What Is The Conundrum That Stanislavski Set With The Bearer Bonds?


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Stanislavski created an improvised scenario of which he said any actors who could play this scene were able to play any scene. Any actors who can be trained to create this scene would truly be able to approach any possible scene in a play or film with confidence.

The Bearer Bond improvisation is this:

A man comes home from work at the bank, carrying with him a quantity of Bearer bonds that he needs to put into order. As he returns home, he hears his wife bathing the baby in the bedroom; he goes to the living room where his mentally retarded brother is sitting by the roaring fire. The man places the Bearer bonds on the table and begins to unpack them. He tears the wrappers off the bonds and throws the wrappers into the fire. His wife, hearing him at home shouts for him to come and admire the baby, which he does. When he leaves the room, the mentally retarded brother plays with the bonds, and copying the man, begins throwing the bonds into the fire. Returning, the man sees the brother throwing them into the fire, he shouts and pushes the brother out of the way, and tries to grab at any bonds that haven't already burned. Hearing the commotion, the wife runs into the room. She sees the brother has hit his head on the fireplace, she checks on him and finds him dead. She consoles her husband who has lost the bonds (and so his job) and his brother in one night. But wait! The baby! They both rush into the bedroom and find that the baby has drowned.

The challenge was for the student actors to find a way to analyse and perform the scene truthfully. When the students could find a way through the conundrum, when they could play such a tricky scene, they would have learned 'how to act'. David Mamet, in his 1989 collection of essays entitled 'Some Freaks', mulls the question of the Bearer Bond scene and suggests that each generation, each development or evolution of acting technique needs to find its own way to deal with the problem.

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