Lenskii, Aleksandr Pavlovich
(stage name of A. P. Vervitsiotti). Born Oct. 1 (13), 1847, in Kishinev; died Oct. 13 (26), 1908, in Moscow. Russian actor, director, teacher, and theater theorist.
Lenskii made his professional debut in Vladimir in 1865 and then worked in provincial theaters. In 1876 he joined the Malyi Theater, where he worked until his death (except for 1882–84, when he was at the Alexandrinskii Theater). Lenskii made a significant contribution to the development of realism on the Russian stage. A master of stage transformation, mimicry, and makeup, he sought realistically multifaceted and historically accurate characterizations. They were distinguished by “completely exceptional pliability of portrayal” (K. S. Stanislavsky, Sobr. soch., vol. 1, 1954, p. 39), charm, subtle humor, artistry, and elegance.
Lenskii’s best roles included Benedick, Petruchio, Hamlet, and Othello in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, and Othello; the title role in Uriel Acosta by Gutzkow; Chatskii and Famusov in Woe From Wit by Griboedov; Paratov in The Dowerless Girl by Ostrovskii; and Demurin and Stolbtsov in The Price of Life and The New Cause by Nemirovich-Danchenko.
Seeking theatrical reform and well-trained and highly intelligent actors, Lenskii called for high-quality stage technique as well as inspiration in acting. He attributed great importance to theatrical education. A founder of the Novyi Theater (a branch of the Malyi), Lenskii headed its drama group of young actors from 1898 to 1903. Working under his direction were such actors as E. D. Turchaninova, V. N. Ryzhova, V. O. Massalitinova, and P. M. Sadovskii.
Lenskii staged Gogol’s The Inspector-General and Ostrovskii’s Koz’ma Zakhar’ich Minin-Sukhoruk and The Snow Maiden at the Novyi Theater and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1902) and The Tempest (1905) and Ostrovskii’s Guilty Without Guilt (1908) at the Malyi. In 1888 he began teaching drama courses at the Moscow Theatrical School, where his students included V. N. Pashennaia and A. A. Ostuzhev.
Lenskii’s views as a director and teacher were close in many respects to the principles that guided Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko in their innovative work at the Moscow Art Theater.