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_

Sunday, November 4, 2012



At this point the thesis becomes more difficult to simply condense.  The focus is that “Krause’s most significant contribution to the theatre lies in her teaching a systematic way of approaching a role so that acting style springs from circumstances integral to the play.”  But what she does is not very systematic.  I would describe it as “principled,” that is, it is not a check list but a response to what is there.  The work is cumulative: she is always building on what was done before but earlier work that has been “realized” is meant to be internalized, so that it doesn’t have to be repeated or extended.  And it is “emergent” meaning that it comes from the dynamics of the elements, not something imposed.  But I’m imposing this on Press.

This part of the thesis attempts to compare the Krause “method” with the Stanislavsky “method” more than earlier chapters.  There are questions of definition and procedure.  Of course, no one involved had ever seen Stanislavsky direct actors.  His books are translations.  (Press’ advisor was a playwright, which might account for some of the curiosity about structure of plot.)

Krause wants the meaning of the play to emerge through the developing of the actor’s sense of the author’s intent and the style to come from what is pared away from the reality in order to make the point. Thus she would devise challenges, improvs, gimmicks, to get actors to feel what was necessary for the play to work.  

She speaks of finding ways of calling out the gifts of quite different actors, and suggests Dick Benjamin and Paula Prentiss as examples of VERY different people who had to be treated in quite different ways, though they were and continue to be lifelong partners.  (I witnessed her working with them and what she says is true.)

Rehearsal of a specific play had four phases.
I.  Forming ideas about the play and their roles in it.  This is in conformity to the director and is very much the sort of work described in “Literature as Experience” by Breen and Bacon.  (AK assumes that her students have this kind of background -- that they are literate.  This is, after all, a university!)

II.  Scenes are performed, analyzed, experimented with while the characters “gel.”  AK wants the understanding to come from within the actors, while staying in the parameters the director has set.

III.  This is the moment to moment interaction of characters in which a “space forms between them” -- relationships.  To use the concept of liminality -- a virtual reality forms.

IV.  Now this virtual reality can be extended to the audience and the actors can vary their performances to include audience participation without losing their own grasp of the stage world.  Meaning can be nonverbal, but it will emerge now.

I’ve reworded this somewhat.  It seems to me that some of these concepts were only just forming and being named in the academic world:  centering (Gendlin), flow (Csikszentmihalyi), liminality (Turner), structuralism (Piaget), felt concepts (Langer).  They’ve been greatly extended now through counseling, brain function study, and clever experiments.  I feel as though going into these ideas too much would not do justice to what Press was attempting, since he didn’t have this knowledge.  Nothing he says contradicts these ideas, AK becomes very elusive at this point, hard to pin down.  She sees what’s on the stage, she responds to it, and then it works.

From from being confined to modern psychological realism, AK is particularly fond of Shakespeare, Chekhov and the Greeks.  She is eloquent on the subject of their cultures as she conceives of them and tells how she finds the right “style” of presenting the plays, always justifying the sources in the play, esp the language.  Part of the reason she enjoys these eras is because she feels they are strongly physical.  Acting, she insists, is in the muscles -- not in the head.  She recognizes genres like tragedy, melodrama, farce, comedy of wit, but sees them as coming out of the playwright’s understanding of the particular era and subject matter.  She is close to religion when she talks about “the nature of man.”

There is a passage on clowning but it is very short.  Her demonstrations of clowning in class were memorable -- not Clarabelle but the porter in “Macbeth” or often Irish self-contradicting drunks.  I wish she had talked about  putting “a spider in Mr. Applebaum’s tea,” an intention expressed by a nice little old lady.  Much of AK’s success as a teacher and director was the charm and energy of her self.

Instead of trying to condense the rest of the chapter, I think it would be more helpful to speak of what is hidden just under it.  If I were writing this, I would set it up as a comparison between the psychological realism that the sophisticated Manhattan Jewish intellectual community had promoted as Stanislavsky’s “Method”, rather in the spirit of Freud’s rules and assumptions, and which had acquired much mystique and orthodoxy  -- as opposed to AK’s “method” which came out of the American midwest Chatauqua tradition of public speaking, both political and expressive, which had roots in England, especially working class England.  The media has been over-impressed with the stars AK produced (though she despised the star system) and not even aware of the directors who grasped this way of working.  Often they were tent-makers, organizing small repertory and ensemble theatres like those that were such proving grounds for actors in Britain.

Press’ final paragraph is worth repeating:   “Krause conceived of acting as a ‘poetic’ art.  Through acting one could go beyond the pedestrian communication of plot and theme or idea behind a play.  Acting had to create the ‘dramatic experience’ which lies for her in the audience’s sharing the electricity of a play; and acting had to create an experience of the play as a poem, arousing connotational meanings that cannot be fully articulated.  Acting becomes poetically connotational when it has its roots in the vision of the world within which the playwright created.”

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