Significant Action

A Unifying Approach to the Art of Acting
  • Jean Dobie Giebel


Constantin Stanislavsky biographer Jean Benedetti comments that Stanislavsky “was always moving forward, revising and modifying his methods so that no single formulation seemed satisfactory for very long.”1 Therefore, when reevaluating his System, we ought to consider not only what he stated (and often later contradicted) but what he ultimately intended to achieve. Early in his work, Stanislavsky explained that his goal was to develop a system of acting as a means to inspiration: “What I wanted to learn was how to create a favorable condition for the appearance of inspiration by means of the will, that condition in the presence of which inspiration was most likely to descend into the actor’s soul. As I learned afterward, this creative mood is that spiritual and physical mood during which it is easiest for inspiration to be born.” But how, he inquired, “was one to make this condition no longer a matter of mere accident, to create it at the will and order of the actor?” (MLA 462) My intent here is to answer Stanislavsky’s ultimate question with the theory of significant action, a unifying approach to acting that enables the actor to induce the “creative mood.” I will relate (though not limit) significant action specifically to the American Method through theories on the physiological process of emotion and inspiration, and offer examples of how to practically apply the ideas introduced to both analysis and performance.


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    Jean Benedetti, Stanislavski: An Introduction (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1982), 50.Google Scholar
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    Candace B. Pert, Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 145.Google Scholar
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    Rollo May, The Courage to Create (New York: Norton, 1994), 44–45.Google Scholar
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    Anne Bogart, “Terror, Disorientation and Difficulty,” Anne Bogart: Viewpoints, Michael Bigelow Dixon and Joel A. Smith, eds. (Lyme, NH: Smith and Kraus, 1995), 15.Google Scholar
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    Peter Brook, The Empty Space (New York: Touchstone, 1968), 140.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Krasner 2000

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  • Jean Dobie Giebel

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