I think that by this Stanislavski meant that his system for an actors performance and preparation of a role is designed so that actors can create as much of a convincing performance as possible so to make the audience feel that what is being acted on stage is real. If the performance is more real to the audience, the will we more absorbed by it, making it more entertaining leading to the performance being more successful.
By saying this, he is saying that it is not enough to just know of the system (as in read through it), you cannot fake your way through the system on stage as you will come across as wooden you have to go through the system so as to be realistic as possible while performing. You have to use the system in order to portray a real character. It is not enough to simply learn your lines and deliver them on stage even if you were word perfect. To be convincing as your character you must be able to react as well as act.
If on the performance night, something unpredicted happened that had not occurred in previous rehearsals, the actor must be able to use the “magic if” to be able to react as the character would in the circumstances. If the actor hasn’t considered the “magic if” then they would struggle to be wholly convincing. Even a brief moment of the actor being thrown off by something, could be noticed by the audience. The aim of an actor is to portray their character fully throughout the whole performance and not step out of their character at any time. The actor must be able to conjure up their imagination at any time.
If for whatever reason they can’t recall what their next action or line or expression etc is exactly, then they, as an actor should be able to think about what they would do as the character to still depict the meaning and direction of the situation and take it to the same place for the audience. This especially cannot be faked as if an actor just presumes that they can go wild with their imagination during performance, they can take away the realism of the whole performance by even suggesting the tiniest thing that would be far fetched to the rest of the plot.
It is vital that an actor relaxes their muscles before a performance. If muscles are tense then so is mental activity which means the messages that our brain sends to our nerves are more frantic and cannot be processed quickly enough in turn making our muscles more tense causing the actor to be more stressed and less likely to be able to flow in their actions or speech therefore creating a wooden feel on stage. It is impossible for an actor to pretend to be relaxed and calm. They may seem calm and relaxed on the outside but this is just basic acting to fellow actors or the director.
If this is so it would be most probably instantly recognisable on the stage affecting the audiences viewing of the performance and possibly other actors around you. An actor has to use emotional memory during rehearsals to depict a convincing emotion and to make the character more 3 dimensional and less wooden. An actor could take an instance of a character and think to themselves “you would feel this emotion if you . . . ” and then act out that feeling as it is just not real enough.
They must take an instance from their own life when they had the same or similar emotion and think of that incident in present tense so as to recreate a matching emotion to the character’s emotion. An actor must feel truth and belief in what they are doing. Unless this is so their acting becomes forced and only an interpretation of what they think the character would do. Whereas if the actor accompanies the whole performance with “if” then they shall naturally be able to deliver the right feel to their character and plot as they will believe it to be true that the character would act a certain way when challenged with “if”.
If an actor only skims the surface of the truth and belief, they cannot expect an audience to have full belief in their character if they do not themselves. It is vital and necessary for an actor to know the system and use it to create a successful performance on their behalf. Nobody could just pretend to know the system and convey their character to the best; they have to come engrossed in all elements of their character so much so that the audience doesn’t think it is just a character from a script it has to be developed.
The actor must become the character. The character must become a real person. It is not possible to do this without the system. An actor couldn’t “Act” this system as it leads to their portrayal of a more real character if they follow it through and use it thoroughly. It is not a character that has to approach this system; it is the actor, the real person who must approach it in order to convey their character. You are not a character when using the system you are the actor using it to help you become the character.