Sulerzhitskii, Leopol’d Antonovich
Born Sept. 15 (27), 1872, in Zhitomir; died Dec. 17 (30), 1916, in Moscow. Russian stage director and public, theatrical, and literary figure.
From 1889 to 1894, Sulerzhitskii studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. He became friends with L. N. Tolstoy, whose moral teachings he followed throughout his life. After being expelled from school for an antigovernment speech, Sulerzhitskii served as a sailor and helmsman on oceangoing ships. In 1896 he was exiled to the Kushka fortress for refusing to swear allegiance to the tsar on being drafted for military service. After his release in 1898, he organized the resettlement of Dukhobors to Canada on instructions from Tolstoy.
In 1900 and 1901, M. Gorky and A. P. Chekhov acquainted Sulerzhitskii with the work of the Moscow Art Theater. Endowed with many talents, Sulerzhitskii had irreproachable artistic taste and musical ability. He became a director in 1905 and helped stage a number of plays at the Moscow Art Theater, including Maeterlinck’s The Blue Bird (1908) and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1911). He worked closely with K. S. Stanislavsky in the teaching of the Stanislavsky method.
Sulerzhitskii helped organize and direct the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theater. Early in its development, the studio was influenced by Sulerzhitskii’s ethical and artistic principles, as seen in its productions of Heijermans’ The Good Hope (1913) and Berger’s The Flood (1915).