Many idioms identify theater artists as surgeons who operate on souls. One misstep and an actor may lose the audience. Instead of receiving relief, inspiration, and hope, it is left cold, irritated, and disappointed. In Russia, theater ethics was a mandatory discipline in an actor’s education. Stanislavsky believed that the theater should bring out the higher self in every human being.
It takes a long time to re-create the life of the human spirit, but it only takes a moment to destroy it. The theater can easily become a place of jealousy, bitterness, and hypocrisy. One artist with an antagonistic approach can shred a collaboration to pieces. No amount of technique and talent can save it. Therefore, artists must be cautious in how they treat each other and their work throughout the creative process. As a general rule:
1. Look for the positive qualities of everything around you
2. Avoid gossip
3. Avoid judgment
4. Respect and love your props and costumes
5. Invest spiritually in the super-objective of your shows
The aesthetic program that contributed to the golden era of the Moscow Art Theatre was based on a positive outlook toward its members and their theater. As Stanislavsky said, there are no small parts, only small actors.
Aleksey Burago is artistic director of the Russian Arts Theater & Studio, where every production begins with careful revival of the golden rules of theater aesthetics. www.theratscompany.org.