Michael Chekhov first developped his method in
the Moscow artists' theater. What primarily characterises his
work is the bringing together of ideas of the Stanislavski system
with Rudolf Steiner's ideas about art.
The central question for Chekhov which also
guided his methodical research was: how does the artist reach
the level of artistic inspiration? Is this a matter of chance
or are there ways and possibilities that can consciously lead
to it and that can be methodically schooled?
Chekhov found the source in the transformation
of thinking. He recognised, as others had already done, that the
everyday consciousness was of no help for the craetive process.
He described the analytical, intellectual reasoning as a "murder".
Help should not be looked for by suppressing the thinking activity
but rather by transforming it in an imaginative thinking.
After the mastering of different pre-exercises
and the enhancing of his power of concentration, the student can
become more awake in his observing and is able to see inner pictures
and to transform them. He is then able to perceive the stage character
before his very eyes. After some time this character is infused
in the phantasy of the actor with a life of its own and begins
to converse with him. ("Show me Malvolio how you open the garden
gate, how you blow your nose".)
Chekhov's request is not new. It was and is for
many artists a matter of fact that an inner seeing marks the beginning
of their working process. Thus Goethe, Pirandello, Dickens and
many other authors saw their dramatic heroes perform before their
eyes and spoke with them before they wrote down what they had
"seen and heard". This technic is far removed from psychological
interpretations. The actor "sees" what his character is doing
and can bring this inner perception to an outer expression.
A new hurdle often appears at this point of the
artistic process, which Chekhov describes with Hamlet's words:"O,that
this too-too solid flesh would melt", for it is often the body
of the actor that is not enough transparent to let the inner vision
manifest itself. To overcome this hurdle Chekhov developped his
psychophysical exercises. These exercises train the fine correspondances
between body and soul and achieve a balance between thinking,
feeling and willing.
Chekhov often described his method to his students
with the following words:
Concentration - imagination - incarnation