Hot Seating

When I taught Theatre Studies in the dim and distant past, I often thought  what a survivor the bourgeois theatre director, Konstantin Stanislavsky was.  Not only did he survive Stalin. His texts are unreadable in English, due to the stranglehold of the original translators; he never came to a conclusion about how to produce a play: in fact, on his deathbed he threw out all of his previous ideas and was about to begin all over again with a new theory, when Death finally brought down the curtain.  On the face of it, none of it was promising for the birth of Method Acting.

But he did give us many gems which changed the face of acting: quite literally.  Stanny taught us to live the character from the inside out.

It culminated in Hot Seating.  One day, he asked one of his actors to take a chair and sit on the stage.  The actor found a chair and sat on the stage.  Everyone watched.  Time went by and the great director gave no instructions.  The actor fidgeted.   Everyone continued to watch.

At that moment, I imagine, the whole company began to learn about character and direction.  It’s no good sitting in the hot seat until we have a character to work on.  We need to know that character from the inside out.  That character needs to be able to defend their existence against any questioning.

The technique works very well for getting to know the characters in one’s own novel.  I was Hot Seated this week; and uncomfortable it was.  It revealed the gaps in my own understanding of Preen, my principal character, even though I have lived with her for nearly a decade.