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date: 28 February 2024

Russian Modernist Theaterfree

Russian Modernist Theaterfree

  • Alisa Ballard LinAlisa Ballard LinThe Ohio State University

Summary

Few theatrical epochs have had the lasting international impact of Russian modernist theater. The two most influential theater directors to emerge from this era, Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vsevolod Meyerhold, continue to provide rich fodder in their acting theories and performance practices for contemporary theater creators worldwide. Meanwhile, the early 20th century in Russian theater was a time of fierce theoretical and practice-based polemics, rapid technological development, and monumental shifts in theatrical practice as actors were trained in specific internal and external (bodily) techniques and directors took on increasingly more importance for the creative design of a production. At the same time, popular theater was a major avenue of theatrical development in the era, with cabaret and other minor forms enjoying great popularity in Russia and on tours abroad, while avant-garde artists like the Russian futurists created shocking street-based performance art that capitalized on the modernist sense of newness and rejection of the past. Points of debate in studies of Russian modernist theater include disagreement over the definition of what counts as modernist and how seriously to take the polarization and polemics that these theater artists themselves espoused. While modernist theater in Europe is known for its emphasis on closet drama, on grand experiments that were ultimately unperformable, and on mistrust of language and representation, performance practice took a related but different path in Russian culture in the first decades of the 20th century. Despite a great diversity of performance styles, venues, and audiences, theater in the age of Russian modernism unifies around a few key points. First, it placed great emphasis on honing and highlighting the various physical and mental skills of the actor. Second, Russian modernist theater generally valued language and the literary tradition, both Russian and global, despite some efforts to break with literature in theater. Third, theater of this era presented a tone of irony, self-consciousness, and theatricalism. In all its manifestations, it was experimental and self-reflexive, interrogating theater’s relationship to the world and boldly devising new forms. Fourth, Russian modernist theater was richly integrated into its artistic, intellectual, and political context, with ties to science, philosophy, psychology, visual arts, music, dance, film, and literature. Theater came to serve the political ends of the young Soviet nation in the 1920s, though politics were not a predominant force in theater throughout Russian modernism. Theater was not immediately strongly affected by the Russian Revolution of 1917, but by the end of the 1920s, theater was forced to bend to the strong will of Soviet censors, and by the mid-1930s, theatrical innovation was greatly diminished under Stalin-era censorship and its insistence on the style of socialist realism, as well as the general threat of the Stalinist Terror.

Subjects

  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)
  • Slavic and Eastern European Literatures
  • Theater and Drama

Beginnings in the Moscow Art Theater

Modernism in Russia is generally thought to begin around the 1890s and end by the late 1920s or early 1930s, a period encompassing both revolution (1905, 1917) and domestic and foreign war (Russo-Japanese War, World War I, Russian Civil War). The period is framed by decadence and symbolism on one end and, on the other, hefty Soviet censorship that would squash, even literally decimate, the avant-garde in favor of socialist realism. Indeed, “toward the end of the 1920s the modernist aesthetic quest was stigmatized as alien to the new Soviet society and the memory of modernism’s legacy was purposefully repressed.”1 The late 1890s through late 1920s, however, were an aesthetic heyday for the Russian theater. Many productions and theatrical practices in this period aimed to innovate, to shock, and to startle; to capture the essence of both the latest modernity and the most classic antiquity; and to secure new artistic truths fitting with the political, technological, and sociological developments of the day. For many theater artists in these years, theater became a polemical practice, with aesthetic choices designed to assert one’s artistic uniqueness and relevance and counter the work of one’s rivals. These artistic polemics spilled across the pages of the journals and books that were integral to the formation of the modernist community, particularly in Russia’s two rapidly urbanizing capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Although the aesthetic infighting between specific theaters, individuals, and the fractured submovements within modernism can be traced, modernism in the Russian theater as a whole was a disparate phenomenon (a “heterogeneous episode in the history of culture,” as Michael Levenson broadly describes modernism), occurring across a loosely interconnected series of artistic experiments in private theaters and state theaters, elite theaters, popular theaters, and amateur and proletarian theaters.2 Many individuals worked across the boundaries of these labels such as private, public, popular, and elite, deliberately questioning their assumptions and implications, particularly after the upset of the Russian Revolution of 1917, as the new Soviet Union sought to shed aristocracy and eliteness in favor of glorifying the proletariat.

It is easy to give an origin myth to the modernist Russian theater by looking to the year 1898, when director and actor Konstantin Stanislavsky and dramatist and critic Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko opened the Moscow Art Theater (Moskovskii khudozhestvennyi teatr) in the center of Moscow, following a fabled eighteen-hour planning session at the restaurant Slavianskii Bazar. This of course was no historically isolated moment. It had been spurred by Tsar Alexander III’s 1882 rescinding of the state monopoly of the theaters, which led to several new ones opening by the 1890s, and by Stanislavsky’s increasingly innovative work at the semiprofessional Society for Art and Literature (Obshchestvo iskusstva i literatury), which featured meticulously accurate sets and costumes and psychologically complex, rather than stereotypical or declamatory, representation of character.

At the Moscow Art Theater, Stanislavsky continued to develop these techniques. The opening season included Aleksei Tolstoy’s historical drama Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich (Tsar’ Fedor Ioannovich) and Anton Chekhov’s dramatic comedy The Seagull (Chaika).

Figure 1. Dacha theater scene from The Seagull at the Moscow Art Theater, 1898. Directed by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, design by Viktor Simov. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

The success of this Chekhov play, which had gone through a much-maligned premiere at the Alexandrinsky Theater (Aleksandrinskii teatr) in St. Petersburg in 1896 starring Vera Komissarzhevskaya, was credited with saving the Moscow Art Theater from the initial skepticism of the critics. Both of these early productions sought to reform the relationship of the audience to the stage—through cutouts of trees between audience and actors in Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich to obstruct the audience’s view and through an audience of actors placed on the stage in The Seagull. The meticulous physical detail of sets, costumes, and even acoustics also reoriented the actors’ relationship to their own performance by encouraging more realistic and authentic, less stereotypical acting. The Moscow Art Theater implemented other changes in Russian theater practice, as well. From the beginning, productions were carefully through-designed by a director, rather than allowing individual actors to make their own stylistic choices. The theater also departed from the tradition of actors playing character “types,” and promised that all actors would be equal, with actors alternating between leading roles and minor ones. (This promise was not kept.) The Moscow Art Theater’s generous use of contemporary repertoire in the early years also gave the impression to many that it was a “theater of protest,” a theater invested in showing the troubles of Russian society, though this was not its founders’ intention.3

In the first few years as the Moscow Art Theater gained prominence and stature on par with imperial mainstays like the Maly Theater (Malyi teatr) in Moscow, its experiments met significant criticism that greatly shaped the directions in which the Russian theater as a whole would develop in the coming years. Symbolist poet and critic Valerii Briusov published a highly influential essay called “An Unnecessary Truth” (“Nenuzhnaia pravda”) in the journal World of Art (Mir iskusstva) in 1902, which accused the Moscow Art Theater of pure naturalism and declared conventionalization (uslovnost’), rather than naturalism the proper realm of theater. “To reproduce life faithfully on the stage is impossible. The stage is conventional by its very nature,” Briusov wrote.4 A number of further essays by symbolists and their peers, as well as public debates of the aesthetic questions they raised, soon followed, including in a series of three influential books: Theater: A Book about the New Theater (Teatr. Kniga o novom teatre, 1908), A Crisis of the Theater (Krizis teatra, 1908), and In Disputes about the Theater (V sporakh o teatre, 1914). These polemics interrogated the relationship of actor and audience, theater’s ethical and aesthetic responsibilities, the function of the dramatic text, and the nature of theatrical representation. They saw the Moscow Art Theater erroneously as simply a continuation of 19th-century tradition and called for a thorough renovation of theater as an artform.

Other important new theaters opened in the early 1900s, in the wake of the Moscow Art Theater and the ensuing symbolist polemics. For example, Komissarzhevskaya opened her Drama Theater (Dramaticheskii teatr) in St. Petersburg in 1904 featuring the work of playwrights whose politics heralded the Revolution of 1905, but by 1906 it was renamed the Theater on Ofitserskaia (Teatr na Ofitserskoi), with a symbolist repertoire and directors like Vsevolod Meyerhold and Nikolai Evreinov. The Theater on Ofitserskaia presented contemporary plays that critiqued stage realism. Lighting and other stage effects were used to create moody atmospheres for conveying the symbolic and spiritual. Privately operated popular theaters sprang up in abundance, but prior to the 1917 Revolution, popular theaters largely were distanced from those of the artistic intelligentsia. These popular theaters became homes for farce, melodrama, and other more entertaining and “low-brow” genres. By 1917 many minor theaters had offered cabaret-style performances of lighthearted and satirical theatrical sketches, including most famously the theaters the Crooked Mirror (Krivoe zerkalo), the Bat (Letuchaia mysh’), the Stray Dog (Brodiachaia sobaka), and the Players’ Rest (Prival komediantov). These theaters often collaborated with leading theater makers to lampoon Russia’s great acting tradition in quickly prepared performances that took place late at night after the hours of the main ones.

Figure 2. Tour poster for the cabaret theater the Bat from Paris, France, 1920s. Design by Serge Sudeikin. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

Meanwhile, in the beginning of the 20th century, as theaters were rapidly changing in response to new ideas of theater and its role in culture and in response to a newly engaged artistic-intellectual elite and wealthy investors, the Moscow Art Theater changed, too. Stanislavsky created what would become known as the Moscow Art Theater’s Theater-Studio on Povarskaia (Teatr-studiia na Povarskoi) in 1905, with Meyerhold as its head. Meyerhold, who had been staging contemporary European plays with the New Drama Association (Novaia drama), sought at the Theater-Studio to successfully stage a symbolist play, as well as to create new and distinct theatrical forms. The Theater-Studio was dissolved in 1906 after financial struggles and theater closures during October 1905, when the country was undergoing a wave of social unrest and revolution. Its productions never reached the public stage, but showings for the theater community revealed that the work of the Theater-Studio lacked focus. The stage design was so elaborate that it distracted from the actors, and Meyerhold’s vision was too abstract and theoretical for the young actors to carry out. Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko then took the Art Theater on a well-received tour of Europe in 1906, but Stanislavsky was increasingly dissatisfied with his work and began creating his System (“sistema”) that year. The System would introduce a new approach to acting, seeking to free actors completely of stage habits and structure their internal and external work on creating a character.

The Russian modernist theater would go on to develop in other new directions throughout the 1910s and 1920s, with new efforts by dozens—even hundreds—of important contributors.

Humans, Puppets, and the Modernist Actor-Subject

It would seem that theater always revolves around the actor; the actor is, after all, the most basic element of a tradition that, in Russia, originated in the medieval performances of prototheatrical church rituals and of bawdy nomadic players and jesters called skomorokhi. Russian modernism demonstrates, however, the extent to which the actor’s role in a production—material, corporeal, spiritual, aesthetic, and even logistical—can become a point of ardent contention. A range of experiments in modernism deployed the actor onstage in different ways, in both practical and theoretical terms. Numerous new acting schools at the beginning of the 20th century, often tied to specific theaters, provided rigorous training in a range of recently developed acting methodologies.

Prior to the founding of the Moscow Art Theater and its introduction of a new kind of actor training program, actor training in Russia was relatively haphazard. Young actors studied under established ones. Schools tended to center on the memorization and declamation of texts. Stanislavsky, by contrast, trained his actors in mental, physical, and spiritual techniques. His System, which he began developing in 1906 and continued to refine until his death in 1938, was a set of exercises and instructions to help actors relax their muscles so that the actors could move and emote freely, not allowing their art to ossify in repeat performances of the same role. Instead, the actor cultivates perezhivanie, or “experiencing,” a creative state in which the actor is actively present onstage creating the character.5 In a state of experiencing, the actor exists fully and deliberately in the moment. The System perceived the actor as a mental, physical, and spiritual totality, with all dimensions of the self being integral to performance. Action in the System is always purposeful, oriented toward specific “tasks” and carried out within the “given circumstances” before the actor. With time Stanislavsky had to respond to Soviet censorship and align his work more explicitly with Marxism, the materialist philosophy at the heart of Soviet politics and culture. He did this in part by covering over the religious tones of the System and emphasizing its resonance with physiological psychology. His Active Analysis (Deistvennyi analiz) and Method of Physical Actions (Metod fizicheskikh deistvii), both of which he worked on in his final years, were more physically based training programs, with the latter more suited to censors’ preferences.

Stanislavsky used human actors to perform roles, representing characters, but the symbolist theatrical theorists found this representation problematic. In their polemical articles in the early years of the 20th century, they often questioned the necessity of actors or prescribed strong limits on actors’ responsibilities. Briusov wrote in a 1908 essay: “The only way left for the ‘conventionalized’ theater to triumph is to replace actors with puppets on strings, with gramophones inside them.”6 Meanwhile, Viacheslav Ivanov in 1906 confined the actor to participation in ritual based in Nietzschean Dionysian orgies, calling for the abolishment of the footlights and the merging of actors and spectators: “Enough of playacting—we want action. The spectator must become an actor—a participant in the ritual act. The crowd of spectators must unite in a choric body like the mystic community of the ‘orgies’ and ‘mysteries’ of old.”7 In 1908, Fyodor Sologub turned actors into readers, writing: “The actor claims too much of the spectator’s attention, thus overshadowing both drama and author. The more talented the actor, the more intolerable to the author his tyranny, the more harmful to the tragedy.”8 Building on symbolist ideas, Evreinov seemed to reject professional acting entirely in his early 1910s concepts of “theater in life” and “theater for oneself”—efforts to move theater away from professionalization and toward more everyday performance, like child’s play and voyeurism.

Edward Gordon Craig’s concept of the übermarionette, actor as idealized obedient puppet, a cornerstone concept in European theatrical modernism, attracted great attention from Russian theater makers, though his 1908 essay was not translated into Russian until 1912. Metaphors of the string marionette as the ideal actor recurred prominently in the era’s discussions of acting, although actual puppetry was rare on the Russian modernist stage. Professional puppet productions were staged by Iulia Slonimskaia and Nina Simonovich-Efimova beginning in 1916 at cabaret theaters. Both Slonimskaia and Simonovich-Efimova developed puppet theory from actual practice, liberating the puppet from comparison to live actors and investigating instead the active collaboration between material puppet and living puppetmaster.9

By the 1910s, movement theory was in vogue, as actor training became much more focused on conditioning physical abilities. Prince Sergei Volkonsky taught to rapt classes in Russia the Émile Jacques-Dalcroze system of eurhythmics (linking musical concepts with bodily movement) and the François Delsarte method of gestures and movements. Delsarte (1811–1871) preached a comprehensive philosophy of being centered on the communicative functions of posture, gesture, and facial expression. Volkonsky’s efforts to spread Delsarte’s ideas resulted in greater attention to the body in theater as a locus of both communicative sign and visual spectacle.

Directors like Meyerhold, Evgenii Vakhtangov, and Sergei Eisenstein picked up on Volkonsky’s work through their interest in the scenographic capabilities of the human—the human figure as a visual and emotional component of the production, rather than strictly a representative one. Meyerhold used principles of movement theory in his signature program of biomechanics (biomekhanika), which he began developing in the 1910s and then rearticulated in line with the social and political forces of the 1917 Revolution. Biomechanics was first presented in The Magnanimous Cuckold (Velikolepnyi rogonosets, 1922). A series of actor training exercises and etudes ranging from simple to complex, biomechanics emphasized fluid, exaggerated movement that showed the full course of a natural action (such as shooting with a bow and arrow or stabbing with a dagger) from beginning to end. It drew on principles of labor efficiency developed in the United States by Frederick Winslow Taylor and refined in the Soviet Union by Aleksei Gastev, on Russian and American objective psychology, and on Pyotr Lesgaft’s program of physical education for military schools. Although some have portrayed biomechanics as a robotic or mechanical style of acting, this is incorrect. The stylistics induced by training in the biomechanical exercises might be more aptly called “expressive.” Meyerhold stayed committed to biomechanics until his theater was closed in 1938.10

Other physically based acting programs appeared around the time of the revolution. The Factory of the Eccentric Actor (FEKS), founded in 1921 in Petrograd, rejected traditional acting in favor of shocking circus stunts that were wholly physical rather than psychological. Nikolai Foregger promoted the “music-hallization” of theater at the Foregger Theater Workshop (Mastfor) in Moscow through circus stunts, acrobatics, and cinematic action set to music.

Figure 3. Costume design by Sergei Eisenstein for The Good Treatment of Horses by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Foregger Theater Workshop (Mastfor), Moscow, 1922. Directed by Nikolai Foregger. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

Meanwhile, directors like Alexander Tairov, while not abandoning the representation of character, advocated a flexible, physically trained actor whose movements would flow smoothly to music. Tairov’s was a theater of “synthetic acting” that valued ballet, pantomime, and other dance forms, strongly rejecting Meyerhold’s associations with constructivist stage machinery and mechanistic conceptions of the human. Vakhtangov also incorporated masks, dance, and music in his productions and shared Meyerhold’s desire to explore the very concept of representation and identity between actor and character, cultivating an ironic and improvisatory approach in his actors.

Acting took a different direction in the amateur and proletarian theater, in which workers came together to create performances for other workers on themes directly relevant to their everyday life. An outgrowth of the 1917 Revolution, this kind of theater became central to the formation of the proletarian class in the new Soviet state, particularly under the auspices of the Proletkult, a contentious organization detested by Vladimir Lenin that strove to create a proletarian culture independent of the Communist party. Cultural theorist Platon Kerzhentsev claimed in 1918 that “The workers’ desire to create their own theatre indicated their instinctive dissatisfaction with the form and content of bourgeois theatre.”11 Acting in the amateur and proletarian theater was intertwined with other aspects of the production, including music, costume design, and directing. Imagination and improvisation largely drove character portrayal.12

Figure 4. Scene 2 of The Mexican by Jack London at the First Workers’ Theater of the Proletkult, 1921. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Valentin Smyshliaev, design by Eisenstein. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

Language and Literature in the Theater

Russian culture is heavily verbal and invested deeply in reverence for the written word, both native and foreign. As has been noted, “In the Beginning was the Russian Word. This word has always been perceived as more than a means to communicate the merely transitory needs or truths of the current day. Russia understood herself as having come to consciousness (as a mute infant comes to consciousness) through language.”13 The Russian theater is no exception to the nation’s devotion to the verbal. At the start of the modernist era were two exciting new Russian dramatists: Anton Chekhov and Maksim Gorky (who was encouraged to turn to theater writing by Chekhov). Chekhov’s sparse, somewhat symbolist comedies bridged the growing divides between the imperial theaters and the new private ones, with the Moscow Art Theater particularly succeeding at capturing Chekhov’s subtle humor, rendered in silence and irony. The characters of Chekhov’s five main plays (Ivanov [Ivanov, 1887], The Seagull [1896], Uncle Vanya [Diadia Vania, 1900], The Three Sisters [Tri sestry, 1901], The Cherry Orchard [Vishnevyi sad, 1904]) tended to be members of provincial households, bored in the Russian countryside and anxious about contemporary Russia’s socioeconomic shifts—the losses of the aristocracy and rise of the middle class. As dramas about everyday life on failing estates, his plays often feel tragic, even despairing, although he considered them comedies. They move at a low-key pace without thrill and spectacle, and their ethics is ambiguously nondidactic. Gorky’s plays, meanwhile, also captured Russia’s current socioeconomic dynamics, though with a focus on the plight of the lower urban classes and a clearer ethical stance. His popular plays like The Philistines (Meshchane, 1901), The Lower Depths (Na dne, 1902), and Children of the Sun (Deti solntsa, 1905) portrayed the bleakness of the unfortunate and the obliviousness of the elite, urging the audience to action to reform Russian society. Although Gorky’s works were initially censored, he was embraced under the Soviets as a founder of socialist realism.

A number of symbolist plays that attempted to move far away from the realist elements of Chekhov and Gorky also defined the first decade of the century. Alexander Blok’s short play The Little Showbooth (Balaganchik), which premiered in 1906 under Meyerhold’s direction, captured the decade’s fascination with the commedia dell’arte tradition along with some astute twists. Suffused with both romantic and symbolist irony, it eloquently distilled the contradictions of symbolist theory into a drama mediated by an author character who provides commentary while Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin wrestle with their contingency within the play and the theatrical tradition. The clown bleeds cranberry juice, Harlequin leaps through a window made of paper, and the set flies up and disappears—all in the service of metatheatrical tragicomedy. Other symbolist plays by Fyodor Sologub, Leonid Andreev, Mikhail Kuzmin, and others sparkled briefly in these years as highly theatrical and stylized refutations of naturalism in favor of mysticism, ambiguity, transience, and a constant questioning of reality.

The 1910s saw experimentation with theater that rejected language as a defining force: “Wordless action was attractive because it created the possibility of proving the autonomy and intrinsic value of theatrical art, its complete independence from literature.”14 Pantomime and dance appeared in major theaters as part of the vogue for movement theory. Meanwhile, the Russian futurists, led by Velimir Khlebnikov and Vladimir Mayakovsky, attempted to create a completely new kind of theater that gave a new place to language. The 1913 opera Victory over the Sun (Pobeda nad solntsem) by Aleksei Kruchenykh and Mikhail Matyushin, with sets and costumes by suprematist Kazimir Malevich, for example, featured half-robot, half-people characters and a prologue by Khlebnikov that used archaic language to attempt to create a new theatrical vocabulary. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that while futurism purported to reject language, it was a highly verbal movement, carried out in poetry, criticism, and manifestos, in all of which language was rendered less representational than material. The theme of reinventing language comes to the fore in Mayakovsky’s Vladimir Mayakovsky (Vladimir Maiakovskii, 1913), which featured only Mayakovsky, as himself, with other characters portrayed by cardboard cutouts. Drama and lyric poetry were merged in the protagonist’s monologue, with Mayakovsky conversing and interacting with the audience. Mayakovsky would go on to write the so-called first Soviet play, Mystery Bouffe (Misteriia-Buff, 1918, revised 1921), which reenvisions the October Revolution as a quasi-Christian, though nominally atheist, journey by the proletarian unclean through hell, heaven, and chaos before arriving at the promised land, which is replete with material goods, food, and industrial machinery.15 Meyerhold directed both the original premiere and the premiere of the revised version. With enthusiasm for the new Soviet state, this play preached the glories of socialist and proletarian triumph over the upper classes.

Despite the overall success of Mystery Bouffe, the first years of the Soviet era saw a crisis in the dramatic repertory. What kind of dramatic texts were suited to the young nation, with its new ideology and social structures? Suddenly, soldiers, peasants, and factory workers joined theater audiences, rather than only the middle and upper classes. New Soviet authorities, including the Repertoire Section of the Theater Department (TEO) of the Commissariat of Enlightenment, the Proletkult, People’s Commissar of Enlightenment Anatolii Lunacharsky, and others disagreed over the kind of repertoire that would best shape the Soviet masses. Still, in the 1920s new dramatists slowly gained ground. The Russian Revolution and Civil War became popular topics for contemporary plays, giving the more realistic, less avant-garde theaters means of falling in line with national politics. Mikhail Bulgakov became the promising new dramatist of the Moscow Art Theater, where his Ukrainian War of Independence play, The Days of the Turbins (Dni Turbinykh, 1926), much liked by Stalin, premiered. Other playwrights who seemed to capture the new Soviet spirit in the 1920s and into the 30s with approved language and themes included Sergei Tretyakov,der Afinogenov, Vladimir Kirshon, and Nikolai Pogodin, although many of the more fervently embraced early Soviet playwrights faced various censorship troubles in the Stalinism of the 1930s. Nikolai Erdman’s absurdist tragicomedy The Suicide (Samoubiitsa, 1928), which multiple theaters attempted to stage before being stopped by censors, stands out as one of the greatest plays of the era. In it a young man considering suicide ends up marketing his intended death to various social interest groups, darkly satirizing their faults.

In addition to contemporary repertoire, the modernist period staged many Russian and foreign classics. Lunacharsky famously announced “Back to [Alexander] Ostrovsky!” (“Nazad k Ostrovskomu!”) as a slogan for the 1923 centennial of the great Russian dramatist’s birth, calling on stage writers to take from Ostrovsky the portrayal of the details of everyday life and urging them to turn away from avant-garde experimentation toward more traditional theatrical forms. Nineteenth-century classics, including plays by Ostrovsky, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Griboedov, and Alexander Sukhovo-Kobylin featured heavily on modernist stages. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels were favorites of the Moscow Art Theater, which drew several productions from his prose. Meyerhold’s The Forest (Les, Ostrovsky, 1924), The Government Inspector (Revizor, Gogol, 1926), and Woe to Wit (Gore umu, Griboedov, 1928) were among the era’s standout productions of the 19th-century repertoire. Meyerhold took an editorial approach to texts, removing and rearranging their words liberally and incorporating lines from drafts and outside texts, in order to create fresh new versions of the classics. In his much-lauded The Government Inspector, for example, Meyerhold confined the action to small sliding platforms on a foreshortened stage against an ominous row of doors and changed Gogol’s tone from comedy to tragedy and despair.

Figure 5. Stage design for Nikolai Gogol’s The Government Inspector at the Meyerhold State Theater, Moscow, 1926. Design by Vladimir Dmitriev, directed by Vsevolod Meyerhold. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

A foreign repertoire also found a place in modernism, from the symbolist plays of Henrik Ibsen and Maurice Maeterlinck at the beginning of the century to a range of European, American, and Asian texts staged later in the period, in particular at the Moscow Kamerny Theater (Moskovskii Kamernyi teatr), which opened in 1914. At the Kamerny, director Tairov was able to stage Eugene O’Neill, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Jon Dos Passos, Paul Claudel, and Bertolt Brecht, among others, before focusing on Russian and Soviet texts by the 1940s. While in the 1920s Lunacharsky was able to offer theaters like the Kamerny some protection from politics by giving them the name “academic theater,” by the onset of Stalinism, all Soviet theaters were compelled to comply with political expectations.

Irony, Self-Consciousness, and Theatricalism

Prevailing over this entire period is a sense of irony, self-consciousness, and theatricalism, or the overt play with the transformations and devices of theater. The period exhibits a desire to experiment with what theater is and could be and to challenge conceptions of it as representation, as entertainment, as edificatory, and as distinct from life itself. These elements first emerge out of the symbolist backlash against the realism of the Moscow Art Theater, and they develop over the subsequent two to three decades along multiple paths, coming to, in many ways, define the unique overarching aesthetic of the Russian modernist theater (to the extent that such a thing can be generalized with regard to such a diverse phenomenon). These trends are continuous across the period, from before the 1917 Revolution to after it, though the desire to create new theatrical forms became particularly urgent for many theater makers after the revolution as they strove to align their art with the new Soviet politics.

The ironic and theatricalist elements of Russian modernism show up in the various small forms of theater predominant before the revolution, including cabaret. Symbolists and others drew on some of the most highly theatrical and metatheatrical traditions of the past, including commedia dell’arte, medieval mystery plays, the Spanish Golden Age, and folk theater to examine theatrical conventionality and explore alternatives to realism. These reworkings of theatrical traditions, often performed at theaters of minor forms, offered opportunities to parody the pretentions of the great traditional theaters and to question cultural stratification, theater’s relationship to life, and beliefs about gender, the exotic, and audience expectations. Indeed, “In modernist commedias like [Meyerhold’s The Little Showbooth] and Evreinov’s A Merry Death (1908), life was presented as a continuous performance which deepens man and woman’s torment of self-doubt, sexual perfidy and gender imprisonment, and provokes the ironic questioning of all authority, authenticity and reality.”16 Multiple modernist renderings of the antics of Harlequin, Columbine, and Pierrot (including The Little Showbooth) play with these characters as performers seemingly stuck in continual theatrical transformation. They often bare the theatrical device, examining self-consciously theatrical artifice and convention. Some of these performances of small forms more directly parodied the regular theaters, as well, such as Evreinov’s popular version of Gogol’s The Government Inspector (1912), which presented exaggerations of naturalism and other popular styles.

Evreinov took a particularly radical stance when discussing self-consciousness and theatricalism. While working at the cabaret the Crooked Mirror, as well as at his Ancient Theater (Starinnyi teatr), Evreinov declared everyday life theater’s proper domain. His theories rejected drama and organized productions in favor of a “theatrical” approach to life, in which one revels in everyday costuming, child’s play, and in seeing the sights of regular life. Though he would continue writing plays for theater performance (through his emigration in 1925), Evreinov sought to infuse everyday life with a playful and renewing spirit of theater. His writings challenged traditional theater makers to question the medium of the stage and reconsider the value of theater’s roots in ritual and entertainment. Evreinov’s book Theater as Such (Teatr kak takovoi, 1912) provided a template for later critical manifestos in the era, like the futurist “The Word as Such” (“Slovo kak takovoe,” 1913).

Another form of the era’s irony comes in irreverential futurist street performances, like those of Mayakovsky, Kruchenykh, David Burlyuk, and Vasilii Kamensky, who would walk along the streets of Moscow wearing a vegetable or wooden spoon in their lapel, dramatic makeup and face painting, and oversized colorful clothes. These attention-grabbing performances protested standard social convention, suggesting new, more artistic possibilities for self-presentation and taking the symbolist notion of zhiznetvorchestvo (life creation or life as art) to an extreme. In the early 1910s, futurist lecture performances consisting of unexpected topics and even gibberish served up scandalous happenings, associating the term “futurist” in the popular imagination with any generally outrageous behavior. Strange and haphazard futurist theater performances, such as Victory over the Sun, only confirmed the public’s bewilderment while also paving the way for theater to continue abstracting from representation and challenging expectations.

German fantasist Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann held notable sway over the theatrical imagination of the entire modernist period. Many of Hoffmann’s early 19th-century darkly whimsical and uncanny tales were staged in Russian modernism, and Hoffmann’s aesthetics broadly inspired a theatricalist approach to theater. The cult of Hoffmann has been referred to as “a major inspiration for the abundant self-referential, ironic, and grotesque elements that became defining characteristics of Russian modernist theater and that together constitute a poetics that is often conflated with, yet significantly predates, Bertolt Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (alienation effect).”17 For almost a decade, Meyerhold referred to himself by the pseudonym “Doctor Dappertutto,” after the magician in one of Hoffmann’s tales, and numerous productions by Meyerhold and others drew on Hoffmann’s grotesque and discordant juxtapositions as a means of exploring fantasy, subjectivity, and layers of reality and fiction.

Vakhtangov further expanded on the grotesque in his stunning Princess Turandot (Printsessa Turandot, 1922), which wielded playful fantasy amid stunts, pranks, and tricks that bared the theatrical device. In fact, “The production was a celebration of the creative, improvisatory art of the actor, a manifestation of tremendous optimism in a revolutionary world where starvation, hunger, cold and the threat of war were the norm.”18 In other words, playfulness and theatricalism could serve as an antidote to the hardships and austerity of the era. Vakhtangov developed a method he called fantastic realism (fantasticheskii realizm), though his early death (at age 39 in 1922) prevented him from writing the method down.19 Others, however, developed the grotesque in ways that reoriented the audience toward political and social engagement, rather than escapism. Eisenstein’s concept of the attraction reenvisioned the grotesque not as thematics but as form. His 1923 essay “Montage of Attractions” (“Montazh attraktsionov”), on his work for Proletkult theaters, distinguishes the individual components, “attractions,” of a production that have an effect, often aggressive, on the spectator. These are not skillful tricks, as at the Factory of the Eccentric Actor, but ideologically motivated dialogues with the audience, rousing the audience to emotion and action in response.

Contexts of Theater

The latest developments in not only literature but also all of the arts intersected with the Russian modernist theater. It naturally bore close ties to other performing arts, including ballet, opera, and music. Although Sergei Diaghelev’s Ballets Russes never performed in Russia (based in Paris, the company toured Europe and the Americas in 1909–1929), its international influence, which raised the profile of the Russian arts, cannot be divorced from the aesthetic and the successes of the Russian modernist performing arts as a whole. Diaghelev commissioned music and designs by major figures, including several Russians, to create spectacular shows that revived live performance.

Like the Ballets Russes, theaters in Russian modernism strove to work with the best visual artists they could. The World of Art (Mir iskusstva) movement in the 1890s (the catalyst for the Ballets Russes) depicted, discussed, and created for the theater. Throughout the modernist period, a number of famous visual artists designed sets and costumes for the major theaters, including Natalia Goncharova, Nikolai Roerich, and Alexandra Ekster. Ekster’s geometrical and dynamic designs, such as for Princess Brambilla (Printsessa Brambilla, 1922), drove the early aesthetic of the Moscow Kamerny Theater.

Figure 6. Alexandra Ekster’s stage design for Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, State Kamerny Theater, Moscow, 1921. Directed by Alexander Tairov. From the Bakhrushin Theater Museum, Moscow.

Constructivism in the 1920s, championed by Meyerhold, in particular, began in architectural fantasies but became a visual theatrical approach in which designers placed geometric mechanisms, contraptions, and constructions onstage. Artists like Liubov’ Popova and Varvara Stepanova contributed to constructivist stage design.

Many eventual filmmakers began their careers in theater, most notably Eisenstein, who produced several theatrical works, in part under Meyerhold’s influence, before turning exclusively to film directing. In criticism, questions of whether film would overtake theater revealed common anxieties of the era. Leonid Andreev wondered in 1911: “What then will remain of contemporary theatre, which will have had action and spectacle, the very foundations of its existence, taken from it [by the cinema] and without which any dramatic substance seems unthinkable?”20 Mayakovsky then declared in 1913: “Theatre has brought itself to ruin and must bequeath its inheritance to cinema.”21 Excitement over film’s technological promises in its early years often crowded out theatrical innovation.

Theater also took on significant connections to philosophy, psychology, and science. Philosophers such as Gustav Shpet were interested in and worked in theater, while Fedor Stepun and Alexei Losov also wrote on theatrical aesthetics. Psychologist Lev Vygotsky wrote dozens of theater reviews and a handful of essays on theater and acting, in addition to his university thesis on Hamlet. Meyerhold, in particular, followed trends in physiological psychology and reflexology, declaring in his 1922 public lecture on biomechanics that “All psychological states are determined by specific physiological processes.”22

In many ways the most significant context for Russian modernist theater, however, especially by the 1920s, was politics. As the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 remade Russia into the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, politics became a significant cultural force. Theater’s response to the revolutions was most prominently led by Meyerhold, appointed head of the Theatrical Department of the People’s Commissariat of Education in 1920. In this capacity, he led the left in a “Theatrical October” (“Teatralnyi oktiabr’”), insisting on a theatrical revolution that threw off all imperial-era traditions, including those of the Maly Theater, Alexandrinsky Theater, Moscow Art Theater, and other academic theaters. The theater of the new Soviet state, he declared, was to be a platform for social revolution. His position was judged extreme, however, and audiences were often not receptive to the new forms Meyerhold and these theaters introduced. Audiences were confused by Meyerhold’s manifesto-like cubist production of The Dawn (Zor’) by Belgian Emile Verhaeren in 1920, which attempted to find an aesthetic language in tune with the worker. The production imitated a political meeting in aesthetics and speech, and real news announcements were used in the performances. Meyerhold was removed from his post as head of the Theatrical Department in 1921 for his radical ideas and assault on tradition.

Theater served state politics directly through amateur and proletarian performance, which aimed to edify workers, and multiple esteemed voices lauded theater’s ability to support socialist education. In 1918, agitprop trains began traveling across Russia enacting propaganda with props designed by the young Eisenstein, while in the early 1920s, the widespread Blue Blouse (Siniaia bluza) movement that performed “living newspapers” (“zhivye gazety”) interpreted current events for an illiterate audience.23 Mass spectacles reenacted legendary events in Bolshevik history in an attempt to create a new mythology for the young nation, such as Nikolai Evreinov’s Storming of the Winter Palace (Vziatie zimnego dvortsa, 1920), on the third anniversary of the revolution. Featuring many of the original participants in the event, this production, a comical exaggeration of the real event, involved more than 8,000 actors and 100,000 spectators. These topical performances were all politically correct, glorifying the Soviet Union and instructing the audience in its ideology. Indeed, “The sum product was an exuberant, physical, caricatural theatre, exuding joie de vivre and an almost adolescent impetuosity.”24

Not all theater in the early Soviet era turned political. Some resisted the materialist turn in culture, as at the gatherings of the State Academy for the Artistic Sciences (GAKhN) Theater Section, which lasted from 1921 to 1930. It involved all major (and minor) theater figures in Moscow of the decade, and sought to codify an academic study of theater. GAKhN was closed in 1930 for straying from the party line.

The ascension of Stalin after Lenin’s death darkened the mood of theaters that had felt fairly free in the mid-1920s to experiment with avant-garde forms, to engage in social and political satire, and to devise their own ideas of a proletarian theater. By the launching of the first five-year plan in 1928, individual initiative came into question. Theater became increasingly uniform, and the simplistic, ethically clear doctrine of socialist realism was officially implemented in 1934. Gorky’s plays led the way for dramatists, who rushed to assemble a new, acceptable repertoire that would champion the collective building of socialism. Anything other than socialist realism was deemed “formalism” and subjected to criticism, censorship, and rejection. Meyerhold was arrested in 1939 and shot in 1940, and directors like Tairov and Nikolai Okhlopkov scrambled to stay relevant in the 1930s. The aesthetic energy, freedom, and experimentation of the age of modernism were being forced to a close.

Discussion of the Literature

Research on the Russian modernist theater consists of a large body of work that has steadily advanced over the past century. Some of the earliest English-language texts on the Russian modernist theater include critic Oliver M. Sayler’s and journalist Huntly Carter’s eyewitness accounts of performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg or Leningrad, while a vibrant body of contemporaneous Russian theatrical criticism constitutes the earliest Russian texts.25 As the productions and practices in question became a historical, rather than contemporary phenomenon, their discussions in Russian scholarship fell victim to Soviet censorship. Meyerhold, for example, was expunged from speech and print as a “non-person” after his arrest.

Several foundational texts in English-language scholarship brought attention to the titans of the Russian modernist theater. Marc Slonim’s Russian Theater: From the Empire to the Soviets (1963) gave an overview of the period.26 Research on Meyerhold by Marjorie L. Hoover, Edward Braun, and Robert Leach in the 1970s to the 1980s attempted to recover the rich work of this director from Soviet silence.27 Stanislavsky’s legacy is deeply colored by the trajectory of American Method acting, loosely based on his principles, and by the poor translation of his texts into English. Jean Benedetti’s biographies of Stanislavsky served for years as authoritative accounts.28 Sharon Marie Carnicke’s Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century (1998, second edition 2009) details the extent of American and English-language misunderstandings of the director.29 Spencer Golub’s Evreinov: The Theatre of Paradox and Transformation and Nick Worrall’s Modernism to Realism on the Soviet Stage: Tairov–Vakhtangov–Okhlopkov further delved into the work of particular major directors in the 1980s.30 Konstantin Rudnitskii’s works in Russian and in English translation have provided valuable syntheses of the period.31

In general, the contemporary studies of the Russian modernist theater are so wide-ranging as to be difficult to summarize. Both Russian- and English-language scholarship in the 21st century has benefited from the new accessibility of archival materials, as well as a range of developments in theater and performance studies and studies of modernism. Scholars continue to uncover understudied productions and theater makers. In English, efforts are being made to synthesize the period in new terms that cut across traditional conceptions of artistic media, such as Amy Skinner’s Meyerhold and the Cubists: Perspectives on Painting and Performance (2015), and in terms that abandon traditional conceptions of polarization within Russian modernism to reveal deeper connections across the work of particular directors, such as Posner’s The Director’s Prism: E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Avant-Garde (2016). A scientific turn in scholarship identifies ties to scientific developments of the era, as well as 21st-century conceptualizations in cognition and neuroscience (see Jonathan Pitches, Rose Whyman, and Dick McCaw).32 Maria Shevtsova’s enlightening Rediscovering Stanislavsky (2020) places the director within the context of Russian Orthodox ideas, restoring the System’s forgotten spirituality.33

Scholars have also turned their attention to understudied aspects of the Russian modernist theater community, including amateur and proletarian theater (Stefan Aquilina, Lynn Mally), puppet theater (Catriona Kelly, J. Douglas Clayton), futurist theater (Robert Leach), women in theater (Maria Ignatieva, Catherine Schuler), and non-Russian contributions to early Soviet theater (Konstantin Rudnitsky).34 Work is still to be done in situating theatrical practice within its economic, philosophical, and social contexts, in tying Russian theater studies closer to cultural studies to demonstrate theater’s embeddedness within the larger culture, and in continuing to give lesser-known figures in the Russian theater their due.

Primary Sources

Although many of the primary sources related to the Russian modernist theater are available only in archives, such as many photographs, costume designs, production promptbooks, scripts, rehearsal stenographs, and director’s notes, a great quantity of primary sources are available in published form and are even in English translation. These sources fall into a number of different categories. Available key dramatic texts include translations of plays by Chekhov, Gorky, Mayakovsky, Erdman, Bulgakov, Tretyakov, and various symbolists.35 Primary texts by and related to many of the major directors are translated and published, including materials by and about Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Evreinov, Tairov, and Vakhtangov.36 Other important volumes of primary texts in English include a book on Stanislavsky and Craig’s production of Hamlet, a book on amateur and proletarian theater, a book related to Evreinov’s production The Storming of the Winter Palace, and a wide-ranging collection of documents about the Soviet theater.37

Further Reading

  • Aquilina, Stefan. Modern Theatre in Russia: Tradition Building and Transmission Processes. London: Methuen Drama, 2020.
  • Clayton, J. Douglas. Pierrot in Petrograd: The Commedia dell’Arte/Balagan in Twentieth-Century Russian Theatre and Drama. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993.
  • Golub, Spencer. The Recurrence of Fate: Theatre and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994.
  • Law, Alma H. and Mel Gordon. Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Biomechanics: Actor Training in Revolutionary Russia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1996.
  • Leach, Robert. Revolutionary Theatre. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Leach, Robert. Russian Futurist Theatre: Theory and Practice. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.
  • Leach, Robert and Victor Borovsky, eds. A History of Russian Theatre. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • Mally, Lynn. Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theater and the Soviet State, 1917–1938. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.
  • Posner, Dassia N. The Director’s Prism: E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Theatrical Avant-Garde. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2016.
  • Rudnitskii [Rudnitsky], Konstantin. Russkoe rezhisserskoe iskusstvo, 1898–1907. Moscow: Nauka, 1989.
  • Rudnitskii [Rudnitsky], Konstantin. Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde. Trans. Roxane Permar. Ed. Lesley Milne. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.
  • Rzhevsky, Nicholas. The Modern Russian Theater: A Literary and Cultural History. London: M. E. Sharpe, 2009.
  • Skinner, Amy, ed. Russian Theatre in Practice: The Director’s Guide. London: Methuen Drama, 2019.
  • Worrall, Nick. Modernism to Realism on the Soviet Stage: Tairov–Vakhtangov–Okhlopkov. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Notes

  • 1. Irina Shevelenko, “Introduction: A Centennial Perspective on Russian Modernist Studies,” in Reframing Russian Modernism (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2018), 4.

  • 2. Michael Levenson, Modernism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 8.

  • 3. Jean Benedetti, “Stanislavsky and the Moscow Art Theatre, 1898–1938,” in A History of Russian Theatre, ed. Robert Leach and Victor Borovsky (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 264.

  • 4. Valery Briusov, “Against Naturalism in the Theatre (from ‘Unnecessary Truth’),” in The Russian Symbolist Theatre: An Anthology of Plays and Critical Texts, trans. and ed. Michael Green (New York: Ardis, 2013), 25.

  • 5. Sharon Marie Carnicke, in her authoritative book on Stanislavsky, uses “experiencing” as a translation for perezhivanie. Sharon Marie Carnicke, Stanislavsky in Focus: An Acting Master for the Twenty-First Century, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge, 2009), 129.

  • 6. Valery Briusov, “Realism and Convention on the Stage,” in Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists, trans. and ed. Laurence Senelick (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 177.

  • 7. Viacheslav Ivanov, “The Need for a Dionysian Theatre (from ‘Presentiments and Portents’),” in Green, Russian Symbolist Theatre, 111.

  • 8. Fyodor Sologub, “The Theatre of the Single Will,” in Green, Russian Symbolist Theatre, 143.

  • 9. Dassia N. Posner, “Life-Death and Disobedient Obedience: Russian Modernist Redefinitions of the Puppet,” in The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance, ed. Dassia N. Posner, Claudia Orenstein, and John Bell (Florence, GB: Routledge, 2014), 130.

  • 10. Alma Law and Mel Gordon, Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Biomechanics: Actor Training in Revolutionary Russia (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1996), 1–6.

  • 11. Platon Kerzhentsev, excerpt from Revoliutsiia i teatr, in Amateur and Proletarian Theatre in Post-Revolutionary Russia: Primary Sources, ed. Stefan Aquilina (London: Methuen Drama, 2021), 32.

  • 12. Stefan Aquilina, introduction to Aquilina, Amateur and Proletarian Theatre, 21.

  • 13. Caryl Emerson, The Cambridge Introduction to Russian Literature (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 22–23.

  • 14. Konstantin Rudnitsky, Russian and Soviet Theatre: Tradition and the Avant-Garde, trans. Roxane Permar, ed. Lesley Milne (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 10.

  • 15. Critic Aleksandr Fevral’skii calls Mystery Bouffe the “first Soviet play” in his book Pervaia Sovetskaia p’esa: “Misteriia-Buff” V. V. Maiakovskogo (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1971).

  • 16. Spencer Golub, “The Silver Age, 1905–1917,” in Leach and Borovsky, History of Russian Theatre, 287–288.

  • 17. Dassia N. Posner, The Director’s Prism: E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Theatrical Avant-Garde (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2016), 5.

  • 18. Nick Worrall, Modernism to Realism on the Soviet Stage: Tairov–Vakhtangov–Okhlopkov (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 127.

  • 19. Andrei Malaev-Babel has attempted to reconstruct Vakhtangov’s method of fantastic realism in translation in Yevgeny Vakhtangov, The Vakhtangov Sourcebook, ed. and trans. Andrei Malaev-Babel (London: Routledge, 2011).

  • 20. Leonid Andreyev, “First Letter on Theatre (Extracts),” in The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, ed. and trans. Richard Taylor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 31.

  • 21. Vladimir Mayakovsky, “Theatre, Cinema, Futurism,” in Taylor, Film Factory, 34.

  • 22. Vsevolod Meyerhold, “Biomechanics,” in Meyerhold on Theatre, trans. and ed. Edward Braun, rev. ed. (London: Methuen Drama, 1998), 199.

  • 23. Nicholas Rzhevsky, The Modern Russian Theater: A Literary and Cultural History (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2009), 54.

  • 24. Laurence Senelick, “Theatre,” in The Cambridge Companion to Modern Russian Culture, ed. Nicholas Rzhevsky, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 298.

  • 25. See, for example, Oliver M. Sayler, The Russian Theatre under the Revolution (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1920); and Huntly Carter, The New Theatre and Cinema of Soviet Russia (London: Chapman and Dodd, 1924).

  • 26. Marc Slonim, Russian Theater: From the Empire to the Soviets (London: Methuen, 1963).

  • 27. Marjorie L. Hoover, Meyerhold: The Art of Conscious Theater (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1974); Edward Braun, The Theatre of Meyerhold: Revolution on the Modern Stage (New York: Drama Book Specialists, 1979); and Robert Leach, Vsevolod Meyerhold (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

  • 28. See, for example, Jean Benedetti, Stanislavski (New York: Routledge, 1988).

  • 29. Carnicke, Stanislavsky in Focus.

  • 30. Spencer Golub, Evreinov: The Theatre of Paradox and Transformation (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1984); and Worrall, Modernism to Realism.

  • 31. See Konstantin Rudnitskii, Russkoe rezhisserskoe iskusstvo, 1898–1907 (Moscow: Nauka, 1989); and Rudnitsky, Russian and Soviet Theatre.

  • 32. Jonathan Pitches, Science and the Stanislavsky Tradition of Acting (London: Routledge, 2006); Rose Whyman, The Stanislavsky System of Acting: Legacy and Influence in Modern Performance (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008); and Dick McCaw, Rethinking the Actor’s Body: Dialogues with Neuroscience (London: Methuen Drama, 2020).

  • 33. Maria Shevtsova, Rediscovering Stanislavsky (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2020).

  • 34. Stefan Aquilina, Modern Theatre in Russia: Tradition Building and Transmission Processes (London: Methuen Drama, 2021), 97–134; Lynn Mally, Revolutionary Acts: Amateur Theater and the Soviet State, 1917–1938 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000); Catriona Kelly, Petrushka: The Russian Carnival Puppet Theatre (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990); John Douglas Clayton, Pierrot in Petrograd: The Commedia dell’arte/Balagan in Twentieth-Century Russian Theatre and Drama (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993); Robert Leach, Russian Futurist Theatre: Theory and Practice (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018); Maria Ignatieva, Stanislavsky and Female Actors: Women in Stanislavsky’s Life and Art (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008); Catherine Schuler, Women in Russian Theatre: The Actress in the Silver Age (London: Routledge, 1996); and Rudnitsky, Russian and Soviet Theatre, 8.

  • 35. Anton Chekhov, The Complete Plays, trans. Laurence Senelick (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006); Maxim Gorky, Plays: 1, ed. Edward Braun, trans. Kitty Hunter-Blair and Jeremy Brooks (London: Methuen Drama, 2003); Green, Russian Symbolist Theatre; Vladimir Mayakovsky, Mayakovsky: Plays, trans. Guy Daniels (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1995); Nikolai Erdman, The Major Plays of Nikolai Erdman: The Warrant and the Suicide, trans. John Freedman (Australia: Harwood Academic, 1995); Mikhail Bulgakov, Six Plays, trans. Michael Glenny, William Powell, and Michael Earley (London: Methuen Drama, 1991); and Sergei Tretyakov, I Want a Baby and Other Plays, trans. Robert Leach and Stephen Holland (London: Glagoslav, 2019).

  • 36. There are numerous such texts. In particular, see the following: Konstantin Stanislavski, An Actor’s Work: A Student Diary, trans. and ed. Jean Benedetti (London: Routledge, 2008); Konstantin Stanislavski, An Actor’s Work on a Role, trans. and ed. Jean Benedetti (London: Routledge, 2010); Meyerhold, “Biomechanics”; Nicolas Evreinoff, The Theatre in Life, ed. and trans. Alexander I. Nazaroff (New York: Brentano’s, 1927); Alexander Tairov, Notes of a Director, trans. William Kuhlke (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1969); and Vakhtangov, Vakhtangov Sourcebook.

  • 37. Laurence Senelick, Gordon Craig’s Moscow “Hamlet”: A Reconstruction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982); Aquilina, Amateur and Proletarian Theatre; Nikolai Evreinov and others, “The Storming of the Winter Palace,” ed. Inke Arns, Igor Chubarov, and Sylvia Sasse, trans. Bernard Heise, David Riff, and Jordan Lee Schnee (Zurich, Switzerland: Diaphanes, 2016); and Laurence Senelick and Sergei Ostrovsky, eds., The Soviet Theater: A Documentary History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).