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Theatrical chronology

Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold was born in Penza  February 10, 1874 into the family of a Russian - German wine manufacturer. His real name is Karl Kazimir Theodor Mayerhold.

1895 asks for Russian citizenship and converted from Lutheranism to Orthodox Christianity, accepted Vsevolod as an Ortodox Christian name (the name of his favourite writer Garsin).

In August of the same year he moves to Moscow to study law at Moscow University, following with constancy the theatrical program of Malyj.

Autumn 1896 he became a student of the Moscow Philharmonic Dramatic School under the guidance of Vladimir Nemirovich-Dancenko.

1989 serve as an actor at the Moscow Art Theatre, where he remain till 1902 (during the rehearsals of “The Seagull”  he found a friend Anton Chekhov).

Spring 1902 leave the Moscow Art Theatre, convinced of being not understood, but especially because he searched for something new and not a usual Naturalism of Stanislavski Theatre.
He found his own “Company of drama Russian actors“ and work in Cherson in Ukraine, producing the drama of Chekhov, trying to find in them the key for the symbolism.

May 5, 1905 he receives the invitation from Stanislavski to found the Experimental Studio at the Art Theatre, to put on trial the texts of symbolism.

1906 Vera Kommisarzhevskaya calls him to work as a chief producer of her theatre, that was found in 1904. The main aim of the theatre was to put on the scene contemporary shows (it will become the referent point for the symbolical poets)

December 31, 1906 Balaganchik (by Blok), (scenography by Nikolay Sapunov)
  • Changing the scenography at the front of the spectator, stage whisper on the stage, he shows on the scene all the theatrical secrets.
  • Elimination of the curtain, runways that connect spectators and the actors.
  • The movement of actors increases with the increase of the tension of the action
  • “Ideal” style of the interpretation of actor on the “conventional” theatre represented by the “ primitivism of the puppets theatre”
  • The actor should only “be involved” in the project of the director and “get into” the solution of the scene of all together, at the visual part of the show
  • Absence of the gestures – creation of the life “low relief” and “wall paintings”  to get into their tree-dimensional volume into the flat scenography
  • Proceeding “from exterior to interior” (Meyerhold)
  • Direct influence of the Commedia Del Arte, even if it was “mixed“ with the common Russian tradition
1907 The Life of Man (by Leonid Andreyev)
  • Proceeding on the scene aimed to realize the interior life
  • Everything should happen like in a dream, following the psychology of a dream – elimination of the scenography – the lights shows up single details and episodes

November 1907 Vera Kommisarzhevskaya fire Meyerhold (the procedure that takes Meyerhold to use the actors like “scenic elements” strife with the mentality of the first actress)

1907 he published To the History and Technique Of The Theatre
  • “Ecumenical“ character of the theatre as a collective art
  • Creative collaboration of all the spectators

1907 Vladimir Teliakovski, the director of the imperial theatres in St. Petersburg hire Meyerhold as a director and actor of prose and opera. Teliakovski was encouraged by the painter and set designer  Golovin, that saw the shows of Meyerhold at the Kommisarzhevskaya Theatre. This thing makes a scandal.
August 30, 1908 put on scene “At the door of the kingdom” by Knut Hamsun (beginning of the collaboration between Meyerhold and Golovin. At the symbolic and modern theatre the scenography have more importance then the action itself).

1910 collaboration with small cabaret and private theatres to take ahead his experiments.
  • At the cabaret “The house of the intervals” there is no more the wall between the spectators and the actors Actors sit on the stair that lead from the scene to the stalls
  • Elimination of “frontal” theatre – the theatrical action should extend on the whole auditorium

December 9, 1910 Don Juan, ou Le Festin de Pierre (by Moliere)
  • Meyerhold wanted to reproduce the epoch of Moliere through the reproduction of his style
  • Suppression of the curtain and the machine work with the light
  • Acting based on gesture
  • Accurate study of the light
  • Use of the conventions of the theatre of the 16the and 17th century to renew the contemporary theatre

Summer 1912 – Terioki, village near St. Petersburg, Meyerhold follow the mise-en-scene of the show “Association of the actors, painters, writers and musicians” , dedicated to Block
  • Italian Comedy, use of the masks
Meyerhold found his Studio at St. Pietrosburgo (that remain till 1917)
  • Teaching actors as acrobats
  • Study of the space and the body
  • Use of the music as a guide
  • The movements of the actors should correspond to the size of the scene
  • The actors should reach the ability of the interpretation of the Kabuki theatre (union of the codified gestures of the Commedia del Arte with the Japanese theatre)
  • Use of the scene tools as a “prolongation of a hand“
  • The word goes to the second place
1913 publication of the scripts About Theatre
  • The theatre should be based on the “laws of the balagan, .. where the movement mean more then a word” (Meyerhold)
  • “… the words in theatre are only the embroidery on the canvas of the movements” (Meyerhold)
1914-1916 publication of the magazine Love to the tree oranges (title from the story of Gozzi)
  • Commedia dell'Arte
  • Improvisation and pantomime like an instrument of the liberation of the scenic art from the literature, from the power of the word, from any moral ideology, philosophy or religion.
  • Involvement of all the spectators to the action through the dynamic of the action, that takes it and awakes the emotion provoking the associations
April, 1914 The Stranger
  • Full poetics of the balagan and the theatre of puppets
February 25, 1917 The Masked ball (by Lermontov)
(set design of the Golovin and the Meyerhold, that are working for six years for the preparation of the show – Golovin made more than 4000 sketches and Meyerhold more than 800 data sheets in which he described the movements and the appearances during the scene of the masked ball)
  • Teatralizzazion of the theatre
  • Stilization
  • Suppression of the curtain and extension of the scene into the auditorium
The debut of the show is immersed in the revolution

 November 7. 1918 Mystery-Bouffe (by Mayakovsky)
(set design of Malevic (supremacist and futurist) – Mayakovsky takes part as an actor)
  • The collaboration with Mayakovski starts (that will become for Meyerhold the same as Chekhov for Stanislavski)
  • Political theatre “the revolution of the spirit” and the continuing politic and social revolution
  • The theatre is divided into two parts “Impures” and “Pures”  associated with a big screen on which there were subtitles
  • Citations of Chaplin
1919 Anatoly Lunacharsky nominate Meyerhold as a Director of the Theatre Division (TEO) of the Commissariat of Education and Enlightenment

April 25, 1922 The Magnificent Cuckold (by Crommelynch)
(set design by Lubov Popova (constructivism) the machine that represents the mill in which the show is set)
  • The biomeccanics in harmony with the details of the Constructivism. The body of the actor should be dominated as a “biomeccanical apparatus” through the movements between the dance and the gymnastics, that belong to a precise code of the essential movements. In relationship with the theory of Pavlov, the exercises connected with the biomeccanics should create in the actors the “flexibility of reflections” that will “help to translate…through the physical actions and giochi di agilita and the feelings of the character”
  • Japanese Kabuki like an example to follow in the research of “biomeccanics”
  • Constructivism in theatre “The scene is not a frame but it should be built”
November 24, 1922 Tarelkin’s Death (by Suchovo-Kobilin)
(scenography of Stepanova)
  • Importance of the objects in the action – Stepanova invents the machine that should represent the room for torture, it looked like a huge meat grinder.
  • Actor – Mime
  • During the action there were demonstrated the banners with slogan on the biomeccanics, the constructivism and boxing.
January 19, 1924 The forest (by Ostrovski)
  • The beginning of the practice of elaboration of the classical text – the director is the true author of the play
  • The text is divided in sequent parts – (cinemafication of the theatre) and citation of the “paint” structure of Russian theatre
  • Use of the circus and cabaret in the presentation of the actors (also costumes look like the masks) – the circus is the genre both satiric and popular, but also political
  • More biomeccanics exercises
  • Use of the runways to the public
December 9, 1926 The Inspector General (By Gogol)
  • Complete elaboration of the text of Gogol (Meyerhold calls himself as an author even in the manifests)
  • The  literary assembling – the text was “reinvented” through the assembling of the parts of different texts of Gogol  (the same instrument will be used then with Shostakovich for “The nose”)
  • Use of the music “the music is the best organization of the time at the show. ..My dream is to do the show rehearsed on the base of music and than played without it. In the way that the show and its rhythms are organized following the laws of music and each actor will have it inside”
  • Movements of the actors and movements of the parts of the scenography together – pantomime
  • February 13, 1929 “The Bed Bug” (Mayakovsky)
  • (collaboration for the scenography with Rodchenko, music interval between the first and the second part is by Shoctakobich)
  • Fight against the bureaucratisation of soviet society
July 24, 1929 "The commander 2" (by Selvinski)
  • The author belongs to the constructivism
  • Try to “integrate” into the dictates of the government without renouncing of the avant-garde
March 16, 1930The bath” (by Majakovski)
  • Fight against the bureaucratisation of soviet art and society
  • Satire against the naturalism of Moscow Art Theatre that became an icon of Stalinism (Mayakovski wrights on the playbill of the debut that “the theatre is not a reflective mirror but a magnifying glass“)
  • Biomechanics – Constructivism – use of the playbills inside the show like in the “spontaneous” theatre
March 26, 1936 Conference on the theatre in Moscow where only Meyerhold doesn’t withdraw his positions and disowns his way of doing the theatre.

January 8, 1938  Decree with which it was closed the theatre of Mejerhold

June 20, 1939 Meyerhold was arrested.

February 2, 1940 execution by firing squad of Meyerhold.

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