Framing concepts for Stanislavsky's notion of "creative state": From Orthodox Faith to Eastern thought

As Stanislavsky states, the very purpose of the whole “system” “must serve as a threshold into the creative state, and one must learn to open, not close the door”.1'2 In other words, this creative state, or “inner creative state”, helps the “actor to become a creator rather than an imitator of roles” and it is “central to Stanislavsky”, being also utterly connected to the actor “drawing on the ‘human spirit’”.3 As it appears, he was profoundly unhappy with the nineteenth-century Russian general style of an actor’s education. This mainly taught pupils “to read and act according to a demonstration”,4 while giving them no other choice but simply to copy their own teachers.

The non-existent Russian artistic education combined with his own struggles as an emergent actor, led Stanislavsky towards embarking upon what was to become the main goal of his life. That was to elucidate and conquer the ineffable moment of almost magical transformation that actors of genius, such as Mikhail Shchepkin and Glikeria Fedotova, about whom he so fondly writes in My Life in Art appeared to master so naturally in performance.5 Stanislavsky was mesmerised by some special qualities all the great actors he admired seemed to share: “there was a kind of aura around them on the stage”.6 According to Gordon M:

Audiences sensed something different about these performers. They were relaxed yet filled with a concentrated energy. They were completely involved in the theatrical moment, possessing an ease and liveliness that gave each of their roles a special charge. The performances of these actors reminded Stanislavsky of the absolute absorption and rapture children feel when building sandcastles [...]. Time and place transform themselves.7

It seems that Stanislavsky refers to such an “inspired artistic condition” as “the Creative State of Mind”. Similar to being in love, the actor appears to reach it instinctively, with no mental control over its emergency, duration, or intensity.8 In the case of most of the actors, such state “could not be summoned at a moment’s notice” in so far as “it vanished as unexpectedly as it came”. Only actors of great genius look as though they “‘intuitively’ know

Framing concepts for Stanislavsky’s notion 33 how to ‘create’ it on the stage’”.9 For Stanislavsky, this transformational moment of artistic creativity is equated with the actor “getting into paradise”, when they can “capture the very heart of a role” to “become the character”.10

Carnicke compares the creative mood with the awareness “of a yogi who has reached a higher state of consciousness”.11 Michael Chekhov describes it as a “happy moment”, in which the actor reaches a particular inner freedom, while they - the “creator” - simultaneously becomes the “observer” of their own creation.12 In Peter Brook’s account it is an artistic “act of possession”.13 Jerzy Grotowski appreciates the creative state as being the illusive moment in which “the actors are penetrated [...] by themselves”.14

Demidov draws an analogy between this state and the experience of driving “an automobile that’s reached its greatest possible speed”. As for the driver, who cannot think of something else but “I hope 1 don’t crash into anything or break my neck!”, the “actor who’s at the highest stage of’ their “creative potential” cannot suddenly stop to analyse the experience. They can only live it, with the hope of “blazing past everything in one piece and not crashing into anything”.15 The artistic creation becomes an entity in its own. As such, its manipulation and conscious control seem no longer to be within the actor’s power. According to Demidov, a phenomenon of “doubling” happens. The actor’s “‘integral identity’ is doubled by the ‘characteridentity’, while both are ‘tempered with unity’”.16 Furthermore, as expressed by Giuliano Campo:

The creative way is individual, it is a way that puts the actor in contact with his/her own self, where life in art must be pursued with a pure heart, seeking for one’s own creative seed, getting rid of selfishness, pride and envy. [...] Anticipating Grotowski, Stanislavski explains the need to unblock the individual energies in order to establish a spiritual contact between actors and spectators, that achieve a unity in beauty, something that is common to all human beings.17

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