Meyerhold and His Contribution to Theatre

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Vsevolod Emielevich Meyerhold, considered one of 20th century greatest theatrical innovators, was born on February 10, 1874 in the Russian town of Penza. He was originally born into a Lutheran German-Jewish family with the name Karl Theodore Kasmir Meyergold. In 1895 he took the name Vsevolod Emievich Meyerhold after converting to the Russian Orthourdox Church. Meyerhold studied Law at Moscow University for two terms. He became fascinated with the art of theatre and as his interest increased he registered for an acting class at the Moscow Art School. Between 1898 and 1902, he worked at the Moscow Art Theatre where he was an actor in a wide range of productions including; The Seagull and The Death of Ivan the Terrible among others. Meyerhold’s career as a stage director began in 1902 and lasted 37 years. He is said to have directed more than 290 productions. His earliest work was characterized by an interest in realism. However, in a series of productions at the Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1905, Meyerhold broke away from realism and demonstrated his creative approach to directing for the first time. He became the first Russian director to develop a symbolist style of theatrical representation. This was while working at Vera Komissarzhevskaya's Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1906 - 07. His productions of Maeterlynck's Sister Beatrice, Blok's The Fair Ground Booth, Andreyev's Life of a Man, and other plays marked his departure from the realistic theatrical tradition. The intelligentsia of Russian society responded enthusiastically to Meyerhold’s great theatrical innovations. But imperial officials were not pleased. They exerted heavy pressure on him to reform and revert to a conventional realistic style for the emperor’s theatre. Beginning in 1932 the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin ended all forms of avant-garde innovation. In 1936 Meyerhold lost his theater, and four years later, after months of imprisonment and torture, the Soviet internal police secretly executed him. His childhood home has been preserved as the Penza Theatre Museum.

Meyerhold’s Contributions to Theatre:
Meyerhold had many distinctive and influential theories. Among the first theoretical and practical innovations which Meyerhold introduced as a theatre director were constructivism and biomechanics. He also bequeathed to theatre two methods of directing a play which in different ways establish the relationship between the actor and director. One system restrains the creative freedom of both the actor and spectator, while the other liberates both the actor and spectator, permitting the audience to use their imagination actively rather than merely sitting down and watching. Meyerhold presented these two systems graphically, bringing together the four fundamentals of the theatre namely; the author, director, actor, and spectator. The first system he called the triangular theatre and is represented thus: Spectator


Author Actor
The first system is a triangle with the apex representing the director, and the bases the author and the actor. The playgoer sees the work of the author and actor through the work of the director. (Graphically the 'spectator' is at the top of the triangle.) This is one kind of theater-the 'triangular theater.' The second system is represented thus:

A straight, horizontal where the four fundamentals of the theater are represented from left to right: author, director, actor, spectator. This is the other kind of theater-the "straight theater." The actor freely reveals his soul to the spectator after having incorporated the work of the director, just as the director had incorporated the work of the author. This idea informed his theory of the ‘triangular theatre’ and the ‘straight theatre’. In...
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