Stanislavski's principle theory of acting was that of psychological realism. In other words, acting should be an art that teaches an actor how to consciously produce natural action; it must teach the actor "how to awaken consciously her subconscious creative self for its superconscious organic creativeness," and how to consciously create action that is usually subconsciously expressed as a result of conscious thought. He discovered that there is no inner experience without outer physical expression, but if an actor on stage performs only physical actions, this violates the psycho-physical union and her performance is mechanical and dead. Therefore Stanislavski protested against "mechanical" acting, exploitation of art, bathos, the art of representation, "theatricality" and the "star" system, and aimed to create a real, artistic, scenic truth by examining the psychological aspects of life by manipulating the subconscious via conscious physical action. This would ensure believability, not only for the actor but for the audience too.
In order to prepare an actor for a role so that it relates back to these concepts, Stanislavski developed a number of rehearsal and performance techniques such as imagination, units and objectives and emotion memory. These techniques were designed in order to help an actor awaken her consciences, and eventually achieve psycho-physical involvement.
Stanislavski said that "Imagination creates things that can be or can happen." An actor must develop her imagination and learn to think on any theme; this will help the actor to adapt easily to any role. As a playwright rarely gives details of a character's past or future, an actor must complete her character's biography in her own mind in order to possess a greater understanding of the character's psyche. Knowing extra withheld details about a character will give depth to the actor's performance and will give the actor a greater perspective and "a feeling of movement in the role." Stanislavski referred to this as "predicted circumstances"; i.e., knowing what has happened before the scene opens and knowing what will happen after the play ends.
An actor should not truthfully believe the reality of events on stage, but she should believe in the possibility of events. The "magic if" transforms the character's aim into the actor's aim. An actor must try to answer the question "What would I do if I were " so that she does not have to force herself to believe that she is an actual person in these actual circumstances. The "if" is particularly important, as it does not imply that any circumstances exist or are actually truthful. As an actor has no other source from which to draw experiences from except her own life, she must use her imagination to create events that she has not experienced. Stanislavski developed the use of the "magic if" in order to help the actor develop the imaginary and predicted circumstances.
The "inner monologue" is the third imaginational technique developed by Stanislavski. This is an important procedure in consciously creating the subconscious thoughts that are the stimuli behind the physical actions. The inner monologue must exist as inner visions in an actor's head in order to produce a series of emotions and states of being "by natural organic processes." I.e., the actor must create the thoughts that lie behind the dialogue.
In order to put these techniques into practice when creating a role, let us consider the character of Grace from David Hare's "Wrecked Eggs," a role I have studied. Using predicted circumstances, I must consider how long Grace has felt unhappy in her job, how she originally met Robbie and Loelia, and why she feels unable to help them with their marital problems. Through...