In the world of acting, only one of the four masters have such an ethereal theory of their area of expertise as Michael Chekhov. Chekhov believed wholeheartedly that the Greeks had a knowledge of acting like no other; and many of his theories, pulled, unbelievably, from Greek mythology. Of course, he devised elements of this to fit his purposes, however, his theory nonetheless is derived from Greek mythology.
To show how this is possible, we will examine parts of Greek mythology, and then bind this together into a comprehensive idea. Let us begin: Firstly, the myth of the Hydra is a myth which concentrates on a multi- cranial monster.
Like the monster, Chekhov’s approach to acting was very much multifaceted, and borrowed techniques from various sources. The primary source however, was metaphysics. A crucial point of his theory, revolved around energy coming from the actor’s core, ejecting into the wider world, and therefore the audience. By doing this, the actor, in theory, should be able to use this power emanating from themselves to deliver a grounded, authentic performance. The use of metaphysical energy and Chekhov’s work was, at the time, revolutionary; no other actor or acting teacher thought of using this method.
In fact, it was so successful with the young performers under his instruction, that at just 22, Stanislavski personally invited him to join the Moscow Art theater; which is still in use today. By my estimation, my own study of this master’s technique, his second point, which will be known as the ways of being, were these: ease, form, beauty, and a sense of the whole. Each actor has his or her interpretation of this message; however, according to my own experience, it should be interpreted thusly. To walk with a sense of ease, is to be so engrossed in one’s character, that the way in which the character functions, is no different, and quite indistinguishable from the way the person would move in his or her day-to-day activities.
To walk with form, means to walk in the structural energy of the character; this returns to the earlier philosophy of metaphysical energy. To extend on this theory, one may argue that Chekhov opted not to create his own theory, rather he followed the law of thermodynamics, Newton’s first law. Newton told simply, energy cannot be created nor destroyed. To elaborate, Chekhov did not believe in “acting,” but rather the morphing of energy as a whole to create a character. Perhaps, this is why he invented the technique based on metaphysics. This is why he is considered one of the great masters of acting.
Often pulling from the Greeks, he developed a method known as the psychological gesture. Today, this is most commonly used in modern performances of ancient Greek tragedies such as Oedipus or Electra. In ancient Greece, dramatic gestures, more so than the ones we use today, were used to make clear to the audience what was happening; this was used in conjunction with often flowery vocal delivery to show what the actor was trying to emote.
One of his major developments was that of psychological gesture. Based on Rudolf Steiner’s work with spiritual science, psychological gesture was born. Chekhov borrowed from Stanislavski’s work, combined with his own professional training, thereby creating the psychological gesture. Incredibly, his technique is still in use by talented performers such as Stella Adler, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, and Johnny Depp.
In closing, Michael Chekhov’s work developing this incredible technique, changed the face of modern acting both technically and academically.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018,
www.britannica.com/topic/Hydra-Greek-mythology. Accessed 21 Jul. 2018.
IMDb, m.imdb.com/name/nm0155011/bio. Accessed 21 Jul. 2018.
Jim Lucas. LiveScience, 2015,
www.livescience.com/50881-first-law-thermodynamics.html. Accessed 21 Jul.
Michael Chekhov Academy, www.chekhovacademy.com/michael-chekhov/. Accessed 21