My Life in Art
Translated by Jean Benedetti
Routledge – 2008 – 464 pages
Konstantin Stanislavski was a Russian director who transformed theatre in the West with his contributions to the birth of Realist theatre and his unprecedented approach to teaching acting. He lived through extraordinary times and his unique contribution to the arts still endures in the twenty-first century. He established the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898 with, among other plays, the premiere of Chekhov's The Seagull. He also survived revolutions, lost his fortune, found wide fame in America, and lived in internal exile under Stalin's Soviet Union.
Before writing his classic manual on acting, Stanislavski began writing an autobiography that he hoped would both chronicle his rich and tumultuous life and serve as a justification of his aesthetic philosophy. But when the project grew to 'impossible' lengths, his publisher (Little, Brown) insisted on many cuts and changes to keep it to its deadline and to a manageable length. The result was a version published in English in 1924, which Stanislavski hated and completely revised for a Soviet edition that came out in 1926.
Now, for the first time, translator Jean Benedetti brings us Stanislavski's complete unabridged autobiography as the author himself wanted it – from the re-edited 1926 version. The text, in clear and lively English, is supplemented by a wealth of photos and illustrations, many previously unpublished.
'This wise and delightful book … is packed with sage, practical counsel to actors and actresses.' – The Times Literary Supplement
'The Stanislavski system of acting is good. What is better is the Stanislavski philosophy of art that believes in the infinitude of man … Even those who are not primarily interested in acting will find in Stanislavski's writing an extraordinary illumination of art.' – The New York Times
"This vibrant translation assures that Staniskavski's memoir will be appreciated by a wide audience of Anglophone readers… Highly Recommended." – CHOICE
Stanislavsky was the co-founder (with Nemirovich-Danchenko) of the Moscow Art Theatre, which took the international theatre world by storm when he began producing the plays of Anton Chekhov in 1898. (Nemirovich-Danchenko went on to set up the Moscow Art Theatre School, which is still running today.)
He is the author - with the help of his translator Elizabeth Hapgood, who also edited his scattered writings and became 'co-author' - of My Life in Art; An Actor Prepares; Building a Character; Creating a Role; and various other marginalia (put together, I suspect, postumously).
Jean Benedetti is the author of many books about acting and Stanislavsky, including The Art of the Actor (2005); Stanislavsky: An Introduction (2E 2004); and Stanislavsky and the Actor (1998). All these were co-published with Methuen and, I think, commissioned by them. Initially working as an actor, director and television writer, he turned to teaching and became the Principal of Rose Bruford College, still a highly respected drama school.