“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 of The School of the Science of Acting (formerly The Kogan Academy of Dramatic Arts) died in November 2004. Sam led a varied life that included training at Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS), 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 Academy 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 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 School of the Science of Acting to ensure that his life’s work was published.