“The Demidov School of Acting is Russian theater’s best kept secret,” says Andrei Malaev-Babel, Director of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. It’s a secret that Malaev-Babel, who joined the Conservatory, an elite three-year graduate program for actors in 2006, has been happy to share. “Demidov was the closest associate of Konstantin Stanislavsky, who is basically the father of contemporary theater and certainly the father of contemporary actor training. But Demidov, having worked with Stanislavsky for over 30 years, disagreed with Stanislavsky on some of the key issues concerning actor training,” says Malaev-Babel. “However, when Stanislavsky died, his disciples decided to do away with Demidov because they saw him as a competitor. And so after 1938, they basically wiped him out of the history of the Russian theater–you cannot publish his books and you cannot teach his work.”

Malaev-Babel’s time as Head of Acting, a title he still holds even after his promotion to Director of the Conservatory, granted him a unique opportunity in his career: the chance to facilitate an incubator for what was to many a new methodology of acting. “For three hours a day, Tuesday through Friday, with these twelve actors that we selected from thousands, I was practically recreating this work. We were able to not only develop this technique, but to actually put it on the map internationally,” says Malaev-Babel.

Malaev-Babel was drawn to Demidov’s methodology because after years of teaching different styles, he had finally found a technique that spoke to the actors’ instincts. “I was never satisfied with the results that I was able to achieve when I used the Stanislavski System or the techniques of Michael Chekov. Something was missing,” attests Malaev-Babel. “It felt like I’d been banging my head against the wall for a very long time and suddenly someone opened a door and said, stop killing yourself, just enter through the door.”

Demidov’s techniques have allowed Malaev-Babel to empower his students, creating spaces in which they are not afraid to fail but instead thrive organically within the performance. Unlike the Stanislavski System, in which action is the origin of the actor’s creative process and emotion the resulting byproduct of that, Demidov teaches that action and emotion are both byproducts of an actor’s perception. “That focus on perception versus action, on the subconscious versus rational mind and analysis is something that just completely changes the acting universe. Demidov’s process speaks to the actor’s instinct, which is why all of our actors, and all actors who ever were introduced to Demidov, immediately take to it because Demidov is not telling them anything that their instinct has not already known,” says Malaev-Babel.