Naturalism in Russia and the Creation of the Moscow Art Theatre

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The earliest of the modern theatre movement was naturalism. Russia lagged behind the rest of Europe, as far as theatre was concerned. That point was proven when the Meiningen Players performed in Russia. The Meiningen Players created not only a set, but also an environment in which they are a part of (Gascoigne 265). Russian producers saw, first hand, how far behind they were. The Imperial Theatre system spent most of its resources on opera and ballet while neglecting legitimate theatre. Most of the administrative staff was composed of government appointees who had little or no interest of theatrical production. There was no effort to harmonize sets and costumes to create a unified impression (Londre 359). This changed, however, with the abolition of the Imperial Theatre and the creation of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898. The combination of three talents, Konstantin Stanislavsky, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and Anton Chekov, would set unprecedented standard for dramatic art in Russia.

Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko was regarded as Russia's best contemporary playwright by the 1880's. He taught at the Philharmonic Dramatic school and his plays were produced at the Maly theatre in Moscow. Here, Nemirovich-Danchenko fought for such improvements as dress rehearsals, new scenery for new plays, historical accuracy of sets and costumes. Nemirovich-Danchenko urged Stanislavsky to meet with him to discuss Russian Theatre (360).

Konstantin Stanislavsky was born, Konstantin Alexeyev, the son of a wealthy manufacturer of gold and silver thread. While Konstantin was still very young, his family organized a theatre group called the Alexeyev Circle ( As a young man he was given singing lessons, contact with Russian and foreign artists and unlimited opportunity to participate in amateur productions at the little theatre on his family's estate. Although he still managed to fulfill his obligations to his family business, he...
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