The Stanislavski System (Part 4)

In this article, we will look at two more techniques of the Stanislavski System, namely, action onstage and the through line. These techniques are effective in ensuring purposeful and dynamic acting, so that the scene is communicated clearly and compellingly to the audience.


Stanislavski’s system dictates that all action onstage must have a purpose. This essentially means that the actor performs a string of physical actions that ties in with the circumstances in the play. These actions are determined by asking the fundamental questions ‘What? Why? How?’. For example:

The what: A letter is opened

The why: It is opened because someone said it contains extremely damaging information about the character.

The how: It is opened apprehensively and with trepidation.

All of these physical actions that happen in the play are ultimately regulated by the character’s overall objective in the play, which brings us to Stanislavski’s next technique.


The through line is much like the thread in a performance: when objectives are strung together in a logical and sensible manner, one moment becomes connected to the next, tying the character’s actions and motivations together. One way to construct the through line is to separate scenes into units, and allow the individual objectives in each scene  to bring out the overarching super-objective, the ultimate goal of the performance. The super-objective carries the through line of action like a spine, with the individual objectives being the vertebra and the through line the spinal cord. Together, they ensure continuity in a performance.

Just as no man is an island, the actor does not act in isolation – a story is created through various roles that come together. So, for our next article, we will be looking at Ensemble Playing, in other words, an actor’s awareness for other actors sharing the same space.