Birman, Serafima Germanovna
Born July 29 (Aug. 10) 1890, in Kishinev. Soviet Russian actress and director. People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1946).
In 1911, Birman completed the drama courses of A. I. Adashev in Moscow and was accepted into the troupe of the Moscow Art Theater. In 1913 she began to work in the first studio of the Moscow Art Theater, where in 1923 she began to work as a director. From 1924 to 1936 she was an actress and director at the second Moscow Art Academic Theater. Birman played the roles of Queen Anne in The Man Who Laughs (based on Hugo’s work), Khaldeika in Levsha (based on Leskov), and the widowed queen in Strindberg’s Erik XIV. She staged a production of Fletcher’s The Spanish Curate (1934), among others. From 1936 to 1938 she worked in the Moscow Oblast Council of Professional Unions Theater, where she staged Gorky’s Vassa Zheleznova (1936) and played the leading role. Realistically portraying the complex, contradictory character of Vassa, the actress at the same time exposed her heroine and showed her spiritual strength and tragic loneliness. She played the role of the mother in the show Salute, Spain! by Afinogenov. From 1938 to 1958 she was an actress and director at the Moscow Lenin Komsomol Theater. Here she played the roles of Mariia Esterag in My Son, by Sh. Gergeii and O. Litovskii; Fanny Ferrelly in Hellman’s Watch on the Rhine; and Anna Grech in Simonov’s So It Will Be. Among the productions she has directed are Gorky’s The Zykovs (1940), Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse (1942), Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1943), Simonov’s Under the Chestnut Trees of Prague (1945), and Simonov’s The Russian Question (1947). Since 1959, Birman has worked in the Mossovet Theater. She played the roles of Marie de Saint-Exupéry (in Maliugin’s Life of Saint-Exupéry) and Karpukhina (in Uncle’s Dream, based on Dostoevsky’s work).
Birman has also played in motion pictures. Her most important work in this field has been in the roles of Efrosin’ia Staritskaia in Ivan the Terrible (parts 1 and 2) and Konstantsiia L’vovna in An Ordinary Person (based on L. M. Leonov). Birman’s art is characterized by an openly expressed passionate quality, a sharply defined stage form, and a bold and vivid theatricality. She won the State Prize of the USSR in 1946 and has been awarded two orders and also medals.