Meyerhold Theater

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Meyerhold Theater


a Soviet drama theater in Moscow. It was founded in 1920 as the First Theater of the RSFSR. In 1922, known as the Meyerhold Free Studio (one of the State Higher Theater Studios), it became part of the Actor’s Theater, which at the end of that same year was reorganized into the Theater of the State Institute of Theater Art (GITIS). In 1923, the Meyerhold Free Studio was renamed the Meyerhold Theater, which in 1926 became the Meyerhold State Theater.

The theater’s director was V. E. Meyerhold, whose complex path of development was reflected in the theater’s productions (all staged by Meyerhold himself, who only occasionally collaborated with other directors). The theater opened in 1920 with Verhaeren’s The Dawns (directed by Meyerhold and V. M. Bebutov), a spectacle with the solemnity and oratorical character of a public meeting.

The theater’s rapprochement with the Revolution, which had begun with the production of The Dawns, and its transformation into an instrument of political propaganda were furthered by the productions of Mayakovsky’s Mystery-Bouffe (second version, 1921; directed by Meyerhold and Bebutov), Tret’iakov’s The Earth on Its Hind Legs (based on The Night by Martinet, 1923), and Podgaetskii’s D. E. (based on a work by Ehrenburg, 1924). The production of Erdman’s Mandate (1925) was a satirical exposé of the petite bourgeoisie.

The Meyerhold Theater gave the first presentations of Mayakovsky’s plays The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1930). Its publicistic plays were of great importance for the development of Soviet theater; they included Tret’iakov’s Bellow, China! (1926), Vishnevskii’s The Last Decisive Battle (1931), and German’s Introduction (1933). At the same time, the primary concern of some productions was the solution of problems of form. Such productions were based on the principles of biomechanics, which was related to constructivism (for example, Crommelynck’s The Magnificent Cuckold, 1922).

The Meyerhold Theater applied contradictory approaches to classical drama, including Sukhovo-Kobylin’s The Death ofTarelkin (staged 1922), Ostrovskii’s The Forest (staged 1924), Gogol’s The Inspector-General (1926), Griboedov’s Woe From Wit (1928), and 33 Fainting Spells (three one-act farces by Chekhov: The Proposal, The Bear, and The Jubilee, staged 1935). In these productions, the dramatic aspect of the plays was not only completely subordinated to but at times even distorted by the director’s subjectivity.

In the mid-1930’s, the Meyerhold Theater experienced difficulties arising from Meyerhold’s reevaluation of his directorial techniques and his desire to adopt the methodology of the psychological theater (exemplified by a production of Dumasyz/s’Ltf Dame aux camelias, 1934), as well as from a certain weakening of the theater’s contacts with Soviet drama. All this served as grounds for accusations that the theater had broken with Soviet reality. In 1938, the Meyerhold Theater was closed.

The theater’s acting company included, at various times, M. I. Babanova, N. I. Bogoliubov, E. P. Garin, M. I. Zharov, I. V. Il’inskii, S. A. Martinson, D. N. Orlov, Z. N. Raikh, L. N. Sverdlin, M. L Tsarev, and M. M. Shtraukh. Its directors included L. V. Varpakhovskii, B. I. Ravenskikh, P. V. Tsetnerovich, L lu. Shlepianov, and N. V. Ekk.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Though one thinks of Meyerhold's superb anniversary Masquerade production in the Imperial Dramatic Theater as prerevolutionary, this is its restaging two decades later in the Meyerhold Theater, Moscow, with the surviving curtains and costumes and almost all new actors.
While directorial tinkering in the 1930s was meant to be unobtrusive, Meyerhold's updating of tired classics in the 1920s aimed to astound--in Mayakovsky's phrase--like "a slap in the face." The first of three even-year rejuvenations, Alexander Ostrovsky's play The Forest (1924) was the most outrageous and hence continued in the Meyerhold Theater repertory the longest and was staged with the greatest frequency.