An Actor Prepares

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An Actor Prepares
1989 Routledge paperback edition
Author Constantin Stanislavski
Original title Работа актера над собой
Translator Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood
Country United States
Language English
Subject Acting
Publication date
OCLC 1090036
LC Class PN2065 .S713 1936
Preceded by My Life in Art
Followed by Building a Character

An Actor Prepares (Russian: Работа актера над собой) is the first of Konstantin Stanislavski's books on acting, followed by Building a Character and Creating a Role.[1] Stanislavski intended to publish the contents of An Actor Prepares and Building a Character as a single volume, and in the Russian language. However, An Actor Prepares was first published as a single volume in English, and World War II delayed the publication of Building a Character for more than ten years.


An Actor Prepares is the diary of a fictional student named Kostya during his first year of training in Stanislavski's system. Kostya and his fellow students have little to no experience in acting. As they go through the class, Tortsov, their teacher and theatre director addresses the many assumptions they have formed that do not coincide with the 'system'. Stanislavski relates his message with examples. He argues that his system is not a particular method, but a systematic analysis of the 'natural' order of theatrical truth.[citation needed]

The system that he describes is a means both of mastering the craft of acting and of stimulating the actor's individual creativeness and imagination. It has influenced the majority of performances we see on the stage or screen.

The book is autobiographical and deals with many different areas of acting skills, including action, imagination, concentration of attention, relaxation of muscles, units and objectives, faith and a sense of truth, emotion memory, communion, adaptation, inner motive forces, the unbroken line, the inner creative state, the super-objective and the subconscious mind. Tortsov, the Director, explains all these art forms in great detail, and thereby transforms An Actor Prepares into a type of textbook.

The book begins when Kostya and his fellow students are waiting for their first lesson with the Director. They are excited and nervous at the prospect of meeting, and are surprised when he tells them that their first exercise is to put on a few scenes from a play. Kostya and two of his friends perform scenes from Othello, with Kostya taking the leading role. Afterwards the Director tells them their mistakes.

At the end of the book, the students recall their first exercise: Sitting in a chair in a way that interests the audience, and searching for a brooch convincingly.


  1. The First Test
  2. When Acting Is an Art
  3. Action
  4. Imagination
  5. Concentration of Attention
  6. Relaxation of Muscles
  7. Units and Objectives
  8. Faith and a Sense of Truth
  9. Emotion Memory
  10. Communion
  11. Adaptation
  12. Inner Motive Forces
  13. The Unbroken Line
  14. The Inner Creative State
  15. The Super-Objective
  16. On the Threshold of the Subconscious

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanislavski, Constantin. An Actor Prepares. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780878309832. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 

External links[edit]