About Vsevolod Meyerhold

Vsevolod Emilovich Meyerhold (1874-1940) was one of two actors fresh out of drama school who were invited to join the newly formed Moscow Art Theatre in the spring of 1898. (The other was Olga Knipper, Chekhov’s future wife.) Meyerhold stayed with the Art Theatre for four years, playing approximately eighteen roles-including Treplev in the Art Theatre’s original production of Chekhov’s Seagull.

Meyerhold became increasingly interested in exploring other theatrical forms in addition to the Realism/ Naturalism of the Art Theatre. His real interest was no longer in a theatre that seeks to "recreate" life and whose laws are those of "nature." Rather, Meyerhold sought a theatre capable of revealing "inner dialogue by means of the music of plastic movement" (Meyerhold on Theatre, Edward Braun). Meyerhold left the Art Theatre and began developing his own aesthetic.

Meyerhold regarded movement, gesture, space, rhythm and "music" as the primary elements of the "language of the theatre." He dreamed of "retheatricalizing" the theatre, of creating a theatre that would give its audience truthful images of life but that wouldn’t seek to imitate or copy life.

A director should, according to Meyerhold, begin his work in rehearsal with the search for form. And this search begins with the creation of a "movement score" for the production. The director’s task is to create "a pattern of movement on the stage" by means of a "deft mastery of line, grouping and costume color" (V. E. Meyerhold quoted in Braun). Movement on the stage is created not only by "movement in the literal sense, but by the disposition of lines and colours and by the ease and cunning with which these lines and colours are made to cross and vibrate" (V. E. Meyerhold quoted in Braun).

Meyerhold’s directorial experiments led to an invitation from Stanislavsky to head a new experimental Studio at the Art Theatre. While this first Studio was short-lived, Meyerhold’s work there led him to a crucial realization. There was a general consensus among theatre people who had seen dress rehearsals that there were some interesting experiments in suggestive and nonrepresentational design, but that the acting was terrible. The actors were simply not equipped to meet the demands Meyerhold made of them. Meyerhold realized that from now on an exploration of actor training was going to have to run in tandem with his exploration of form in the theatre. Like the American pioneers in modern dance after him, he would have to create a system for training artists that would enable them to give life to the forms he envisioned. For the next thirty-five years, Meyerhold explored a vast array of styles as a director and developed the system of actor training and approach to theatre that would become known as "Biomechanics."

Photo: Das Theatre Meyerholds und die Biomechanik, page 19

Created: March 10, 2002 -- April 07, 2002
© 2002 Kathleen Baum lafkath@aol.com
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