Mikhail Chekhov

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Chekhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich

 

Born Aug. 16 (28), 1891, in St. Petersburg; died Sept. 30, 1955, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Russian actor, director, and teacher. Honored Artist of the Republic (1924).

Mikhail A. Chekhov was A. P. Chekhov’s nephew. In 1911 he graduated from the A. S. Suvorin Theatrical School in St. Petersburg; he worked in the Suvorin theater, where he played Fedor in A. K. Tolstoy’s Tsar Fedor Ioannovich. In 1913 he joined the Moscow Art Theater and worked in its First Studio. The views on theater and ethics held by K. S. Stanislavskii, L. A. Sulerzhitskii, and E. B. Vakhtangov had a decisive influence on Chekhov. His acute perception of the world, infectious emotionality, brilliant gift for improvisation, and virtuoso talent marked Chekhov as one of the most prominent Russian actors.

Chekhov’s best roles include Frázer in Berger’s The Deluge, Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the title roles in Strindberg’s Erik XIV and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ableukhov in Belyi’s Petersburg, and Khlestakov in Gogol’s The Inspector-General. From 1919 to 1922, Chekhov was in charge of his own studio—the Chekhov Studio. In 1924 he became the head of the Moscow Art Theater’s First Studio, which was reorganized and renamed the Second Moscow Art Academic Theater, or Second MKhAT, in the same year. In 1928, however, the disagreements within the theater, as well as the contradictions in Chekhov’s own world view, led him to quit the Second MKhAT. In the same year, Chekhov went abroad.

The alien theater environment and language had a disastrous effect on Chekhov’s creative work; he enacted only two important stage roles—the title role in A. K. Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan the Terrible and the role of Foma Opiskin in The Village of Stepanchikovo (adapted from Dostoevsky). Chekhov’s attempts to organize repertory theaters in Paris, Prague, and New York ended in failure. He directed actors’ studios in Lithuania, Latvia (1932–34), and Great Britain, as well as an actors’ training group in Hollywood in the 1940’s. He also acted in films. Chekhov’s students included the English actor P. Rogers and the American film actors G. Peck and Y. Brynner.

Chekhov wrote two books, The Actor’s Path (1928) and To the Actor, on the Technique of Acting (1953).

REFERENCES

Dikii, A. D. Povest’ o teatral’noi iunosti. Moscow, 1957.
Markov, P. A. “Pervaia studiia MKhT (Sulerzhitskii’-Vakhtangov-Chekhov).” In his Pravda teatra. Moscow, 1965.
Gromov, V. Mikhail Chekhov. Moscow, 1970.
Morov, A. Tragediia khudozhnika. Moscow, 1971.
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