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Vsevolod Meyerhold 1874-1940. Biography Karl Theodor Kasimir Meyerhold was born in Russia in 1874. He later renounced his family’s Lutheran religion and.

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Presentation on theme: "Vsevolod Meyerhold 1874-1940. Biography Karl Theodor Kasimir Meyerhold was born in Russia in 1874. He later renounced his family’s Lutheran religion and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Vsevolod Meyerhold 1874-1940

2 Biography Karl Theodor Kasimir Meyerhold was born in Russia in 1874. He later renounced his family’s Lutheran religion and took the name Vsevolod Emilievich Meyerhold as a new member of the Orthodox church. In 1898 he joined the Moscow Popular Art Theatre; an establishment with the intention of breaking class divisions and bringing theatre to the masses as part of the socialist movement. After a successful Bolshevik revolution in 1917 in which Meyerhold had fought as part of the Red Army, he joined the party. As an official of the Theatre Division of the Commissariat of Education and Enlightenment, he took on a prominent role in the production of ‘Agitprop’.


4 –During his 37 year long career, Meyerhold directed nearly 300 productions. –TB stalled Meyerhold during 1919, and his career at the TEO was put on hold. –1922 saw the theatre great set up The Meyerhold Theatre, which explored the furthest boundaries of theatre. The theatre was to be closed two years before it’s founders brutal execution. –No longer a promoter of Soviet values, Meyerhold was swiftly removed. Arrested on account of murdering his performer wife, Zinaida Raikh,who was found dead in their apartment, more likely a victim of a government assassin. An ill man of 65, Meyerhold was accused of spying for anti-communist enemies as well as various other charges and repeatedly and violently tortured. It is suspected he was executed on the 2nd February 1940. –


6 Ideas and Practices –Much of Meyerhold’s work carries socialist themes, with the belief that ‘Art cannot be non- political’. (Van Gyseghem) –Meyerhold believed that attempts at naturalism in theatre are absurd when a play spanning several years may be told in a few hours. -He also tried to break the traditional sense of barriers between actors and their audience, much like the work of Bertolt Brecht. -Meyerhold saw both movement and music not merely as an accompaniment to realism but as a means to illustrate the important aspects of a scene, such as emotion.

7 Bio-Mechanics –Defined as ‘the scientific study of forces and the effects of those forces on and within the human body’. –Exercises in bio-mechanics involve prescribed movements in a sequence to tell a story. There must be the careful study of the moments before, during, and after an action, in order to portray it in simple poses. –‘the whole theme of the play is interpreted in movement’. (Van Gyseghem) –The bio-mechanics movement was forced underground after Meyerhold’s execution, but re-emerged in 1972 thanks to Nikolai Kustov. –Alexei Levinski and Gennachi Bogdanov are now the only teachers of biomechanics in Russia. – ZijIo5I ZijIo5I




11 Influences: Bertolt Brecht –Many similarities can be seen between the work of Meyerhold and German director Bertolt Brecht. –Both held socialist beliefs and wanted theatre to be accessible to all in society. –Brecht and Meyerhold were both very much against the idea of theatre attempting to hide it’s devices from the audience.

12 Influences: Konstantin Stanislavsky –A co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT), believed the conditions for the character must become reality for the actor. –Stanislavsky’s ‘system’ encouraged actors to fully understand the background and feelings of their character through research and role play. These ideas helped form the basis of the ‘method’ system. –Stanislavsky used theatre to influence social, political and educational factors. –Meyerhold and Stanislavsky worked together at the MAT when Meyerhold joined in 1902.

13 Problems raised by Meyerhold’s work –As with any ground-breaking work, Meyerhold’s theatre initially experienced problems with audience response. He was asked to leave the employment of Vera Kommissarzhevskaya after poor audience response to ‘Hedda Gabler’, in which all the original stage directions were ignored. –A modern- day audience would perhaps struggle to suspend their disbelief in a performance that constantly reminds them of their setting in a theatre. –Bio-mechanics is a difficult skill to learn as an actor, particularly due to little written work having been produced about it, and there being only two teachers of it now in Russia. It is seen as a very specialised art form.

14 Impact on Theatre –During a time of political revolution, Meyerhold took a main role in revolutionising theatre. –The idea of not using curtains to hide the mechanics of theatre, which was so new to audiences of Meyerhold’s time, is now commonplace, as audiences often arrive to see a performance where there is no front curtain shielding the set from view. –Despite the complexities of bio-mechanics, use of symbolism in the form of poses, and choreographed movement to music as part of performance, are now commonly accepted forms of theatre. –Meyerhold’s expulsion from Soviet theatre has shown how the ancient art form that is theatre, can be used as a modern form of communication of political and propagandist intent.

15 Works in response to Meyerhold –The emphasis on dramatic movement in Meyerhold’s work can be seen to an exaggerated extent in modern-day theatrical shows such as: ‘ Cirque Du Soleil’ and ‘Slava’s Snow Show’ Meyerhold’s success has inspired new theatre greats such as Slava Polunin to think outside the box and redevelop ancient methods of performance. Polunin has won extensive awards for his part in the Cirque du Soleil and Slava’s Snow Show. Both shows were developed through Polunin’s own theatre, The Theatre of the Art of Modern Clowning, which is based largely on metaphysical theatre, derived from Meyerhold’s practices.


17 Glossary –Agitprop- A Soviet term. Originally agit ation prop aganda, meaning information and opinions distributed by the Russian state, giving a one- sided argument, with the intention to influence people to do what the government desired. –Bolshevik- Russian communist revolutionary group, influenced by the philosophies of Karl Marx, which overthrew a flailing Tsarist regime in a bloody revolution in 1917. Originally led by Lenin and Trotsky, and later Joseph Stalin. –Lutheran- Form of Protestant Christianity based on the ideas of the German religious leader Martin Luther.

18 –Orthodox- Form of Christianity, with more traditional leanings, with followers in Eastern Europe, Greece and Russia –Red Army- Military force of the Soviet/Bolshevik state. The driving force of the revolution in 1917. –Socialist- The belief in equality of people within a state. –Soviet- Term for the USSR (now Russia) and her people. (United Soviet States of Russia) –TB- Abbreviation for Tuberculocis, a sometimes fatal disease affecting the lungs. –TEO- Theatre Division of the Commissariat of Education and Enlightenment. A section of the Soviet government set up to expand on the regime’s use of theatre. –Tsarist Regime- Dynasty of Russian rulers infamous for their extreme wealth, empire and impoverished people.

19 1905 Revolution- The first attempt to overthrow the Tsarist regime occurred partly as a result of Bloody Sunday. Peaceful protestors were shot at by the King’s guards outside the Winter Palace. They were protesting about workers’ conditions. 1917 Revolution- The successful overhaul of the Tsarist regime and abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, was caused by general civil unrest and pressures forced on the country by Russia’s part in WWI. MAT - Moscow Art Theatre, established in 1898 and founded by Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Meyerhold joined in 1902.

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