Russian Theater

Russian Theater in 20th Century

In the first quarter of the 20th century, Stanislawski’s acting pedagogical method not only formed the basis for the training of young actors at the experimental studios of the MCHT (first studio in 1913, second studio in 1916, third studio in 1920, fourth studio in 1921), but also stimulated theater makers like W Meyerhold, N. Jewreinow, A. Tairow and J. Wachtangow to develop alternative theater models that should lead to the retheatricalization of theater and its de-literarization. So should the relationship between spectators and actors, in Stanislavsky broken by an imaginary fourth wall, to be reformulated. The renewal was seen v. a. based on the forms of popular theater. Meyerhold already declared anti-illusionist theater in his symbolist production of A. Blok’s »Balagančik« (1906; German »Die Schaubude«) at the Komissarschewskaja Theater in Petersburg (named after the founder Vera Komissarschewskaja, * 1864, † 1910) by relying on stylistic devices the Commedia dell’Arte, the balagan, the mystery play and the Far Eastern theater. In 1913–17 he continued his experiments in the “Theater Studio on Borodinskaya” in Petersburg. Meyerhold’s new actor training method, the Biomechanics, found its first application in 1922 in the production of “Velikoduschnyj rogonosec” (German “Der Hahnrei”) by F. Crommelynck at the Meyerhold Theater in Moscow (emerged from the “Teatr RSFSR-I.” [First Theater of the RSFSR], which opened in 1920]). Jewreinow was concerned with the “Starinny teatr” (ancient theater) founded in St. Medieval miracle play, morality and farces, as well as an authentic perception of these forms by the contemporary audience corresponding to the epochs. Vakhtangov described the staging style of the third studio he directed (from 1926 Wachtangow Theater) of MCHAT as fantastic realism. The artistic in the theater, which he sought to accentuate, was also expressed in the style of the playing techniques of the Commedia dell’Arte (most famous production “Turandot” by C. Gozzi 1922). Also A. Tairov in his 1914 opened Moscow »Kamerny teatr” (Chamber Theater) emphasized the character of the stage action. Elements from operetta, pantomime, circus and spoken theater were to be brought together to form a so-called “synthetic theater”, for example in the 1922 productions “Salome” by O. Wilde (1917) and “Giroflé-Girofla” by Charles Lecocq (* 1832, †) 1918). Another starting point for the Russian theater of the first quarter of the 20th century were modern currents in the visual arts; Suggestions from constructivism were particularly fruitful. A combination of stairs, podiums, hanging surfaces, geometric figures – hallmarks of room design, among other things. by Alexandra Exter, A. Wesnin and Georgi Jakulow (* 1884, † 1928) for the Moscow Kamerny Theater and Lyubow Popowa and Varwara Stepanova (* 1894, † 1958) for the Moscow Meyerhold Theater – led to a theatricalization and rhythmization of the Spaces and gave the actors new opportunities to move.

According to topschoolsintheusa, the “revaluation of all values” proclaimed after the October Revolution also had a decisive influence on the theater. In 1920 Meyerhold initiated the “October Theater”, a program to revolutionize the theater in line with the revolutionary reshaping of society. As a result, avant-garde theaters were founded, including the »Teatr Narodnoj Komedii« (»Theater of People’s Comedy«, 1920-22) by Sergei Radlow (* 1892, † 1958), the »Fabrika exzentritscheskogo aktjora« (FEKS, »Factory of the eccentric actor«; 1921-27) by G. Kosinzew and L. Trauberg in Petrograd or the workshop theater “Mastfor” (“Masterskaja Foreggera”, 1920–24) by Nikolai Foregger (* 1892, † 1939) in Moscow, who took up the techniques of the balagan and the commedia dell’Arte in their productions and proclaimed a design with circus means and the filmization of the theater. The Proletkult Theaters founded in some Russian cities also tried to appeal to the new audience with the means of popular arts such as circus and film. Thus S. Eisenstein’s technique first implemented the montage of attractions in a production of the Moscow Proletkult Theater 1,923th Mass theater productions reflected the spirit of the post-revolutionary era – i.a. »Vsjatie Zimnego Dvorca« (»The Storming of the Winter Palace«) in Petersburg – in which revolutionary events were re-enacted by several thousand amateur actors and professional actors (1920, in the direction Jewreinows). The “Gosudarstvenny Jewreiski teatr” (GOSET, “Staatliches Jüdisches Theater”, 1919–49; productions in Yiddish) and the Hebrew- speaking Habima (1917–25 in Moscow, then European tours, finally Palestine / Israel) belonged to the important post-revolutionary non-political stages..

The totalization of the state, which reached its peak in the early 1930s, put an end to all avant-garde experiments. The “socialist realism” proclaimed as a cultural-political doctrine in 1934 determined the development of art and literature for a good half a century. The Stalinist campaign against dissenters fell among other things. Meyerhold victim: He was executed in 1940, his theater had been closed two years earlier. The increasing attacks on Tairows Kamerny Theaters ended with closure in 1949. At the same time, the Moscow State Jewish Theater was dissolved. Until the mid-1980s, the Soviet theaters demonstrated a uniform style in terms of direction, stage equipment and acting aesthetics, which was shaped by Stanislavski’s teaching, which was reduced to realistic-psychological play and faithfulness to the text. One of the few exceptions was the Moscow Taganka Theater, which was built at the end of N. Khrushchev’s thaw in 1964 and directed by J. Lyubimov. the aesthetics of direction by Meyerhold experienced its renaissance. The work of this theater was intensely suppressed by the censors until the end of the 1980s.

The Russian theater drew new energies from the »Perestroika« initiated by M. Gorbachev. In addition to conventional stages, numerous experimental studios and laboratories were created that sought to combine Stanislavski’s theoretical legacy with the ideas of the theater makers of the historical avant-garde from the beginning of the 20th century. One of the best-known forums that also work experimentally is the “Schkola dramatitscheskogo iskusstwa” (“School of Dramatic Art”, founded in 1987) by A. Wassiljew in Moscow. The “Maly dramatitscheski teatr” (Small Dramatic Theater) in Saint Petersburg, directed by L. Dodin, also advanced to become one of the most important experimental stages from 1987 onwards.

Russian Theater