When the topic of an acting technique is discussed, the first name to pop up will undoubtedly be that of Konstantin Stanislavski. Stanislavski was a Russian actor and theatre director who pioneered the first notable system for training actors.
Konstantin Stanislavski developed his “system” around the idea of what he called “the art of experiencing”. His work is a systematic approach to training actors that he developed during the course of his early work with First Studio at the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) in the 1910s. During the 1930s, Stanislavski elaborated on his system and published the acting manuals – An Actor’s Work and An Actor’s Work on a Role.
During a tour of the United States in the early 1930s, one of Stanislavski’s students, Richard Boleslavsky, gave a series of lectures on the system, that was later published as Acting: The First Six Lessons in 1933. The interest that this sparked in the “system” led to a decision by Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskaya, another of Stanislavski’s students from the First Studio, to emigrate to the US to establish the American Laboratory Theatre. It is the work here, and a bad translation of the first half of An Actor’s Work, published in the US as An Actor Prepares, that became commonly associated with “Method Acting”.
Some of the students at the American Laboratory Theatre included Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and Sanford Meisner. They were all founding members of the Group Theatre, and would go on to have a profound impact on the training of actors in the US. Out of the three, Adler broke with Strasberg’s training at the Group Theatre after studying with Stanislavski in Paris. By this time, Stanislavski had modified much of his earlier approaches. Meisner also developed his own technique, which contrasted greatly with Strasberg. Therefore, what is commonly known as the always-in-character type of “Method Acting” is not Stanislavski’s, but Strasberg’s.