Part 1: The Stanislavsky System

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Laura Linney on the Difference Between Acting on the Live Stage and in Front of the Camera

Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938) co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre.

hide captionKonstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938) co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre.

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Laura Linney in a scene from 'Kinsey'

hide captionLaura Linney in a scene from Kinsey.

20th Century Fox

All actors, whether they know it or not, owe a debt to Constantine Stanislavsky, a businessman turned actor who revolutionized the art of acting. Stanislavsky set out to create what he called a "believable truth" onstage. Actress Laura Linney, nominated for best supporting actress at Sunday's Oscar ceremony, tells NPR's Lynn Neary that the ideal of truthfulness is Stanislavsky's greatest legacy — "it's what acting is all about."

Reacting against the flamboyant and mannered acting that prevailed at the time, Stanislavsky developed a new kind of realism based on a more internal, psychological approach to acting. Stanislavsky closely observed the best actors of the day and developed exercises and techniques based on those observations.

Stanislavsky's "system," as he called it, transformed acting in his native Russia. And in 1923, the now famous Moscow Art Theatre came to America. No one there had seen such realism on stage before — and the effect was electrifying.

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