Americans about the nature of their work. The creative method prepared by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Later we'll tell you how you may obtain excerpts from verse and 21 other radio essays on the creative process in American arts sciences and professions. But now least Rosberg on acting. I would say that the most characteristic part of the theatre is unquestionably the actor.
And there is any of the other elements are not exactly incidental obviously but the theatre can do without scenery. It can do without the director. It can often even do without words but it cannot go without the living actor when you have no actor you have no theatre. Which one is you have an actor you have together. We certainly have primaries the evidence of that in court and Wilders biggest hit our town which there is almost no scenery at all. Yes that's right. But then you would certainly consider the actor essentially a creative artist. Definitely when you compare the various versions let's say of a particular performance let's say of performance of Hamlet by different actors you will find that they bear very little relation to the original whatever the original may be. In fact we hardly know what the original is intended to be or is intended to mean each time we see an actor in that part. We are really seeing an actor creating a different character or rather a new character.
He may get his ideas from obviously the ideas of the author in the same way that a painter paints a certain object in nature is receiving his ideas and his impressions from that object. But what he does is the Pend intrinsically on his own creative capacity and his own imagination and his own understanding and on his own skill. How can you or can you draw a line between the imagery of the interpretive and the creative. Where does one stop and the other start while in the first place I don't think that that is a proper question related purely to theatre in every art. We argue very much as to which is really creative and which is only imitative. On the whole we tend to think that. The creative thing the creative approach the creative method if you wish. The man's a fresh original and spontaneous experience of whatever it is that is being dealt with. Wherever
that experience. Is only derived as an imitation of someone else's experience it therefore even when very good tends only to be skillful. Rather than to be creative. However on almost any definite given object in any field there is a wide area of difference of opinion as to what people were calling them from the standpoint of the creative method employed. You would say that there was a good close analogy between all of the performing arts. No not quite. In fact that is one of the confusions I think that has plagued the understanding of the theatre and especially of the art of acting. Regardless of the amount of creativity that may exist in some of the other arts like same piano playing and violent playing the fact remains that what the. Artest plays is set down in completely technical terms for that artist. The instrument is indicated the actual rhythm with which the instrument should be played is
indicated the exact note which should be played an instrument is indicated. In fact the entire language that is dealt with can be understood only by people that are in that art form it has no meaning for anyone else in the theatre. It happens that the script can have a meaning and does have a meaning separate from what one will see on the stage. It can have a meaning in the privacy of one's room when it is read as a literary work of art and often is totally different from what one will perceive and what one will experience on the stage. Therefore it does seem to me without in any way to trying to deny the significance of any of the other interpretive arts that there is here a difference between the kind of creativeness which the actor must indulge in to translate the words or the intentions of the author into. New kind of technical means which is actually the way in which a human being thinks experiences behaves and so on which is in no way set down in a script you see. And the
way in which in some of the other arts by means of a definite technical language prescriptions commands are given to each craftsman as to exactly what instrument he should use which hand he should use U.S. and the. Sometimes even the extent of the pressure is certainly the kind and amount of rhythm. You see even though even within that area there are still wide possibilities of agreement and disagreement. But certainly the interpretive art is there at that point called in. That's right. Getting back to creative acting can this be learned. Or is it primarily a gift is this something that just comes as a bolt out of the blue that you're born with. We don't I think today really know what we are born with. Our present knowledge assumes that the. Possibilities of a human being are vast that they somehow do reside at birth in the human being but obviously without making an effort to discover them they never appear and therefore we only know that they're there when we
work to create them. Therefore whether they are there are not is for our purpose immaterial. The important thing in the theatre is that whereas in the other arts. We can leave this creative process to happen spontaneously and intuitively because most of the other arts are individual. In other words a painter composer or writer can sit in the privacy of their own room. They try to perform. Let's say the thing not to perform but to create whatever it is that they have decided to create. Sometimes suddenly something happens and they create it. When it happens we don't simply say that they were inspired in other words when they were creative. However when it doesn't happen there's nothing lost. The composer simply says well it isn't going so well I'll do it tomorrow I mean I didn't feel so well today or something like that. If in the middle of the night he suddenly wakes up with a creative idea he can work at that particular
time. In other words the creative process can take place and two would happily and unconsciously. It does not need to be put into technical terms. However the theater is different in that sense that the performance must take place at a very definite stated time and all the people participating in that performance must be ready to create it therefore faces as before the problem of making conscious something which exists in the other arts but does not need to be made conscious. But what if it is not made the deliberate and conscious in our art is left so much to accident that the art of self becomes almost non-existent. That we cannot depend on it that the performances vary so much from one time to another that literally people have therefore been forced to question whether the art can rightly be called an art.. Therefore in modern times we have tried to see to find in that was the basic great contribution of Stanislavski to
find whether means could be found for consciously stimulating. The creative process which usually takes place unconsciously. Could we could we define creative or acting in a way. There again you see we're up against as I said before the difficulty that exists and in separating creative from non creative in any area. To the to the extent that we can try to define it verbal. We would say first of all that the creative process. Tries to stimulate the entire human being who was involved in the craft. That is who is to act not only the external means of the actor not only in other words the voice the speech the speech the gesture but essentially the thinking of thought. The sensitivity the sensation the emotion of the actor the experience of the actor so that he fuses completely with the kind of life that will have to be created on the stage here by the way I should perhaps divert to make the
point that when we say fuse completely we don't mean that he experiences literally what the character is supposed to experience that is a very false idea of what we mean by truly experiencing. That would mean that an actor who had to kill would have to really want to kill and things of that sort that is not at all they idea of experiencing what it does mean is that whenever something is happening to the character something real is happening to the actor. What is happening may be of a totally different may come from a totally different source. But something is happening which for the audience must have the same validity the same intensity if you wish or the same sense of alive in this of truthfulness. You see which the other kind of thing. My God literally create for us. To what extent would you say that the creative. Method in acting is a collaboration. With the writer or with director or with the audience or
even every act of creation is in that sense collaboration. If only between the artist and his material. Obviously in an art like the theatre which is essentially a collective art it is not depend on any one individual. All the elements in it must be unified and related. And by the way is equally important that the audience should share that experience in the theatre when it doesn't. If the performers on the stage remains cold and almost nonexistent and certain of the actors are always fully aware of the response that the audience is giving them. While this is a very strange thing or rather it's not a strange thing but when you try to describe it I must say it sometimes seems to sound strange or mystic. It is true that when one comes on the stage as an actor. One feels the presence of the audience as a single individual each night. And each audience each night. Almost has a definite
character of its own not a conglomerate character and therefore you you appear on the stage you say your first lines and you know immediately this is going to be this type of individual this type of audience. How that is accomplished I must say I don't know. Psychologists a sociologist would perhaps be able to throw a light on it but the experience of that is quite true even though it is little flabbergasting when you experience it on the stage in actual performance. What training what kind of training is necessary to produce this creative actor we've been talking about. I would say that the essential element in that is to train the enough faculties of the artist not at the expense of or to the exclusion of the external elements which are obviously important but placing the stress and the emphasis on what we might ordinarily call the imagination of the actor. All which in this case I might describe as being the ability on the part of the actor to relive. The
experience the experiences that have to be created on the stage. Let me ask you a couple of more detailed questions along this line. I know you work directly with a number of contemporary playwrights. Is it a help or a hindrance to the really talented skilled creative actor to have the audience the author of the play sitting in on Hershel's that can be answered in two ways essentially and in principle it always is a help because at times even when the author is vague about his intentions which happens unfortunately sometimes too often. Nonetheless even that often gives the actor somehow a sense of what the author is getting at. Even if he has not been able to explain himself completely and especially when he is unable to explain himself completely it often forces the actor to search further for something that the author is trying to get at but which obviously he has not yet sufficiently created either in the text all by the explanations. In other words this would really be the
true collaboration that we were taught so that in principle it is very valuable and a very necessary thing in the theatre that all the elements should to that extent collaborate however. When the author should be present is a different problem is actually an immediate problem and often today the author is present too soon. It is like a close friend watching an operation when he shouldn't be there. He's going to yell and scream because he sees the pain of the patient. He should not be there at that moment. He should be permitted after the operation is done when the patient is in the bed beginning to wake up and begin to have some sense of where he is in other words when things are beginning to go or at least when the actor has already found the things that he is searching for that he needs to search for. Because let us not forget that after all the playwright took many months to write the play. Now the actor comes and is expected sometimes in a few days to make that tremendous transition into making this play or this part his own.
It takes time and often he is thrown by the presence of the author because he knows that the author already demands more. The author him self is unable to watch the work he is unable to perceive the intentions of the actor. He watches only the results and he says while it isn't getting there yet that's not what I intended and so on. So that sometimes there is difficulty and trouble simply from the fact that the author appears too soon or becomes involved in problems which are important at the end of the rehearsal and not necessarily at the beginning. Well can you at this point describe some of the specific steps that the actor goes through to prepare himself as a creative actor and in the preparation of a specific character. While. That implies that you can put things in pill form and while that may be possible and science where a pill can really be definitely mixed and it works on each individual even then sometimes it doesn't work on each individual. It is obviously much more difficult to do
and this kind of craft where the individual quotient is much more variable and where you're dealing with conscious and unconscious emotions reactions and experiences the existence of what you hardly are aware of and hardly dream of and yet which nonetheless affect. So to say the nature of the work so that anything that I say should hear the considered only as kind of notes as Stanislavski put it. Anything that we say technically is meant only as notes at the time of difficulty when you're unsure when you don't quite know what to do so then it's wise to look at the compass and sort of find out what might be done. I would say that. And working with the actor in the first place two essential stages can be differentiated. One is the stage of training. Because if the actor is not sufficiently trained to do the kind of work that has
demanded in production then obviously the production work is very difficult to do. You see and often you will today have to take time and spend time to do work which in the other arts as done by the individual themself. For many years long before he has come to this moment of creation the essential areas of training work are concerned with exactly those phases that we mentioned before that is the awakening of belief in the actor. The training of the actors concentration the training of the actors ability to Billy to respond to imaginary stimuli. The training of the actors ability to experience and to really experience emotions which have occurred to him or which occur freshly and usually so to say which he may never previously have had but which once he has gone through all he has then he learns to be able to repeat. This is all in other words the training in the control of his. Inner instrument. So when he then arrives at the rehearsal train.
The question is then only of the steps that he then goes through and the steps that he goes through there are different for different people. Some people. Will go almost what seems coldly through the rehearsal period. Learning their mechanical steps. Where they should be and more as the outline of the business and so on and nothing more taking place. Then suddenly sometimes when they get before the public something happens something is turned on like a light is turned on. Sometimes when they sit there in the privacy of their own room when they start to put on the make up something happens. Sometimes they will go through in the process of rehearsal. A great bewilderment. I've seen actors and that and those amongst the best often go through with real almost Labor
pangs the process of rehearsal. Literally you question whether they are able to read a line other word whether they can read. That's actually because they are good actors because they cannot simply read fluently and easily. The words must come out of the penetration are of the character out of being the character and it takes them time before they come to it. The character must grow in the Muslim world within them. Now in this growing process. There is no step. You see this is where the role of the director or the role of the teacher is therefore very very important because the teacher on the one hand or the director must perceive where the actual difficulty is and sometimes not supply the answer but simply open the door because the answer the individual himself must supply otherwise usually you will supply an answer that is right for you. But that is not right for the individual whom you are dealing with and there is too much by the way of that in the theatre. We sometimes have the tendency to think that if
I explain the part correctly then the actor should be able to play it correctly. That would mean that the critic or anybody who could explain the part of psychologist who could understand and explain the part where ever be the best actor we know that's not so that the actor works with much deeper layers of awareness of experience of consciousness and unconsciousness and the basic problem is to awaken these deeper areas by appealing either to the act of conscious knowledge by awakening the actor's conscious experience about the things that are being dealt with by presenting to the actors imagination experiences that will excite him that will help them to understand what he is dealing with. But essentially to find the kind of experience that will explode within the actor himself. They burst the flare of imagination and sometimes that doesn't the rif of anything that is very important. It may sometimes come from a small. Little remark that was made
from a color from a sound from a smell from a site. You see a word that is thrown in and suddenly makes sense to an actor. And he said Don't tell me anymore don't tell me any more. I know what you mean because sometimes an explaining would present such a clear picture to the actor of what we intend. That he therefore becomes very tied up in knowing what to do about it. And this would tend to get in the way of his creative method. Very much so. Yes we have time for just a final question and I would like to ask you one breaking story from your standpoint as director and teacher. What is the advice that you give to young people come to you wanting to go into the theatre into acting specifically as a career. While it may seem strange but in all honesty the first thing I tell them is dont. I told it to my own daughter and obviously didn't help AC. But I do that on the simple premise that work in the theater is so difficult it takes so much out of an individual. Even when he's successful parts
don't come along too easily and it's not. And the success doesn't come along readily see or in one part after another. That one must be prepared for difficulties. Therefore if my mere saying no is going to stop someone from being an actor he should never try to be an actor to begin with. I therefore actually say that on principle rather than I out of any rational purpose. Assuming that those people who will not listen to me at least have the right to make the attempt. But the people who listen to me even if they have the talent shouldn't obviously do it because they will not be able to take the pain the suffering the doubt the difficulties which one does have to go throw in the theatre. Girth assuming that you tell. This hypothetical young person not to go into the other. And this does not. Alter this person's determination. Can you give him any further advice as to how to begin. How to how to
become a creative actor. While I think the important thing for the young person to realise is that all of them self as used on the stage and therefore that whatever he experiences in life will in some way come out on the stage at some time or other. And therefore the most important advice to give to anyone is to keep his imagination alive and open to keep himself open to the impressions of life to the things that are around him. To become aware of both his and other people's responses and reactions so that he learns the nature of throw true behavior because otherwise without that most of the acting on our stage both today and in past times tends to take a very conventional kind of aura that is not what we would call the creative approach or the creative method. Least Rosberg on acting. And here again is our host and commentator for the creative method Lyman Bryson
and Mr Strasburg's very friendly but very stern advice to those who are ambitious to get into the third or he destroys it seems to me some of the romantic elements in the picture of being an actor or a theatre person. Young people cherish. Even if you are gifted and he's quite sure that you have to have talent in the first place. You have to begin with a very strict technical training. No gifted amateurs can get very far in the theatre know how matter how gifted they are it's no matter of a sudden flare or an inspiration because you have to be at the theater when the audience is there. You have to turn your emotions on at the time when they're necessary to carry on the story of the play and you have to turn them off and change them when the plot of the play demands that other words you have to be under a very severe discipline. And of course Mr. Strasburg is very famous in the Third World for his teaching of the Stanislavski method as he himself says that's a
method of trying at least to condition oneself as an actor so that when an inspiration is needed it is in some degree present. A lot I myself have heard Mr Strasburg's say. That even of the greatest of actors can never be quite sure he's going to give a great performance if he gives a great performance once in three or four times. That makes him a really great actor in his own life Mr Strasburg has become almost as famous as a teacher as as a director as an interpreter not only in the actual production of stage plays but in trying to convey. To get into the temperaments in the minds of gifted young people these basic principles that this art like all the other great arts calls upon all the highest and broadest qualities that anybody can have or acquire for himself. In addition to his necessary initial gifts. Thank you Dr. Bryson. You heard least Rosberg the actors create or
one of 10 Conversations furthering our understanding of creativeness in American arts and professions the creative method as recorded by WGBH FM in Boston under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Producer Jack Dee Summerfield with Lalan factor and Bill cavernous as production associates. This is the National Education already on network.
Creative method
Lee Strasberg on acting
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents Lee Strasberg discussing successful creative methods for acting.
Series Description
This companion series for The Creative Mind presents radio essays on a creative activity by an outstanding representative of that activity. Dr. Lyman Bryson hosts.
Broadcast Date
Performing Arts
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Guest: Strasberg, Lee
Host: Bryson, Lyman, 1888-1959
Interviewer: Cavness, Bill
Producer: Summerfield, Jack D.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-55-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:40
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Chicago: “Creative method; Lee Strasberg on acting,” 1964-09-24, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
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