Chekhov’s notion of radiating

From concept to concrete 1

Authored by: R. Andrew White

The Routledge Companion to Michael Chekhov

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415710183
eBook ISBN: 9781315716398
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506867


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In the first volume of Konstantin Stanislavsky’s An Actor’s Work on Himself he cites Ophelia’s speech, wherein she confides to Polonius that Hamlet’s strange, nonverbal behavior has frightened her. She recalls: He took me by the wrist and held me hard; Then goes he to the length of all his arm, And with his other hand thus o’er his brow, He falls to such perusal of my face As he would draw it. Long stay’d he so; At last, a little shaking of mine arm And thrice his head thus waving up and down, He raised a sigh so piteous and profound That it did seem to shatter all his bulk And end his being: that done, he lets me go, And with his head over his shoulder turn’d He seem’d to find his way without his eyes, For out o’ doors he went without their helps, And to the last bended their light on me. Stanislavsky (as his alter ego, Tortsov) thereupon asks,

Can’t you sense that in those lines Ophelia is talking about silent communication between Hamlet and her? Haven’t you noticed, whether in real life or on stage, during mutual communication, sensations of a volitional current coming from you, streaming through your eyes, through your fingertips, through the pores of your body?

(1988–99: 2.338) Stanislavsky struggles to find a single word to define this “internal, invisible, spiritual” current of energy, which he deems necessary for actors to transmit during performance either to each other or to the audience. For sending out energy, he proposes two words that translate as “radiation”: lucheispuskaniye and izlucheniye. To define the absorption of energy, Stanislavsky suggests “irradiation”: luchevospriyatiye and vlucheniye (ibid.). 2

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