Dramatic Reading

Dramatic Reading


the public reading of poems, prose works, publicist writings, and excerpts from plays.

In the Soviet theater, dramatic reading is considered a genre of estrada (the variety stage). Ancient Greece was famed for the oral performances of improvisational poets, and the art of declamation was cultivated in ancient Rome. Later the French actress Rachel won fame for her performances of the “Marseillaise” during the French Revolution of 1848. Her tradition was carried on by the actress Hagar. Prominent Western European actors and actresses, including the Coquelin brothers and V. Déjazet of France, J. Kaintz of Germany, and H. Irving of England, gave dramatic readings. Expressive speech was essential to the art of Russian skazochniki (storytellers) and skomorokhi (itinerant performers), Armenian ashugi (storytellers), and Kazakh akyny (folk poets). Of special interest are gatherings and concerts at which the author reads his own works. In Russia, A. S. Pushkin, N. V. Gogol, A. N. Ostrovskii, and later S. A. Esenin and V. V. Mayakovsky gave such readings.

The founder of the professional art of dramatic reading in Russia was M. S. Shchepkin, who gave evenings devoted to the poems of Pushkin and T. G. Shevchenko. The improvisational storyteller I. F. Gorbunov enjoyed great popularity. The performances of M. N. Ermolova, who read the civic lyrics of Pushkin, M. Iu. Lermontov, and N. A. Nekrasov, were distinguished by heroic elation and profound emotion. A notable dramatic reader was V. N. Andreev-Burlak, who introduced dramatizations of the works of F. M. Dostoevsky and Gogol to the variety stage.

In the Soviet period, dramatic reading became an independent genre and was enriched by new forms. The first Soviet master of dramatic reading was A. Ia. Zakushniak, who became known for his “Evenings of Intimate Reading” and “Story Evenings.” His tradition was brilliantly developed by V. N. Iakhontov, the founder of a special type of recitation, the “theater of one actor.”

Notable figures in the history of dramatic reading have included V. K. Serezhnikov, A. I. Shvarts, B. N. Aksenov, A. N. Glumov, and E. I. Kaminka. The epic works of world literature and folktales are the specialties of S. A. Kocharian. I. L. Andronikov reads his own tales, which are noted for their originality; they deal with writers, actors, and scholars. Many notable actors have engaged in dramatic reading, for example, B. I. Kachalov, I. M. Moskvin, and D. N. Orlov. Contemporary performers include D. N. Zhuravlev, I. V. Il’inskii, S. M. Balashov, V. V. Somov, Ia. M. Smolenskii, and G. M. Sorokin.

A special variety of dramatic reading is declamation with music.


Verkhovskii, N. Kniga o chtetsakh. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Aksenov, V. Iskusstvo khudozhestvennogo slova, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1962.
Iskusstvo zvuchashchego slova. [Sb. statei.] Moscow, 1965.
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