Fragmented radiation

Tamur Tohver’s presentation at The S Word: Stanislavsky & Actor Training for the Screen, University of East London, UK.

Screen acting has its benefits. While the period can be long, the actual time in front of the camera is short; one does not have to remember all the lines at once, and the physical effort is usually lower than on a stage. One does not have to repeat everything nightly; being successful with the right expression once, this will be captured immediately and forever. Misplayed parts could be repaired by extra shots and one can provide slightly different artistic versions. Finally, it is relatively well paid compared to the time invested, and the distribution of the film brings wider recognition (and therefore further employment) in a shorter time than stage activity. This all can be the reason why screen acting is more popular among young people than acting on stage: it seems to be easy.

The vital means for establishing this communication is through the eyes
We listen with the eyes as well as the ears. The eyes create a continuous flow of contact and energy that prompts words, actions, thoughts and feelings, some of which may be expressed, some of which may only be experienced while the other person is talking: the process of genuine communication Stanislavski called radiation – one person transmits, and the other receives without interruption.”
(Gillet, 2012:91)[i]


[i] John Gillett (2012) Experiencing or pretending—are we getting to the core of Stanislavski’s approach?, Stanislavski Studies, 1:1, 87-120, DOI:10.1080/20567790.2012.11428584

My professional screen acting experience dates back to 1983 when I was 13. It has been successfully active for 40 years and is purely based on Stanislavskian craft. While I was trained as a stage director, my practical experience started with TV and radio drama, and all three genres enriched me. Today, I outline some practical notions from my path, complemented by the director’s cross-genre experience.

Having solid Stanislavskian training, I never found it challenging to transform the external score to an intimate one by focusing on eyes, voice, small hand-head-face gestures, facial impressions and other seemingly involuntary reactions. The simplest way to adapt the acting score is to think in images like a film director or a camera operator does: looking at the actions through the lenses according to a storyboard. If an actor can read the screenplay professionally with tech marks, one can easily adjust their solutions for camera close-ups or extreme close-ups, which support the storytelling and one’s internal score. It is like using the same Stanislavskian if to replace external physical activities with intimate ones. If the audience can see only this or that fragment of my body, which external visible physical reaction appears to support my inner, invisible objective (what my character wants)? In a way, one replaces the performative external score with the more intimate internal one.

Regarding that, I can see the complexity of screen acting more in maintaining the character’s completeness during the shooting process in managing past and present and regarding the actor’s readiness. This is due to distracting elements like the scattered storyline, shooting schedule, waiting time at the location, rehearsing alone, repeating covering shots and technical demands. It is more about positioning the character at the role arc: what happened before this concrete moment we are shooting. The disturbing peculiarities are the script’s inconsistency of time and location and the lack of a partnership to create a robust eye connection (opposite the stage). The absence of a shared space with the audience does not support emotional intensity and the formation of a supportive atmosphere.

Hence, “fragmented” screen acting is times more demanding than stage one, during which the continuous character arc is completed without leaving the role. Even though less is more here, in reality, it requests more to empower the character for a film. While valuing its intimate style, we need a more intense solution for the lenses because it is internal. The principle of the camera or mic is simple: it amplifies a signal. If the latter is missing, there is nothing to intensify.

Screen Acting

Psychophysical memory

 In screen acting, remembering the lines can also be difficult as the rehearsing is different. In Stanislavskian acting, one learns the lines holistically rather than memorising them mechanically. When the show is restored after a long break between the playing periods, even though sometimes we do not remember the concrete lines, we do remember where the partner was located concerning us at this very moment, what the light was like, and so on. This proves the existence of somatic connections, which Stanislavski’s approach creates (Tohver, 2022). Rehearsing for stage, the character completes in approximately 30 days. This gives time to get used to the arc and store lines according to objectives. Unfortunately, the shooting process removes a similar possibility; the company rarely assembles to rehearse the film scene.

Thereby, in screen acting, seemingly all the supportive acting instruments have been removed to create truthful and effective communication with a partner or a viewer. While different methods propose a wide variety of techniques for getting yourself as a character into the needed emotion at this very moment without having a proper background and timeframe, Stanislavskian acting provides concrete tools which also cover the past and future of the character and the primary demand: acting effectiveness regarding message delivery.

“The mutual transmitting and receiving in our communication creates a alive, spontaneous and dynamic interaction,
which is so sensitised that it could go in different directions given a different thought, feeling or action at a particular time.”
(GILLET, 2012:91)


Nevertheless, in film, we value the captured intimacy created by the actor’s eyes, sight, small minimal motions, breathing, intimate voice expressions, etc. This creates a personal connection, awakens more profound associations, allows the viewer to better identify with the character, and, in summary, provides a more substantial impact. These almost imperceptible tools create a way of identification which does not use intellectual story-based information but knowledge arising from our somatic reactions.

To charge that score, an actor can use the skill of radiation, which Stanislavski defines as a tool. In daily life, we have noticed that, for example, when someone exuding self-confidence enters a room, we immediately perceive it. In the same way, we perceive sadness or joy emanating from another.


Furthermore, while eyes are essential in communication with a camera, radiation includes more. White (2009)[i] outlines that Stanislavski understood the atmosphere on stage results from actor radiation, as when actors radiate their inner life, the production is brought to life.[ii] He regards it as an essential way for actors to communicate unspoken. The phrase was used at the training: I believe in my inner energy and I give it out—I spread it (Gray, 1964).[iii] White explains that Stanislavski believed that human beings communicate “directly from soul to soul” through “invisible mental currents”, and this is loaded with spiritual overtones, consistent with the intense curiosity about Yoga.[iv] Stanislavsky and Sulerzhitsky were using exercises from Yoga at their training, including the invocation of the Hindu concept of vital energy known as prana.[v]        I argue that a camera can capture this radiation, which is accessible for a viewer as another human being. Coming to yoga, this practice also states that energy transfers through the eyes.


[i] Radiation and the Transmission of Energy: from Stansilavsky to MIchale Chekhov, R. Andrew White, Performance and Spirituality Number 1 (2009)

[ii] Stanislavskii, My Life in Art in CW9V, 1: 285-86.

[iii] Cited by Paul Gray in “The Reality of Doing: Interviews with Vera Soloviova, Stella Adler, and Sanford Meisner,” in Stanislavski and America, ed. Erica Munk (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964), 211.

[iv] For a detailed discussion of Stanislavsky’s inclusion of spiritual ideology in the System, see R. Andrew White, “Stanislavsky and Ramacharaka: The Influence of Yoga and Turn-of-the-Century Occultism on the System,” Theatre Survey 47 (2006): 73-92. See also, Sharon M. Carnicke, Stanislavsky in Focus (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Press, 1998, 138-45.

[v] See Carnicke, 141.

It seems awkward. Stanislavskian practice describes radiation as a communication improvement and message-delivering tool in the stage environment that finally affects the spectator via the atmosphere. In filmmaking, if contact with the partner is minimalised and there are no spectators at the location in classical means, then with whom can one radiate? The answer is: with oneself and the camera, as mentioned earlier. We do not need a partner or an object to radiate directly; just having one makes it more targeted and reflected.

The Will

 However, radiating becomes possible and is kept continuous and uninterrupted only with well-guided and grounded personal will and a highly robust performing flow, absorption into activity, as articulated by Csikszentmihalyi (1990). If the performer can create such strong support for oneself, I argue that using the capability to radiate smooths out the external interruptions at the shooting location and enables one to enter the desired state of performing at any time under any circumstances immediately. It is like using On and Off and Stand-By modes, like on a generator. Thereby, one can activate the needed condition earlier and then switch the radiation active when the actual shot starts.

While yoga knowledge of radiation is based on about 4000 years of experience, Ribot and Maudsley explain this more psychologically. According to White (2009), Ribot understands radiated energy as part of a psychological explanation for one’s ability to direct voluntary attention to an object. He, citing psychiatrist Maudsley (1835-1918), declares that voluntary attention results from “the excitation of certain nervous currents of ideas and their maintenance in action until they have called into consciousness […] to stimulate into action.”

Concentration activates radiation

Concentration is the key to triggering the radiation. I can confirm from experience shooting TV serials as an actor that one can create a shared space at the location and a relationship with the camera via radiation. Similarly, during my online rehearsals in 2015-17 for the stage, the needed atmosphere appeared despite the different physical locations and the vast distance between the actors. If there is a low concentration, the radiation will be poor; that is why Stanislavski emphasised the importance of the first. Attention heightens willpower and enables one to guide one’s focus and make a strong connection even without a realistic partner, like a green screen or a camera.


Short-term radiation

Nevertheless, based just on pure will, radiation will be temporary as it demands extra energy to send it out. One has to create a constant performing flow to elevate it to the permanent state of acting. Radiation and performing flow depend on each other; they appear in the connected cycle: radiation is stronger when the flow is uninterrupted and vice versa. Therefore, the flow should be created not to cover only the specific scene shooting but, I will suggest, through the day itself. At the time of case studies of Zero Zone praxis in 2020-21, the participants, acting for film and TV currently, used the praxis to keep high concentration between the shooting moments on the location as entering into so-called stand-by mode. Therefore, to concentrate correctly, one must be strong in homework regarding the character’s objectives and super-objectives.

For me, the term “voluntary” becomes confusing here, and I would replace it with “intended”, as energy is activated by conscious will and is directed to fulfil an objective; however, using Stanislavskian craft, sometimes it just happens without acknowledging it, especially as a result of Active Analyses. According to White (2009), Ribot explains that a higher concentration level leads to higher consciousness and spiritual ecstasy. Also, Meyer-Dinkgräfe (2005) supports that- in frames of acting, using Vedic Science lenses. In the beginning stages of such attention, Ribot argues that consciousness elevates radiation to a single state of enormous intensity- which we can interpret as a performing flow in a frame of screen acting. White says that both Ribot and Stanislavski saw a connection between radiated energy and concentration. Also, as a student of Stanislavski, Chekhov claims that if an actor is able to radiate, they can increase it with conscious effort, adding that concentrating properly boosts this ability (Chekhov, 1991).[i]


[i] Michael Chekhov, On the Technique of Acting, ed. Mel Gordon (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 115

Screen Acting

Psychoanalysis back-ups concentration

Stamatiou’s reverse Method of Physical Actions (2023) is beneficial as it includes profound psychoanalysis. Stanislavskian analyses of a story, a character’s objectives and an arc provide a robust and sufficient background for the performer. This comprehensive investigation helps to avoid logical mistakes in the score and relationships, eases to rehearse and later quickly locate oneself in the story. By completing the objectives, the action will be ignited by willpower, first of all, internally. This makes it grounded and evokes appropriate emotion. Concentrating on the character’s goals at this moment activates reviving radiation. Therefore, we are not dealing with radiation directly but focusing on the task at hand.

Stanislavski pointed out three crucial tools for screen acting: psychoanalysis, concentration, and radiation. If these are applied, a solid performing flow appears, which can be switched on and off. Profound analyses keep a complete performing arc active in mind. This enhances closeups, simultaneously becoming crucial in a scattered shooting schedule: helping to perform the future before the past, embody short moments with just a couple of words, provide correct stand-alone facial reactions at any time, to remember what has happened and what follows next, how one is affected, what the viewer already knows and so on to empower the score with the suitable and rich radiation to be captured. This also considers performing flow, which should be evoked with the right intensity in emotions and the right tempo/rhythm in actions.

Concentration as a vehicle for radiation

Looking for idealistic conditions for concentration, as Stanislavski did, should be pointed out Thomson and Jaque’s notion about the feedback loop. They say that if performers are unable to manage their frightening thoughts and bodily reactions, then the feedback loop between the main focus and disturbing factors (joint to the shooting situation) will increase until performance anxiety reaches the level of panic attacks (Thomson and Jaque, 2017). These processes occur automatically and endlessly, are strong by nature and can be stopped only by prior training to change somatic reactions. Neuro-and-brain scientists Vago and Zeidan (2016) confirm that traditional non-dual attention-training practices of mindfulness improve stability and stillness of mind to maintain concentration, as pointed out by Stanislavski. They articulated that a highly developed meta-awareness in mindfulness-based practice offers rapid discernment of what is relevant at the early stages of attentional processing of information while also providing sensory clarity and emotional stability through each moment of experience. They explain that intentionally blocking sensory information still allows relevant information to enter the conscious awareness. Therefore, by training, one can heedfully detect any impulse toward a particular thought, emotion, or behaviour but deny full engagement before intellect approves the need for it. So, this knowledge helps enhance not only concertation but also focus guiding and deeper absorption into radiation.

Thus, we return to yoga—one of Stanislavski’s essential sources. It can be concluded that even today, when many modern ways exist to prepare for screen acting, his techniques are irreplaceable in screen and voice acting if the approach to these elements in the system is enhanced. Zero Zone praxis, my latest development based on Stanislavskian craft, yoga, neuropsychiatry, and leadership coaching, helps elevate these essential skills, already underlined by Stanislavski.

Zero Zone Praxis offers a methodological approach for the actor to elevate their performance to a state of higher consciousness regarding performance flow, even in the case of fragmented radiation, which is the usual condition for screen acting. 
Importantly, ZZ also provides an actor-performer with personal practice, as it is always guided to the person’s inner capacities and, therefore, free from external aid. See you at Zero Zone Practice training!
Tamur’s first experiences and realisations pertaining to fear in performing art, with the company of To See a Pink Elephant in rehearsal. The protagonist of the show inspires Tamur to search for solutions to fear.
2017-2020 In the Polygon Theatre Company, we are getting much better at identifying the interfering influence of fear in the rehearsal process, sometimes less, sometimes more. Conflicts could shadow the relationships between even the best of colleagues and friends during the creative process. We are only able to reduce them through very meticulous self-balancing.
In conversations with many of the older generation of theatre makers, everyone recognises this phenomenon and affirms the importance of addressing this obstacle in performing art. This is further affirmed by international colleagues and Tamur’s experience of directing work abroad.
In 2019, Manchester Metropolitan University accepts Tamur Tohver’s proposal for doctoral research into fear in performing art with an emphasis on the actor-director interrelationship.
First case studies with the production Singing Green (Roheline nagu laulaks) with professional actors at Polygon Theatre and with students at Polygon Theatre School. We inspect the efficiency of Zero Zone Praxis and the feedback is remarkable.
December 2020: presentation and workshop on Zero Zone Praxis at The 2020 AusAct: Australian Actor Training Conference www.ausact.com.au
July 2021: Zero Zone Praxis presentation and workshop at International Federation for Theatre Research world conference in Galway www.iftr.org
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