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An Actor Prepares Paperback – April 30, 1989

4.7 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

So much mystery and veneration surrounds the writings of the great Russian teacher and director Stanislavski that perhaps the greatest surprise awaiting a first-time reader of An Actor Prepares is how conversational, commonsensical, and even at times funny this legendary book is. After many productions with the Moscow Arts Company, Stanislavski sought a way to introduce his new style of acting to the world outside of his rehearsal hall. The resulting book is a "mock diary" of an actor describing a series of exercises and rehearsals in which he participates. He details his own emotional and intellectual reactions to each effort, and how his superficial tricks and mannerisms begin to disappear as he increasingly gives over his conscious ego to a faith in the creative power of his subconscious. Rarely has any writer on the theater achieved the sort of lucid and inspired analysis of the acting process as Stanislavski does here, and his introduction of such now-standard concepts as "the unbroken line," "the magic if," and the idea of emotional memory has laid the groundwork for much of the great acting of the 20th century. While much excess and nonsense was to follow in the steps of Stanislavski's writings, his original texts remain invaluable, and surprisingly accessible, to any actor or student of drama. --John Longenbaugh


[O]ne of the most inspired and inspiring manifestos of our art that I know.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reprint edition (April 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0878309837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878309832
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Stanislavski is a familiar name in theatre circles. The legendary director of the Moscow Art Theatre wrote perhaps some of the most influential books on acting in the last century. I could list the big names who cite his influence (most famously, Marlon Brando and Sir John Gielgud), but the fact is his teachings have become so much a part of the way we approach theatre, that almost any actor in the English-speaking world (and abroad) can claim at least some influence.

Elizabeth Hapgood's translation of Stanislavski's work (featured on this page) remains the most widely circulated among English speakers. Unfortunately, it is also highly problematic. By publishing her translations as two separate books "An Actor Prepares" and "Building a Character", Hapgood unintentionally misrepresented Stanislavski's original intentions. In actuality, "An Actor Prepares" and "Building a Character" were both written as two parts of a single book, called "An Actor's Work on Himself."

Hapgood had worked with Stanislavski on an early version of Part One. However, Stanislavski continued to revise his manuscript even after Hapgood had returned home to America. What would eventually be published as "An Actor Prepares" was actually a much-abridged version of what she received from Stanislavski. Not only that, but it is missing Stanislavski's subsequent revisions.

The translation itself is especially difficult to get through. The diction is quaint and Victorian and brings to mind Constance Garrett's dowdy translations of Dostoevsky. What's more is that Stanislavski's sense of humor is largely censored, in favor of contriving a more flowing narrative. While this is understandable, this drastically alters the reader's understanding of Stanislavski's system.
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Format: Paperback
The first in a series of three, an Actor Prepares deals with the inner process/preparation an actor must explore in order to prepare for a role, how to control and stimulate your mind in order to convey the truth of your character. The story is told through the eyes of Kostya, the ex-stenographer who know shorthand, thus enabling him to take notes of the class. The instructor, Tortsov, is Stanislavski in disguise.
The book takes you on a journey of the art - acting. From learning about the magic "IF" to learning how to find your super-objective there is something for all in this book. Everything interrelates forming a web of knowledge and tools that you can take with you forever.
When you read it, however, keep in mind what the author said about his books:
"It is not a hand-me-down suit that you can put on and walk off in; or a cook book where all you need to find is the page and there is your recipe. No, it is a whole way of life."
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By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
It cannot be doubted that Stanislavki's Trilogy is a must for any aspiring actor. Stanislavki was the pioneer in creating a coherent system of practices and concepts to aid in strengthening the art of acting. I would, however, advise anyone who has not yet read the book to be cautious. It is important to understand that Hapgood's translation is sketchy in places, and tends to run around in cirlcles. As a supplement to this book, I would recommend reading Sonia Moore's The Stanislavski System. She worked directly with Stanislavski and understands his system much better than E. Hapgood. Not that the books vagueness is all her fault. It seems that Stanislavki goes to great lengths to explain things that are, nowadays, common sense. He certainly wasn't the first to ever think of these concepts; he was merely the first to organize them and give them names. Much of what is contained in this book is merely a modernized translation of Hamlet's "Speak the speech I pray you". The Magic If is simply a codefied means of make believe. That is fundamentally what it all boils down to. I relished the situation of the student and teacher realationship, and did find myself growing and evolving with him. It really makes you think of acting in a whole new perspective. But, as with any method, you must be cautious to use only what works for you. There is a common desire to make An Actor Prepares the bible of all actors. I won't argue that Stanislavski's system is the basis of almost all other methods that have risen in the last century, but there are other effective texts available. Respect of Acting and To the Actor, to name a couple. Don't just read Stanislavski; read several to help put it all in perspective.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
An Actor's Prepares is a teaching book that is written as a story. The theory is within the story. The "story" touches on things like relaxation, movement and concentration. You are one of the students, you learn the same method as the other students in the story. You will progress with them and in the end, you will have the sense on being "private in public". If you are an actor, or thinking of pursuing a career as an actor, this is a MUST READ! I still use this bokk as a guide to get me back on track when I feel that I am slipping in my craft. I love this book because of the way Stanislavski is preserved here. His teaching style shines through. This is the first book in a trilogy of the Stanislavski "Method" My advise for reading this book. Read it slow and digest every individual thought as if it were your last meal. You will learn not only about improving your ability to act, but also come away with a better feeling of who you are as a person, not just as an actor!
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