No one seems to object to the transcriptions and posting of AK’s comments which are at I’m putting comments and analysis on a separate blog, this one, so that people who don’t want to read such things don’t have to. This blog is set to accept anonymous comments, but I read them all and won’t tolerate flame wars. None have started.

Some of the most interesting and useful feedback on this material is coming in emails, some shared and others not shared, which I don’t want to post with names attached unless I have permission. I’m just going ahead to name the people AK named in her notes -- it’s been half a century since then, after all. Indeed, some of the email comments are arriving from people in that time period as well and those of us who know each other can probably guess who said what.

In good “discussion” mode, I’ll try to separate the issues from the people.

1. It is most moving that after fifty years the memory of personal relationships with AK have the status of love affairs, magical relationships that have inspired people for decades. They do NOT want that interfered with. Who would?

2. Likewise, there were a few people deeply wounded by past misunderstanding and schism and they, too, still hurt. To some this might be a reason to shut down, but to me it’s a reason to continue.

3. One opinion is that AK’s teaching methods are obsolete now. Students will no longer tolerate the confrontive and sometimes invasive tactics she used then. Indeed, some people wouldn’t accept them then, but they quietly went elsewhere. Is it a loss or a gain to give up the auteur model of teaching? Stanislavki was, after all, a Russian like the famously dictatorial ballet masters.

4. Is it true that academic theatre is nothing like professional theatre? You can still be tough on professional actors? (If Equity allows it.)

5. Some feel that theatre is totally different now. Whatever was important then is NOT important now. Or, to the contrary, theatre, esp. repertory theatre, is entering a renaissance that is vital and thriving across the country with new companies still being founded.

6. AK’s life trajectory is not really understandable without considering the time periods, the place, the administrators, sexism, and so on. No different from understanding a character in a play. (I confess -- this is my opinion.) All this happened before the Derrida Deconstruction craze, but we understand that, don’t we?

Mary Strachan Scriver

(Prairie Mary_

Friday, November 2, 2012



This chapter moves towards the integration of what has been learned so far.  The actor “creates from images.”  They come from remembered experiences, experiencing art, reading, filling oneself full of observations of humans and information about humans in other times and places: philosophy, sociology, history, psychology, art -- whatever would “develop an awareness of living.”  Her key word was “imagination,” and she identified four basic elements:

1.  the power to re-experience remembered perceptions, including observations of others.
2.  the power to imaginatively reshape images from the past
3.  the power to reshape current perceptions -- imagine something is other than it is
4.  the power to invent fantasy

(By now --2012 -- there are standard and familiar exercises for therapists.  But several books of the Fifties -- notably Boleslavsky and Viola Spolin supplied patterns and ideas for training actors.)

Press emphasizes that AK is looking for IMAGINATION and control rather than emotion.

Metaphor is the main tool.  Emphasis is not on just standing frozen while thinking of being some object, but rather expressing that object in action, gesture.  Do not analyze in words.  This is where AK runs athwart the “word and analysis” culture of a thesis.


Using fiction or history, try to become another person by summoning up all the influences on them and their desires.  Try them out in improvisations.  Concepts investigated include:

1.  Thought between lines (subtext)
2.  multi-level awareness and response
3.  interplay
4.  transfer of thought and emotion
5.  playing from moment to moment
6.  realization

Stanislavky concepts included are:
1.  basic drive (S. called it super-objective.)
2.  conflicts
3.  inevitability of behavior
4.  sequence
5.  character objective
6.  dramatic objective


I suggest and will try to expand later in a longer piece that AK partly became paralyzed over how to explain what she was doing here because it was very much part of her personal transition from being a teacher of interpretation to being a teacher of acting.  She wanted to be able to assume that the actor had all the wonderful humanities background that Bacon & Breen describe in “Literature as Experience” but then with the ADDITION of action, movement.  What outsiders seem to think is that her Interpretation of Literature background was lesser or not necessary, but for AK it was a vital safeguard against both the kind of emotional excess that leads to “Black Swan” ideas about fucking the ballerina to make her more like an evil swan on the one hand (Hollywood) and on the other hand performing theatrical stunts like having the ballerina dance en pointe on the head of the prince (China).  Both extremes lose the physical and spiritual metaphorical content of a large white bird that glides in water and across the sky, full of mystery and unknown destination.

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