The Science of Acting

"What is good acting? How does one create believable characters? How can an actor understand a character, if they do not understand themselves?" - S.K.

The most significant addition to acting technique of the last 50 years enters the world stage with the publication of, The Science of Acting. Unlike any other acting handbook, The Science of Acting gives you the tools to act beautifully. If you want to create believable characters from any period, in any style and for any audience; and if you want to have peace of mind that when you acted well, you knew how to recreate that as often as was required... if you want to know what good acting is - then The Science of Acting is a must read.

The Book

“The purpose of this book is to make the ways and means by which good acting is achieved, crystal clear. It also explains why, while every actor wants to act well, so few do.” – S.K.

Before he had ever dreamed of going to study at the Russian University of Theatre Arts, Sam Kogan was offered a small role in a play at his local theatre in the Ukraine. Having learnt his lines in preparation he arrived, keen to do his best, at the first rehearsal. On cue, he came on stage and did what he thought was expected of him. “No good, do it again” was the director’s response. Confused and a little frightened, he changed his performance slightly and spoke a little louder. “No good”, came the response again. “What am I doing wrong?” he asked. The director answered, “Don’t ask questions, just do it again!”

This was a defining moment in Sam’s life. From that experience and throughout his time as a student at the Russian University and subsequent career as an actor, director and teacher in Russia and the UK, he was amazed how often theatre practitioners referred to acting as an ephemeral, intangible art form. He realized how few definitions there were of the terminology used in the theatre. Words that are constantly used in drama classes and rehearsals – such as emotion, imagination, objective, feeling, – are used in a vague and misleading way, often to cover up confusion or the lack of understanding by the user. Sam’s endeavour was to be able to answer, in concrete terms, any question posed by a student, or to discover the answer with them. “Fear and confusion…” he would repeat, “…are the enemies of creativity”.

This endeavour is at the heart of The Science of Acting and is why it stands apart from other acting theories. It is also why Sam so provocatively referred to his work as a ‘science’. There is nothing in the book that has not been tried, tested and ultimately proven to be true. All terminology of the theatre is clearly defined or, if deemed unnecessary, outlawed. It is ironic that this ‘scientific’ approach has yielded such a comprehensive and yet beautiful understanding of the theatre arts and art in general; one that is neither sentimental, nor cynical.

The title of the book is in itself intriguing and has provoked a great deal of interest simply as a phrase, but aside from its provocative title, why buy this book?

The answer is simple; because it is unique in its simplicity and its clarity – because it is specific and precise in it answers to the questions that plague all prospective drama students and actors.

What is acting? What is good acting?

Some of the most revered actors of our time have admitted that they simply learn their lines and then go on stage. Others do weeks of detailed research and emotional preparation before attending the first rehearsal. Is there a right way or a wrong way? Can acting be learned or is it an innate ability? Why does every drama teacher have a different method and opinion? In their search for answers to these questions, actors read (or in some cases, tackle) Stanislavski, Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, Michael Chekhov, Boleslavsky and so on. But few, if any, of these books detail a specific technique. Instead they tend to explain a philosophy of acting and of what an actor’s life entails – leaving many unanswered question. As a result, actors rarely use them as practical reference books; they use them more as guides in finding their own way.

The Science of Acting answers all of the above questions and many, many more. It is not a memoir, a discussion or an opinion; it is a manual. It is not designed to be just an enlightening read that leaves you with a feeling of inspiration – one that gradually dissipates. It is designed to be the standard reference book for every developing actor and drama teacher and a must have for any drama school library.

Not only will The Science of Acting attract drama students and working actors, but because of the uniqueness of the approach and the clarity with which the subject of acting is explained, the audience for this book is anyone who has an interest in the process of acting – directors, theatre critics, artists in general and even film-fans.

With just a glance at the ‘Acting Technique’ shelves in the drama section of any bookstore, it is immediately apparent that more than half of the current selections either refer to Stanislavski’s work, attempt to explain his theories, or are about the man himself. The majority of them have been in print for many years. The Science of Acting takes its cue from Stanislavski and is founded largely on his work. This is inevitable as Sam was trained by one of Stanislavski’s colleagues and was immersed in the Moscow theatre world for his formative years as an actor.

What makes The Science of Acting stand out amongst its competition though, is how it clarifies Stanislavski’s theories and in doing so takes them to the next level in its understanding and explanation of personality and the subconscious. Stanislavski mentioned the subconscious frequently, and in his books one gets the feeling that he knew that understanding it was the key to great acting. Ultimately though, he never explored this area, as the tools to do so did not exist in his day. The Science of Acting takes up where Stanislavski left off by incorporating twentieth century Psychology and Neuroscience. The book explains the workings of the subconscious mind and the formation of personality in a thorough and simple way. Each topic is explained in terms of the way we live and goes on to detail how to create the same on stage. It is, essentially, a study of human nature.

In 1961, Igor Alekseev, Stanislavski’s son wrote in a letter to Hapgood (the initial translator of Stanislavski’s books), “The fate of the system in your country is apparently the same as in ours: many speak about the system, a few read it, and very few understand it”. Now, reading The Science of Acting, they will understand what Stanislavski intended, and much, much more.

The Author

“From that day I decided no longer to bow towards his statue but to say, ‘Thank you dear Stanislavski’ and moved him from the altar he had been on for so long to a shelf.” – S.K.

Sam Kogan, founder and principal of The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing, (formerly The School of the Science of Acting) died in November 2004. Sam led a varied life that included training at the Russian University of Theatre Arts, acting, directing and dancing throughout the USSR together with a love of fine art and science. Eager to leave the infringements of Cold War Soviet Union, in 1973 he arrived in London where he developed The Science of Acting®, his theory of acting and directing which informed a wider understanding of art, humanity and the way we live. Fearless and with a wicked sense of humour, he questioned traditional or established viewpoints and similarly invited his students to question and test his own teaching.

Sam was born in Czernowitz in the USSR on October 22, 1946. As a young man he excelled as a folk dancer and a wrestler, competing in both at national level. While on a national tour with his dance troupe, he was given the opportunity to audition for the Russian University of Theatre Arts and from 1966 to 1971 he studied acting and directing at the University under Professor Maria Knebel, a former student and colleague of Konstantin Stanislavski.

Immersed in the tradition of the Russian theatre and techniques of Stanislavski he began to form his own ideas about theatre but, being from a Jewish family, Soviet law forced him to return to his hometown upon graduation. Sam was frustrated and knew he had to leave the Soviet Union if he was to have the future he wanted.

Escaping the USSR, he arrived in London and found himself at odds with traditional drama training in England, particularly regarding what he perceived to be a lack of understanding of the craft of acting. Kogan had a tirelessly inquisitive mind and read the complete works of Stanislavski countless times in English and Russian finding not only were the translations misleading but that there were flaws in the theory. By questioning and sometimes borrowing from artists and theatre practitioners – particularly Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rodin, Chekhov, Vakhtangov and Nemirovich-Danchenko; as well as physicists, psychologists and even neuroscientists, he added to, altered and essentially developed Stanislavski’s System, piecing together what would eventually become The Science of Acting®.

A few years into teaching at various London drama schools, so many students were begging him to run workshops outside college hours that he founded The School of the Science of Acting (now The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing) in Holloway, London in 1991 with only fourteen full-time students. News spread quickly and when Sam offered an evening intensive course later that year, over seventy students turned up on the first night. Instead of teaching two evenings a week he had to teach four to accommodate them all.

His devotion to his students’ education was a first for most of them. Constantly aware of the detailed progress of every student at his school, Sam treated each one of them as an individual with their fullest potential to be released. He demanded an enormous amount of work and dedication from all of them but never failed to fulfil his part of the ‘education contract’, often teaching nine hours a day, on top of his administrative duties. Between 1986 and 2002, Sam directed over 35 plays, constantly refining and redefining aspects of The Science of Acting® in light of observations made in rehearsals and classes.

Sam’s unique scientific approach to the understanding of acting, led to an unprecedented comprehension of consciousness and its formation.

In the last fifteen years of his life, Sam constantly updated the acting syllabus at the School and wrote many published letters and articles. He took part in numerous heated debates via letter to The Stage newspaper in London, often criticizing the British drama training establishment and pushing for reform.

In 2003, a year before he passed away, Sam declared The Science of Acting® complete. His was, and is, a full body of knowledge that gives any student clear tools for understanding him/her-self so as to be able to create realistic, believable characters.

Following his death in 2004 Sam’s daughter, Helen worked with transcripts from classes, students’ class notes, original hand notes and the contributions and assistance of Sam’s graduates as well as current tutors at The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing to ensure that his life’s work was published.

Helen Kogan

Helen studied Neuroscience and Pharmacology before going on to work in various positions for the pharmaceutical industry. Taking on the position of principal at The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing for the transition period following her father’s passing, she remains chairman of the Academy’s board.

Following a lifetime of discussing his ideas on consciousness with her father and the implications for an audience beyond the acting community, Helen started transcribing video tapes and organising the book with her father while he was still alive. The perfectionist that Sam was, it remains a wonder if the book would ever have been published if he were still alive.

Picking up the project a few years later, Helen has incorporated scientific evidence where relevant to support many of her father’s ideas.

Helen continues to explore the frontiers of consciousness, science and its application to health and well-being and looks forward to incorporating this into future editions of The Science of Acting together with her work in general.

Reviews & Testimonials

You will read what it is I asked to reach the conclusions I made and will also find much asked of you to encourage you as a free being, to look for your answers too.” – S.K.

Stanislavski-influenced Sam Kogan (1946-2004) arrived in Britain in the 1970s, in flight from Soviet Russia where he had studied at the Russian University of Theatre Arts. He established The Science of Acting as a standalone technique, a new account of which is edited by his daughter Helen Kogan, chair and former principal of The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing founded by her father in 1991. CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW >

Susan Elkin
The Stage Newspaper, October 22nd 2009

Founder of North London’s School of the Science of Acting (now The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing), the late Sam Kogan developed an incredibly detailed theory of how to become a character based on pinning down how we think. In this fascinating actor’s manual, edited by his daughter, the Russian demystifies how thoughts originate, develop and manifest themselves, working on the theory that if an actor thinks like a character they will inevitably react, feel and behave like them. By explaining the workings of human nature, he illustrates how actors can create plausibly engaging characters and express themselves with greater depth. CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW >

Laura Silverman
What’s on Stage, September 15th 2009

I never really want to become an actress nor do I want to get up on stage and perform. However, I am a radio show talk host and a writer and many of the lessons, ideas and strategies in The Science of Acting by author Sam Kogan can help anyone enhance not only their acting skills but writing too. I am going to review this book based on what areas I found helpful, insightful and useful to make me a better writer, author and to create the kind of characters and plot that would be great if someone decided to make my books into a movie. CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW >

Fran Lewis
Premiere writers, April 23rd 2010

Ever noticed how your mood can change throughout the day even when you are just spending time by yourself? Or, do you have a friend that makes the same relationship mistakes, but does not recognise the pattern reappearing each time? In The Science of Acting Sam Kogan explores the notion that there is undetected thinking, which seemingly controls many parts of our everyday lives. This concept is known as ‘invisible thinking’. CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW >

Douglas McFarlane
UK Theatre Network, 11th September 2009

I need to admit that I am not an actor or a student of theatre arts. I did encourage and support my daughter when she participated in high school and junior college plays and musicals. I started reading this book with the perception that I would learn acting techniques but I soon discovered that this book is also about how we think and act in everyday life. CLICK TO READ FULL REVIEW >

Janette Fuller
JanetteFuller.com, 23rd March 2010

I owe my career to Sam Kogan. His Teachings which were clear, distinct and inspirational have been the bedrock of my professional life. CLICK TO READ FULL TESTIMONIAL >

Eddie Marsan
(Gangs of New York, 21 Grams, Vera Drake, Mission Impossible III, Happy Go Lucky, The World’s End, Ray Donovan)

No book can teach you how to act, but some can come pretty damn close. The Science of Acting by Sam Kogan is one of them – in fact it may be the only one. It’s an indispensable book outlining in detail an incredible technique. CLICK TO READ FULL TESTIMONIAL >

Richard Brake
(Cold Mountain, Batman Begins, Munich, The Black Dahlia, Hannibal Rising, Lost Angels)

I consider having been trained by Sam Kogan in The Science of Acting the luckiest break I have ever had, and as a consequence it would be easy to assume that my objectivity towards this book’s merits is lacking. Its contents have become over the years a firmly embedded and easily accessible set of tools that I frequently if not always call on in any professional situation I encounter. CLICK TO READ FULL TESTIMONIAL >

David Bark-Jones
(The Da Vinci Code, Sixty Six, Rock n’ Rolla, The Calling)

The Science of Acting is a tremendous book that outlines one of the most thorough and enlightening acting techniques available. CLICK TO READ FULL TESTIMONIAL >

Philip Bulcock
(The Dark Knight, Dark Shadows, 28 Weeks Later, Crossroad, Jersey Boys)

Contact

"It really isn't dedication to acting that is at the core of The Science of Acting but dedication to oneself." - S.K.


General Enquiries


For media enquiries The Science of Acting please email info@thescienceofacting.com

For enquiries regarding courses at The Academy of the Science of Acting and Directing please email info@scienceofacting.com

To contact Helen Kogan please email elenakogan12@gmail.com

Workshops & Events


If you would like to be kept updated on the locations and timings of forthcoming The Science of Acting Workshops and Seminars given by licensed tutors of The Science of Acting please add your details to the form below.

Likewise, please complete the form if you are interested in bespoke training by licensed tutors of The Science of Acting. This ranges from coaching individuals for auditions, assisting actors in the preparation/rehearsal of a specific part, short workshops for groups/companies, introductory seminars as well as longer term programmes intended to cover the entire syllabus.

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