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building, structure, or space in which dramatic performances take place. In its broadest sense theater can be defined as including everything connected with dramatic art—the play itself, the stage with its scenery and lighting, makeup, costumes, acting, and actors.

Ancient Greece

Theater in ancient Greece developed from the ceremonial worship of the god Dionysus (in which the death and rebirth of the god were celebrated) and was communal in nature. The focal point of the structure in which the ceremony took place was a level, circular space at the foot of a hill. Around this space, called the orchēstra, an auditorium rose in a large semicircle. Behind the orchēstra was the skēne, a building where the actors could change costume. Between the skēne and the orchēstra was a space called the proskenion, which later developed into the stage.

The original religious nature of Greek drama made audiences particularly receptive to the cosmic themes presented in classical tragedytragedy,
form of drama that depicts the suffering of a heroic individual who is often overcome by the very obstacles he is struggling to remove. The protagonist may be brought low by a character flaw or, as Hegel stated, caught in a "collision of equally justified ethical aims.
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. Greek actors performed in masks and stylized costumes (see maskmask,
cover or partial cover for the face or head used as a disguise or protection. Masks have been worn from time immemorial throughout the world. They are used by primitive peoples chiefly to impersonate supernatural beings or animals in religious and magical ceremonies.
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). The choruschorus,
in the drama of ancient Greece. Originally the chorus seems to have arisen from the singing of the dithyramb, and the dithyrambic chorus allegedly became a true dramatic chorus when Thespis in the 6th cent. B.C. introduced the actor.
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 remained in the orchēstra throughout the play, performing intricate dances and chants while commenting on the dramatic action taking place on the proskenion. The date at which the proskenion became a raised stage is uncertain, but it had definitely achieved this status by the Hellenistic period (3d–1st cent. B.C.).

The years from the decline of classical Greece through the Hellenistic period to the Roman era saw the erosion of serious drama and a corresponding increase in the architectural grandeur of theaters. As the religious and thus the choral element diminished, the skēne became an elaborate structure and the orchēstra was increasingly reduced in size.

Ancient Rome and the Early Christian Era

In Rome, for the first time, theaters were enclosed within a single wall, making them architectural units. The Roman skēne (in Latin the scaenae frons) was frequently monumental in scale. Roman audiences never evinced an interest in serious drama but accepted romantic comedycomedy,
literary work that aims primarily to provoke laughter. Unlike tragedy, which seeks to engage profound emotions and sympathies, comedy strives to entertain chiefly through criticism and ridicule of man's customs and institutions.
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 as long as it included an element of farcefarce,
light, comic theatrical piece in which the characters and events are greatly exaggerated to produce broad, absurd humor. Early examples of farce can be found in the comedies of Aristophanes, Plautus, and Terence.
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. By the period of the Empire, Roman theater had degenerated into brutal and obscene spectacle, and it was finally banned by the Christian church.

While Greek actors were highly respected, their Roman counterparts were originally slaves. Although position of Roman actors had improved by the 1st cent. B.C. (as evidenced by the career of Quintus RosciusRoscius, Quintus
, c.126 B.C.–62 B.C., Roman actor. Born a slave at Solonium, he became the greatest comic actor of his time. From the dictator Sulla, Roscius received the honor of the gold ring signifying equestrian rank.
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), later Christian antipathy to the stage led to the view of the actor as a social outcast. Until the 10th cent., theatrical performances were restricted to traveling acrobats, jugglers, mimes, and the like. Popular types of traveling theater, performed on plain wooden platforms, also existed throughout the Greek and Roman periods. Native farce and burlesqueburlesque
[Ital.,=mockery], form of entertainment differing from comedy or farce in that it achieves its effects through caricature, ridicule, and distortion. It differs from satire in that it is devoid of any ethical element. The word first came into use in the 16th cent.
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 probably flourished before Aristophanes; it certainly did by the 3d cent. B.C. in the Greek phylakes and the Roman fabula Atellana.

Medieval Theaters

In the 9th cent. drama returned to the Western world in the form of mystery and miracle playsmiracle play
or mystery play,
form of medieval drama that came from dramatization of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It developed from the 10th to the 16th cent., reaching its height in the 15th cent.
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, which were performed in churches. Usually stories from the Bible, such plays were first acted by priests, their stage consisting of different platform sets arranged in rows along the side of the nave of the church. One effect of the church setting was to create a close relationship between audience and performer.

Later these plays were moved out of the church into the street, where the platform sets were arranged around an area in which the audience could stand or move from place to place in a prescribed order. Acting took place either on the platforms, in front of them, or between them, depending on the need. The platforms were often elaborate in their decoration and stage machinery. With the shift to the streets, acting was transferred from the priesthood to the amateurs of the guilds or professional players.

Renaissance Theaters

After the advent of the Renaissance in Italy there were various attempts to construct theaters on Roman models, the culmination of this movement being the Teatro Olimpico (1580–84) at Vicenza, designed by Andrea PalladioPalladio, Andrea
, 1508–80, Italian architect of the Renaissance. Originally a stonemason, he was trained as an architect in Vicenza, and later in Rome he examined the remains of Roman architecture.
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. However, the development of the theater form that was to dominate until the 20th cent. began with the Teatro Farnese (1618) at Parma, designed by Gian-Battista Aleotti. Of primary importance was Aleotti's use of the proscenium arch creating the picture-frame stage.

Italians also introduced painted perspective scenery, first outlined in the treatise Architettura (1537–45) of Sebastiano SerlioSerlio, Sebastiano
, 1475–1554, Italian Renaissance architect and theoretician, b. Bologna. He was in Rome from 1514 until the sack in 1527 and worked under Baldassare Peruzzi. Few traces exist of his buildings in Venice, where he lived from 1527 to 1540.
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. While these developments were taking place in an academic and aristocratic milieu, the commedia dell'artecommedia dell'arte
, popular form of comedy employing improvised dialogue and masked characters that flourished in Italy from the 16th to the 18th cent. Characters of the Commedia Dell'Arte
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 was carrying on a popular theater of improvisation, which did much toward developing professional acting as opposed to courtly amateurism.

In England and Spain, theories of theater construction were less tied to classical example than in Italy. The Spanish theater developed in the corral, or courtyard, of various large buildings, where plays were originally performed, while the innyard served as a similar model in England. These theaters offered greater flexibility of movement than did the Italian. The Elizabethan audience in England included all levels of society, and professional actors were treated with relative respect. By the closing of the theaters by the Puritans in 1642, English audiences had become overwhelmingly aristocratic, a tendency that continued in the Restoration period.

In 17th-century England the designs of Inigo JonesJones, Inigo
, 1573–1652, one of England's first great architects. Son of a London clothmaker, he was enabled to travel in Europe before 1603 to study paintings, perhaps at the expense of the earl of Rutland.
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 revealed Italian influence in their use of perspective scenery and the proscenium arch. However, English theater never indulged in the architectural extravaganzas that proliferated on the continent. In 17th-century Europe the trend in theater production was increasingly toward more elaborate machinery and scenery with less and less concern for the drama itself. This trend is illustrated by the triumph of opera in Italy and Spain and, later, by the popularity of the exuberant baroque architecture and scene design of the BibienaBibiena or Bibbiena, Galli da
, family of Italian artists of the 17th and 18th cent. Giovanni Maria Galli da Bibiena,
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 family throughout 18th-century Europe.

Theaters in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The development of a middle-class audience in 18th-century France and England created a desire for more realistic settings and acting. Although some attempts were made in the 18th cent. (notably by David GarrickGarrick, David,
1717–79, English actor, manager, and dramatist. He was indisputably the greatest English actor of the 18th cent., and his friendships with Diderot, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, and other notables who made up "The Club" resulted in detailed records of
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 in England and Adrienne LecouvreurLecouvreur, Adrienne
, 1692–1730, French actress. With Michel Baron she helped change the traditional acting techniques of the French stage to a simpler, more natural style. She was extremely popular from her debut at the Comédie Française in 1717.
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 in France) to combat the artificial, rhetorical style of acting then popular, it was not until the late 19th cent. that a more natural style of acting gained wide acceptance. Of great importance in the development of realistic acting was Constantin StanislavskyStanislavsky, Constantin
, 1863–1938, Russian theatrical director, teacher, and actor, whose original name was Constantin Sergeyevich Alekseyev. He was cofounder with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko of the Moscow Art Theater in 1898, which he would remain associated with for
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, cofounder of the Moscow Art TheaterMoscow Art Theater,
Russian repertory company founded in 1897 by Constantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Its work created new concepts of theatrical production and marked the beginning of modern theater.
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, who stressed the actors' absolute identification with the characters they portray.

Similarly, realism in scenery and costumes was not popular until well into the 19th cent. The creation of realistic effects was facilitated by the introduction of gas lights in the early 19th cent. and of electricity later in the century. Electric lighting was, however, also used for antirealistic effects by such scene designers as Adolphe AppiaAppia, Adolphe
, 1862–1928, Swiss theorist of modern stage lighting and décor. In interpreting Wagner's ideas in scenic designs for his operas, Appia rejected painted scenery for the three-dimensional set; he felt that shade was as necessary as light to link the
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 and Edward Gordon CraigCraig, Edward Gordon,
1872–1966, English scene designer, producer, and actor. The son of Ellen Terry, Gordon Craig began acting with Henry Irving's Lyceum company (1885–97).
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. The introduction of gas lighting made it possible to dim the auditorium lights, a practice that tended to make the audience more separate from the stage. Richard WagnerWagner, Richard
, 1813–83, German composer, b. Leipzig. Life and Work

Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17.
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, in his opera theater at Bayreuth, attempted further to isolate the audience by means of a gap of darkness between a double proscenium arch. While most commercial theaters today still use the proscenium arch stage, there has been much experimental work to restore a vital relationship between audience and stage.

By the late 19th cent., theater was dominated by commercial playhouses in large cities, particularly in England and the United States. However, in the late 19th cent. several independent theaters, more interested in art than in making money, came into being, including the Théâtre LibreThéâtre Libre
, French theatrical company founded in Paris in 1887 by André Antoine. Inspired by the work of the Meiningen Players, Antoine's theater became a showcase for naturalist drama.
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 in Paris (1887), the Freie Bühne in Berlin (1889), the Independent Theatre Society in London (1891), and the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia (1891).

Twentieth-Century Theaters

Smaller independent theaters were also prevalent in the early 20th cent., as in the Provincetown PlayersProvincetown Players,
American theatrical company that first introduced the plays of Eugene O'Neill. The company opened with his Bound East for Cardiff at the Wharf Theatre, Provincetown, on Cape Cod in 1916 and later worked in New York City in conjunction with the
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 (1915) in the United States. Concurrently, antirealistic expressionist and symbolic movements in theater were developing, such as Vsevolod MeyerholdMeyerhold, Vsevolod
, 1874–1940?, Russian theatrical director and producer. Meyerhold led the revolt against naturalism in the Russian theater. Working with the Moscow Art Theater, he experimented with his own directing ideas until the outbreak of the Revolution.
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's constructivism, the "theater of cruelty" of Antonin ArtaudArtaud, Antonin
, 1896–1948, French poet, actor, and director. During the 1920s and 30s he was associated with various experimental theater groups in Paris, and he cofounded the Théâtre Alfred Jarry.
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, and the "epic theater" of Bertolt BrechtBrecht, Bertolt
, 1898–1956, German dramatist and poet, b. Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht. His brilliant wit, his outspoken Marxism, and his revolutionary experiments in the theater made Brecht a vital and controversial force in modern drama.
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. There was also a growing interest in Asian theater, which seemed attractive to many because of its relatively bare stage, symbolic stage properties, and stylized, nonrealistic acting (see Asian dramaAsian drama,
dramatic works produced in the East. Of the three major Asian dramas—Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese—the oldest is Sanskrit, although the dates of its origin are uncertain.
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Theatrical developments since World War II, especially in noncommercial theater, have brought the stage more in contact with the audience. Theater-in-the-round became popular at American universities in the 1930s, and in the 1950s and 60s many "music tents" featuring theater-in-the-round sprang up in American cities. Experimental relationships between audience and acting space have also been constructed. Such groups as the Living Theater of Julian BeckBeck, Julian,
1925–85, American theatrical director, actor, and producer, b. New York City. In 1948 he married Judith Malina, 1926–2015, also an American theatrical director, actor, and producer, b. Germany.
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 and Judith Malina produced free-form events in which audience and actors mingled, thus removing completely traditional barriers between them.

Related Articles

For further information see separate articles on drama, Westerndrama, Western,
plays produced in the Western world. This article discusses the development of Western drama in general; for further information see the various national literature articles.
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; actingacting,
the representation of a usually fictional character on stage or in films. At its highest levels of accomplishment acting involves the employment of technique and/or an imaginative identification with the character on the part of the actor.
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; directingdirecting,
the art of leading dramatic performances on the stage or in films. The modern theatrical director is in complete charge of all the artistic aspects of a dramatic presentation.
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; and scene design and stage lightingscene design and stage lighting,
settings and illumination designed for theatrical productions.

See also drama, Western; Asian drama; theater; directing; acting. Ancient Greece
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. See also articles on theaters and theater groups: Abbey TheatreAbbey Theatre,
Irish theatrical company devoted primarily to indigenous drama. W. B. Yeats was a leader in founding (1902) the Irish National Theatre Society with Lady Gregory, J. M. Synge, and A. E. (George Russell) contributing their talents as directors and dramatists.
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; Comédie FrançaiseComédie Française
or Théâtre Français
, state theater of France. Also known as La Maison de Molière, it was officially established by Louis XIV in 1680.
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; Deutsches TheaterDeutsches Theater
, German private theater organization founded in 1883. Under its first director, Adolph L'Arronge, the Deutsches merged with the Freie Bühne (Otto Brahm, director) and in 1884 built its own house in Berlin.
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; Drury LaneDrury Lane,
street and district of London, at first a place of fine residences, among which was that of the Drury family. It was the site of the original Drury Lane Theatre, which was built by Thomas Killigrew in 1663 under a charter from Charles II and called the Theatre Royal.
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; Federal TheatreFederal Theatre
(1935–39), branch of the Work Projects Administration designed to provide employment for actors, directors, writers, and scene designers. As well as providing a nationwide audience with inexpensive, high-quality productions, it gave impetus to experimental
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; Globe TheatreGlobe Theatre,
London playhouse, built in 1598, where most of Shakespeare's plays were first presented. It burned in 1613, was rebuilt in 1614, and was destroyed by the Puritans in 1644. A working replica opened in 1997. Bibliography

See J. C.
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; Group TheatreGroup Theatre,
organization formed in New York City in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg. Its founders, who had worked earlier with the Provincetown Players, wished to revive and redefine American theater by establishing a permanent company to present
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; Habima TheaterHabima Theater
, [Heb.,=the stage], the national theater of Israel. Founded in 1917 in Moscow by Nahum Zemach and at first affiliated with the Moscow Art Theatre, it was one of the first Hebrew-language theaters.
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; Hôtel de BourgogneHôtel de Bourgogne
, first theater in Paris. It was built in 1548 by the Confraternity of the Passion, the Paris actors' monopoly. Its first days were marred by a ban on the presentation of religious dramas.
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; Meiningen PlayersMeiningen Players,
German theatrical company that toured Europe from 1874 to 1890. The group, inspiring theatrical reforms wherever it performed, was a major influence in the movement toward modern theater.
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; Old VicOld Vic,
London repertory company and theater. The Old Vic theater opened in 1818 as the Coburg, and was renamed the Royal Victoria in 1833, soon familiarized to the Old Vic.
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; Royal National TheatreRoyal National Theatre
a government-funded repertory company based in London. Although the idea for such a company originated in the 19th cent., the National Theatre was not finally established until 1963, with Laurence Olivier appointed as director.
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, and Royal Shakespeare CompanyRoyal Shakespeare Company
(RSC), a British repertory theater. The company, established in 1960, was based on the earlier Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. It is a national theater supported by government funds.
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See the general theater histories by G. W. Gladstone (1985), P. Hartnoll (1985), B. D. Grose (1985), O. G. Brockett (5th ed. 1987), and P. Kuritz (1988); A. Clunes, The British Theatre (1964); A. Nicoll, Development of the Theatre (5th ed. 1967) and The English Stage (1978); E. Mordden, The American Theatre (1981); P. P. Gillespie, Western Theatre: Revolution and Revival (1984); M. C. Henderson, Theater in America (rev. ed. 1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


A building or outdoor structure providing a stage and associated equipment for the presentation of dramatic or musical performances and seating for spectators.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an art form; like the other arts, a type of social consciousness inseparable from the people’s life, national history, and culture. The growth or decline of the theater, the theater’s development of different forms, trends, and ideas, the place of the theater in society, and the theater’s links with contemporary life are determined by a society’s social structure and spiritual needs. The theater generally experiences an artistic upsurge when, permeated by contemporary progressive ideas, it seeks to achieve humanistic ideals and profoundly and truthfully reveals man’s complex inner world and his social aspirations.

The dramatist’s perception of life and the expression of his ideas, world view, and ideology are achieved in the theater through dramatic action performed by actors before an audience. A play is based on the inner struggles of the characters and on the revelation of social and psychological conflicts that affect people’s lives and relationships. The success of a performance is contingent on the existence of an emotional and spiritual unity between the performers and the audience and of a community of interests between the creators of the performance and the public. The theater is an important means of educating the people aesthetically, morally, and politically. Toward this end, it makes use of abundant means of artistic generalization, expressiveness, and ways of influencing a mass audience.

The basis of a theatrical presentation is the drama—the means by which the theater expresses itself. The drama determines the theater’s artistic capabilities and ideological orientation. At the same time, the drama acquires a new aesthetic dimension in the theater. The theater transmutes a literary work into stage action and a theatrical format; the drama’s characters and conflicts are embodied in living persons and actions.

Speech is the most important means by which a drama is expressed in the theater. In the theater, speech is also subordinated to the laws of dramatic action. In some cases speech may be a means of identifying a character’s mode of life, and in other cases it may be used to reveal the hero’s complex inner conflicts. On the stage, speech may be in the form of a monologue, or extended utterance, or it may be in the form of a dialogue, or a conversation with a partner. Speech may be directed toward the audience, or it may be in the form of a meditative interior monologue spoken by the hero.

Theater is a collective art. A theatrical performance has artistic unity and harmony among all its elements. A performance is created under the supervision of a director and in accordance with the director’s concept of a given dramatic work by the joint efforts of the actors, stage designer, composer, and choreographer, as well as of such specialists as lighting technicians, costume designers, and makeup men.

A production is based on the director’s interpretation of the play and on the solution of problems of genre and style. The action of a production is related to time (tempo, rhythm, crescendo and diminuendo of emotional tension) and to space (mise-en-scène, stage sets, action on stage, and utilization of the stage area). The visual image of a production is created by the stage designer, who makes use of painted scenery, stage sets, costumes, lighting, and theatrical techniques. The stage sets may have both depictive and expressive functions. They may recreate the setting of an action or may metaphorically reveal the director’s concept of the work. They may be realistic or abstract, depending on the production’s artistic aims, its style, and its ideological orientation.

Theatrical action is realized chiefly by the actor, whose creative work embodies the essence of the theater. The actor engages the audience’s interest by means of an artistic presentation of life spontaneously unfolding before the audience’s eyes. The creation of a role stems from the nature of the play and from the play’s interpretation by the director. Even within the context of a rigorously organized production, however, the actor remains an independent artist. He alone recreates on the stage a living human figure and conveys the complexity and richness of human psychology. K. S. Stanislavsky viewed the actor’s mastery of his art as well as of his role during rehearsals as two inextricably interconnected aspects of an actor’s work.

An actor often creates a character who is dissimilar to himself, and in different roles he changes both outwardly and inwardly. External changes are made with the aid of costumes and makeup and, in some types of theater, by means of masks. In creating a role, the performer uses means of plastic and rhythmic expressiveness, in addition to speech, mimicry, and gesture. In the history of the theater, some actors have been masters of external transformation.

The development of realism in the theater gave the actor the task of portraying man in all the fullness and complexity of his spiritual life. Realism devised methods for the transformation of an actor into a character on the basis of inner experience. Another method of acting is based on the principle of theatrical alienation, or “making strange” (ostranenie), that is, on the principle of disclosing attitudes toward a character. In the modern European theater, these two methods of acting are generally associated with Stanislavsky and B. Brecht, respectively.

The collaboration of the director and the actors during rehearsals is of decisive importance in preparing a production. The director’s work is based on a specific method. The director is often a teacher as well, training actors and helping them understand the theater’s ideological and artistic tasks.

In the musical theater the action is realized through musical drama, which is based on the general laws of drama. These laws include the existence of a clearly expressed central conflict, revealed in the struggle of opposing forces, as well as a definite sequence of steps that reveal the dramatic intent. In each type of musical stage art these general principles are reflected differently, according to the expressive means used. In opera the action is expressed by music, that is, by singing and by the orchestra. In ballet a role analogous to that of singing in opera is played by dance and pantomime. In both opera and ballet, it is the music that unites all the elements of the drama. In operetta, a variety of opera with spoken dialogue, a prominent place is given to topical satiric songs and the dance. The expressive means of drama, opera, and choreography, as well as those of the variety stage and of popular music, are used in musicals.

Historical survey. The nature of the theater as a vehicle for acting was determined historically, beginning with the theater’s inception. Developing early in man’s history, the theater’s origins date from the period of the most ancient hunting and agricultural rituals and mass folk festivals. The earliest tragic and comic performances, such as the mysteries and Saturnalia, developed from this foundation and contained elements of a dramatic, mythically based plot and of a conflict. These performances included choral songs, dances, dialogue, mummers, and masks. The action gradually became separated from its ritual-cult base, the hero became distinct from the chorus, and mass festivals became spectacles organized for a specific purpose. These changes created the prerequisites for the emergence of the literary drama. The division between actors and spectators bore witness to the important social function of the theater.

This process was evident in the theater of ancient Greece, which strongly influenced the European theater. By the fifth century B.C., the theater had become a focal point of community life in the Greek city-states. Theatrical presentations were public festivals at which tens of thousands of spectators assembled in large open-air amphitheaters. The performers were both professional actors and ordinary citizens who functioned as members of the chorus. Music and dance remained essential elements of the performance.

Ancient Greece had various types of theater, each with its own techniques and traditions. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides depicted legendary heroes and gods, affirmed standards of morality and civic responsibility, and upheld sociopolitical ideals. The comedies of Aristophanes satirized vices and reflected topical sociopolitical issues. Another type of satire was the mime, a short comic scene drawn from the life of the lower strata of cities and villages. The mime originated in the fifth century B.C. as a folk theater of improvisation. It later became prevalent in the Middle East and Rome and created its own literary dramaturgy.

In the Roman theater, the playwrights Plautus, Terence, and Seneca developed improved methods of staging plays and created innovative theatrical techniques. A new type of stage and new types of presentations were developed, including a music-and-dance performance based on mythological plots and called pantomime. The pantomime flourished during the imperial period and remained the predominant theatrical genre until the fifth century A.D. Many diverse types of presentations developed in the ancient East—in India, China, Japan, and Indonesia. Related in content to epic folk poetry, they synthesized all forms of folk art—music, dance, and pantomime—and subsequently led to the creation of an original body of drama and of unique means of theatrical expression.

In the early history of the theater, the principle of the abstract depiction of man predominated. The aim was to create not what was individual and varied but what was general, and this led to the appearance of stock characters. The same principle applied to the folk theatrical performances of the Middle Ages that were presented on public squares. The performers of folk theatrical art were Western European wandering actors—the histrions and jongleurs—and the Russian skomorokhi. The miracle plays of the 13th to 15th centuries and the mystery plays of the 14th to 16th centuries—the most important genres of the medieval theater—had numerous secular motifs. New comic, realistic, and anticlerical elements were introduced by amateur actors. The allegorical morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries had a morally edifying nature.

From the 14th to 16th centuries, the farce—the most democratic form of medieval theater—flourished in Italy, France, and Germany. This type of play, presented on public squares, was marked by vivid satire, a merry, coarse energy, pungency in the depiction of everyday life, and an antifeudal ideology. By way of the farce, a combination of traditional elements and improvisation that was typical of the various forms of the popular public-square theater developed into the Italian popular comedy of masks (commedia dell’arte), the first professional European theater of the Renaissance. The commedia dell’arte was based on stock characters, a scenario, and interaction among the performers. Its dynamic productions were permeated with vitality, satire, and pungent humor and were marked by sparkling buffoonery, hyperbole, the grotesque, and spontaneous interaction between the actors and the public. The commedia dell’arte, like the farce, developed during a period when theatrical performances were given in public squares on wooden platform stages surrounded by spectators.

Beginning with the Renaissance, the theater became a literary art form and tended toward a settled existence in urban cultural centers. The growing diversity of creative tasks that confronted the theater and the general development of culture led to differentiation among theatrical genres, which developed independently: the opera at the turn of the 17th century, the ballet beginning in the mid-18th century, and the operetta beginning in the mid-19th century.

The humanistic culture of the Renaissance revived the traditions of the classical theater and combined them with the traditions of national folk art. The plays by the great dramatists of the period—Shakespeare, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, and Calderón —portrayed acute social, political, and historical conflicts. The individualized hero came to the forefront, a strong personality capable of thought and action and of attaining his goals. Renaissance drama was marked by lofty heroism and morality, a philosophical outlook on life, a poetic quality, a sharp antagonism between good and evil, and the presence of sudden transitions from high to low and from the tragic to the comic. Renaissance drama was also characterized by a national spirit.

In terms of staging, the theater remained essentially faithful to the simplicity and conventionality of the public-square presentations. However, under the influence of Renaissance realism, acting acquired an epic force, passion, and an inner energy. The revelation of the individual’s inner world and of life’s psychological and moral contradictions became increasingly important. Plays were often directed by the playwrights themselves, who sought to train and instruct the actors. Traveling companies of actors were formed throughout Europe, as well as resident companies such as that of the Globe Theater in London, which performed the plays of Shakespeare, or those of private theaters. Many court theaters were founded.

New developments in the theater were influenced by classicism, whose social bases were the consolidation of absolutism in Europe during the 17th century and the struggle against the feudal separatism of the gentry during the formation of unified national states. The theater now sought to create a hero who by confronting harsh ordeals and an inner struggle would overcome a conflict between his own passions and ambitions and the demands of society.

In the theater of classicism, contemporary issues had an abstract yet general significance. In France, a rigid system of rules was established for drama in Boileau’s theoretical poem The Art of Poetry (1674). Spontaneity and persuasiveness in acting were banished from the theater. In their performances of tragic roles, G. Montdory (Desgilberts), R. Du Pare, and M. Champmeslé affirmed the principle of rhythmic, poetically structured declamation. The conflict between reason and emotions and between duty and feeling, which was resolved in favor of duty and reason, became the source of dramatic action. Hence the analytic psychologism of the classical play and the convention of revealing character through the monologue, or soliloquy. The greatest classical dramatists, Corneille and Racine, permeated their plays with ardent, heroic self-sacrifice, psychological authenticity, and tragic inner conflicts.

Lofty abstraction and grandeur characterized the staging of classical dramas. A static, symmetrical mise-en-scène was used against a background of painted stage sets that made use of perspective and that were placed on a narrow proscenium. Molière’s realistic reform of the classical comedy introduced to the stage characters representing the common people. The portrayal of specific social types by comic actors influenced the subsequent development of the European theater, including the performing style of tragic actors. The acting of M. Baron and A. Lecouvreur was characterized by emotional authenticity and a striving for simplicity.

During the second half of the 18th century, the theater expressed the ideas of the bourgeois Enlightenment. Voltaire’s classical tragedies attacked tyranny and the clergy and upheld the humanist idea of the unity of duty and feeling. The actors H. L. Lekain and Clairon (France) expressed a lofty civic spirit and sought to create harmonious characterizations and a sense of historical truth. In Russia the playwrights A. P. Sumarokov, N. P. Nikolev, and Ia. B. Kniazhnin and the actors F. G. Volkov and I. A. Dmitrevskii attacked tyranny and defended man’s civic and personal rights. The demands of rationalist aesthetics, formulated in D. Diderot’s The Paradox of the Actor (1773–78), could no longer hinder an increasing emotionality in acting (Dumesnil, France).

New genres, such as the bourgeois drama and the tearful comedy, depicted the life and virtues of the bourgeoisie and the urban middle class sensitively and affectingly. The dramas of G. Lessing and F. Schiller (Germany), D. Diderot, P. Beaumarchais, and L.-S. Mercier (France), H. Fielding and R. Sheridan (Great Britain), C. Goldoni (Italy), and W. Boguslawski (Poland) attacked feudalism and reflected realist and preromantic trends. The freedom-loving aspirations of the individual were increasingly expressed by means of the emotions.

The innovative acting of D. Garrick (Great Britain) and K. Ekhof and F. L. Schröder (Germany), which was based on Enlightenment sentimentalism, promoted naturalness in acting and returned the plays of Shakespeare to the stage, although in sentimentalist adaptations. The crisis of classicism and the emergence of romanticism were reflected in the performances of the tragic actors F. J. Talma (France), S. Siddons (Great Britain), and J. Fleck (Germany).

The appearance in the late 18th century of melodrama, of Sturm and Drang drama (Germany), and of vaudeville with its inherent satirical content, broadened the theater’s democratic base. New types of plays sought to reflect actual life and the social and domestic relations of the characters. Acting was marked by vivid characterization, emotionality, and increased outward expressiveness.

Owing to the social and political changes taking place at the turn of the 19th century, the following decades witnessed a change in the composition of the audience. This led to an increase in the number of theaters and to a general democratization of the theater. At the same time, the theater became increasingly commercialized and influenced by reactionary bourgeois ideology, as seen in the dramas of A. Kotzebue and A. Scribe. The sharp contradictions between the new social system and the liberation movement in Europe, however, did not hinder the progressive impulse that nourished the theater throughout the 19th century.

Dissatisfaction with the bourgeois order and the privileged classes found reflection in the romantic theater of the first half of the 19th century. The theater became a means of expressing humanist ideals and the aspirations of the democratic masses. The romantic drama competed with second-rate classicism and strove for a distinctive national character; it reflected a renewed interest in history and expressed a progressive social orientation. In Russia the Decembrist literary figures A. S. Griboedov and A. S. Pushkin proclaimed a reform of the theater, adapted the principles of the Shakespearean theater to the Russian stage, and brought Russian drama closer to national history and the life of the people; the romantic tradition was continued by M. Iu. Lermontov.

In France a new form of romantic drama was established by V. Hugo, A. de Vigny, and Dumas père, in Great Britain by Lord Byron and P. Shelley, in Italy by S. Pellico and A. Manzoni, in Poland by A. Mickiewicz and J. Słowacki, in Bohemia by J. K. Tyl, and in Hungary by M. Vörösmarty. In Germany, theatrical reform was launched by E. T. A. Hoffman and J. Tieck, and in Denmark by A. Oehlenschläger. The romantic drama and theater drew from national history, folklore, and the folk epic, thus reflecting the new national awareness of the common people.

Realism in the theater became a strong trend within the romantic movement. Stormily protesting against evil, solitary, sensitive, and bitterly disillusioned, the romantic hero engaged the sympathy of the audience. He aroused a profound response during the prolonged revolutionary situation of 1830–48 that encompassed many countries in Europe and that tragically was not resolved. The performances of the romantic actors L. Devrient in Germany, E. Kean in Great Britain, G. Modena and A. Ristori in Italy, P. Bocage, M. Dorval, and Frédérick (Lemaitre) in France, E. Forrest and C. Cushman in the USA, and G. Egressy in Hungary were marked by authenticity of emotion, personal and lyric overtones, an original psychologism based on exalted feelings, vivid emotional expressiveness, the use of contrast, passionate denunciations of society, and a vividly expressed democratism. The negative sides of life were sometimes developed into major social generalizations. A mastery of the grotesque was achieved by the actors Devrient and Frédérick.

Romanticism in the theater of Eastern Europe was closely linked with the national liberation movement and found vivid expression in the works of A. Mickiewicz and J. Słowacki (Poland), I. Madách (Hungary), J. Vrchlický (Bohemia), and P. Hviezdoslav (Slovakia).

Romanticism in the Russian theater was influenced by liberating heroic and civic ideals of Decembrist aesthetics and was represented in the early 19th century by the performance of tragic roles by E. S. Semenova and A. S. Iakovlev. The most important figure of post-Decembrist romanticism was P. S. Mochalov, a democratic actor who stirred audiences with his performances in Shakespeare’s plays and in contemporary romantic dramas. Mo-chalov’s acting was marked by powerful emotion and a profoundly tragic interpretation of social themes. The traditions of romanticism remained strong during later periods, developing together with realism and often in combination with realism, as seen in the acting of M. N. Ermolova.

Realism developed from the Enlightenment theater and from romanticism. It became an independent trend by the 1830’s and 1840’s and predominated by the mid-19th century. The creation of typical characters in typical circumstances was the methodological basis of the realistic drama and of realistic acting. The development of the art of directing was related to the growth of realism, which demanded the recreation on the stage of actual life, historically authentic settings, characters, and costumes, and a faithful depiction of a given milieu. To an extent, the romantic theater had provided a foundation for these developments.

The art of directing developed intensively from the late 18th century through the 19th century, as seen in the dramaturgy and directing of Schröder, J. W. von Goethe, K. Immermann, E. Devrient, H. Laube, F. von Dingelstedt, and L. Chronegk (Germany), W. C. Macready, C. Kean, S. Phelps, the husband-and-wife team of S. Bancroft and M. E. Bancroft, and H. Irving (Great Britain), B. Bjømson and H. Ibsen (Norway), and F. J. Talma and Frédérick (France). In Russia, realism on the stage was established by the actors M. S. Shchepkin and A. P. Lenskii and the playwrights N. V. Gogol and A. N. Ostrovskii, who helped stage their own plays. The progressive democratic critics V. G. Belinskii and N. A. Dobroliubov supported Russian stage realism.

The realistic drama and theater, unlike the drama and theater of romanticism, depicted not a demonic rebel opposed to society but a man strongly influenced by his environment. The acute moral and psychological conflicts depicted by the 19th-century realistic theater developed not under the exceptional circumstances favored by the romantics but within the social and everyday milieu of the heroes. The social and psychological traits of a character were presented as a complex unity.

Realism in the theater was developed through the dramas of P. Mérimée, H. de Balzac, and Ibsen and, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through those of G. Hauptmann, G. B. Shaw, A. Strindberg, and J. Galsworthy. Russian realist playwrights included Pushkin, Gogol, I. S. Turgenev, A. V. Sukhovo-Kobylin, A. K. Tolstoy, Ostrovskii, L. N. Tolstoy, A. P. Chekhov, and M. Gorky. All these dramatists contributed to the abundance and diversity of the realistic drama. Realism demanded of actors a refined individualization and a total inner transformation in the creation of a role. The realistic actors of the 19th century included E. Rossi, T. Salvini, and E. Duse (Italy), J. Coquelin (France), and E. Vestris, H. Irving, and E. Terry (Great Britain). In Russia, where realism became the most important tradition of national art, a major contribution was made by the actor and teacher Shchepkin and by the actors I. I. Sosnitskii, A. E. Martynov, the Sadovskii family, P. A. Strepetova, Ermolova, A. P. Lenskii, V. N. Davydov, and M. G. Savina.

The late 19th century witnessed a marked bourgeois influence on the theater that narrowed and distorted realism and reduced the realistic drama to a fashionable, diverting type of play. This trend was opposed by the leaders of theatrical naturalism, E. Zola and the Goncourt brothers, who advocated fidelity to life on the stage and whose aesthetics were dominated by the concepts of the destructive power of the environment and of man’s adverse fate in bourgeois society.

In a somewhat different aspect, these views were also characteristic of symbolism, which emerged in the late 19th century in the works of M. Maeterlinck and E. Verhaeren. A new phase of theatrical reform affected the repertoire, directing, acting, and the entire system of the theater’s expressive means. The progressive theater became more closely associated with prose and poetry and with the modern, innovative drama of Chekhov, Gorky, Ibsen, G. Hauptmann, and Shaw. The theater sought to reflect the complexity and dynamism of life and to reveal and emphasize the conflict between reality and man’s spiritual needs that lay concealed in the life of the early 20th century.

The search for new forms of realism was conducted by the Théâtre Libre and by similar theaters staging naturalist drama. The theaters headed by the directors A. Antoine (France) and O.’Brahm and M. Reinhardt (Germany), as well as the innovative work of Strindberg, sought to create unified, vivid productions. These productions emphasized ensemble performances by the actors, atmosphere and tempo, the use of pauses and subtextual meaning, and the stage setting. All these factors contributed to a production that stylized life by means of theatrical devices which revealed life’s true motivating factors and sometimes transformed life into an ominous tragedy or a Utopian fable. Symbolist directors stressed a stylized approach to a production involving music, rhythm, gesture, and an imaginative use of settings and space, as seen in the work of P. Fort and A.-M. Lugné-Poë (France) and of G. Craig (Great Britain).

During the growth of the liberation movement in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this approach to drama attained unique expression. Influenced by the realistic works of L. N. Tolstoy, F. M. Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Gorky, the Moscow Art Theater and its directors, K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, used all the means of modern stage expressiveness, the new approach to acting, and the introduction of subtextual meaning to reveal the inner dramatism of everyday life and to combat social injustice. The Stanislavsky method of training actors and creating characterizations that was established at this time underwent further development during the Soviet period.

The experimental work of the director V. E. Meyerhold synthesized the innovations of the modern theater and the democratic traditions of such forms of the early folk theater as the balagan and the comedy of masks. In acting there were two trends: a refined psychologism, exemplified by the Moscow Art Theater actors V. F. Komissarzhevskaia, P. N. Orlenev, and M. A. Chekhov, and the theatricality and syntheticism of the Moscow Kamernyi Teatr, headed by the director A. Ia. Tairov and the actress A. G. Koonen. The acute, complex ideological struggle in the prerevolutionary Russian theater was accompanied by controversies with regard to repertoire and by the growth of decadence and formalism.

The October Revolution of 1917 opened up new prospects for the Russian theater. The theater’s classical traditions were placed at the service of the socialist revolution and of its ideological and educational tasks. The composition of audiences and the character of productions changed. Efforts were made to achieve striking visual effects, large-scale generalizations, sharp satire, expressive theatricality, and a mass character. Soviet dramaturgy emerged during the 1920’s. The plays of K. A. Trenev, V. N. Bill’-Belotserkovskii, and Vs. Ivanov reflected the people’s heroic struggle for the victory of Soviet power, as well as the class struggle and the establishment of a new morality. The emergence of satire in the Soviet theater was linked with the plays of V. V. Mayakovsky.

Directors and actors sought new means of expression. Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko attempted in their productions and teaching to modernize the Moscow Art Theater’s realistic traditions, the bold experiments of Meyerhold and E. B. Vakhtangov developed the methodology and forms of the metaphorical theater, and the directing of Tairov synthesized various art forms.

Gifted actors of the period included V. N. Ryzhova, A. D. Turchaninova, V. N. Pashennaia, A. A. Ostuzhev, I. M. Moskvin, M. M. Tarkhanov, L. M. Leonidov, O. L. Knipper-Chekhova, V. I. Kachalov, E. P. Korchagina-Aleksandrovskaia, I. N. Pevtsov, and Iu. M. Iur’ev. Important contributions were made by directors and actors of the younger generation, including Iu. A. Zavadskii, A. D. Dikii, I. N. Bersenev, N. V. Petrov, N. P. Okhlopkov, A. D. Popov, Koonen, B. V. Shchukin, M. I. Babanova, I. V. Il’inskii, E. P. Garin, N. P. Khmelev, N. P. Batalov, B. G. Dobronravov, A. K. Tarasova, O. N. Androvskaia, K. N. Elanskaia, and A. O. Stepanova.

These theatrical figures were responsible for the high achievements of the Soviet theater, which were related to the development of socialist realism; they helped develop the ideological basis of the Soviet theater, as well as modern Soviet dramaturgy. The civic enthusiasm of Soviet drama found expression in the staging of Gorky’s new plays Egor Bulychev and the Others and Dostigaev and the Others. The 1920’s and 1930’s were creative periods for V. V. Vishnevskii, N. F. Pogodin, A. E. Korneichuk, and L. M. Leonov.

A distinguishing feature of the Soviet theater is its multinationality. During the years of Soviet power, important contributions to the development of the Ukrainian theater have been made by the directors and actors A. S. Kurbas, G. P. Iura, B. V. Romanitskii, A. M. Buchma, M. M. Krushel’nitskii, and N. M. Uzhvii. Outstanding theatrical figures in Byelorussia have included E. A. Mirovich, A. K. Il’inskii, B. V. Platonov, and G. P. Glebov; in Armenia, V. Adzhemian, V. Vartanian, R. Nersesian, A. Avetisian, and G. Dzhanibekian; and in Georgia, K. Mardzhanishvili, S. Akhmeteli, V. Andzhaparidze, U. Chkheidze, T. Chavchavadze, A. Khorava, A. Vasadze, and D. Aleksidze. Important directors and actors in Latvia have been E. Smijgis, A. Amtman-Briedit, L. Bérzinš, and J. Osis; in Lithuania, B. Dauguvietis, R. Juknevicius, L. Lurjē, J. Rudzinskas, and M. Mironaite; and in Estonia, E. Kaidu, V. Panso, and A. Lauter. Theatrical culture has also developed among nationalities that had previously not had their own theater or had developed it only in a rudimentary form. The continuous exchange taking place among national cultures has enriched the development of the Soviet theater.

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), plays devoted to the heroism of the Soviet people in battle and at the home front, written by such authors as Simonov, Leonov, and Korneichuk, assumed the foremost place in the theatrical repertoire. The figure of the Soviet patriot, a participant in the war and a fighter for peace, was the focus of attention in the theater during the first few postwar years as well. In the 1950’s, new productions of plays by Mayakovsky and Vishnevskii were staged, as well as plays devoted to the formation of character in the contemporary young hero. A profound philosophical and humanist interpretation was given to classics by Shakespeare, Lermontov, and L. N. Tolstoy.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Soviet theater devoted increasing attention to social and moral problems of contemporary life, as seen in plays by V. S. Rozov, A. M. Volodin, A. N. Arbuzov, A. P. Shtein, A. V. Vampilov, I. M. Dvoretskii, A. E. Makaenok, and I. P. Drutse. Important contributions to the contemporary theater have been made by the directors Iu. A. Zavadskii, R. N. Simonov, M. O. Knebel’, G. A. Tovstonogov, V. N. Pluchek, B. A. Babochkin, B. I. Ravenskikh, K. Ird, Iu. Miltinis, O. N. Efremov, I. M. Tumanishvili, A. V. Efros, Iu. P. Liubimov, R. Kaplanian, A. Mambetov, and R. R. Sturua. Outstanding contemporary actors have included B. N. Livanov, A. N. Gribov, N. K. Simonov, Iu. V. Tolubeev, N. K. Cherkasov, M. A. Ul’ianov, Iu. K. Borisova, I. M. Smoktunovskii, E. A. Lebedev, K. Iu. Lavrov, E. Z. Kopelian, S. Iu. Iurskii, A. B. Freindlikh, T. V. Doronina, O. M. Iakovleva, A. S. Demidova, Z. A. Slavina, V. Artmane, D. Banionis, A. Adomaitis, V. Nersesian, R. Chkhikvadze, and F. Sharipov.

The development of the contemporary theater in Europe and the USA has been marked by complexity and diversity. The directors C. Dullin, L. Jouvet, G. Baty, G. Pitoéff, and F. Gémier (France), J. Osterwa, S. Jaracz, and L. Schiller (Poland), E. F. Burian and J. Honzl (Czechoslovakia), and E. Piscator and B. Brecht (Germany) were at the forefront of an innovative movement in the theater between the two world wars. Many politically oriented antifascist theaters were established.

The victory over fascism in World War II (1939–45) engendered an upsurge of democratic trends in the theater. The theater developed intensively in the socialist countries of Europe— Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Yugoslavia. An important educational and political function has been exercised by the Berliner Ensemble theater, founded by B. Brecht in Berlin in 1949. In this theater, Brecht staged his own plays, which embodied his theory of the “epic theater.” Brecht developed new methods of acting and directing that proved influential in the theater of other countries.

The Italian neorealist theater reflected the humanist and social aspirations of the masses and the contradictions of postwar capitalism. The combination of refined psychologism and the grotesque and of tragedy and farce that typified this theater was developed by the dramatist, director, and actor E. De Filippo. A deep understanding of the folk basis of national and world culture was reflected in the productions of the Piccolo Teatro of Milan, directed by G. Strehler.

The ideals of the French Resistance inspired the plays of J. P. Sartre, J. Anouilh, and A. Camus, who revived the national traditions of intellectual drama. The democratization of the French theater was furthered by the National Popular Theater, directed by J. Vilar from 1951 to 1963; the theater’s company included the actors G. Philippe and M. Casares. The directors A. Barsacq, J.-L. Barrault, and G. Pitoëff and the actors M. Renaud and P. Brasseur made important contributions during this period. However, by the late 1950’s, the theater of the absurd, exemplified in the plays of E. Ionesco and S. Beckett, expressed acute disillusionment and a sense of man’s tragic predicament and of life’s meaninglessness.

Theater in the bourgeois countries, affected by purely commercial trends and a conservative petit bourgeois ideology, often sought merely to entertain the public. This tendency was counteracted by theaters with academic traditions and a classical repertoire. Outstanding actors performing in them included J. Meyer, L. Seigner, A. Ducaux, and J.-L. Barrault (France) and J. Gielgud, L. Olivier, M. Redgrave, S. Thorndike, E. Evans, V. Leigh, and P. Ashcroft (Great Britain). Innovative directors in other theaters were concerned with the ideological and social tasks of the theater and with major philosophical and moral problems.

Progressive directors have headed the popular repertory theaters of France, Great Britain, Australia, and the Scandinavian countries. These theaters function in the provinces—generally in industrial regions—in close contact with mass audiences of workers. Their repertoire includes classics and contemporary plays with topical political themes.

The mid-1950’s in Great Britain was a period of rising democratic aspirations, which were reflected in the dramas of the “angry young men” J. Osborne, A. Wesker, B. Behan, and S. Delaney. The Royal Court Theater, headed by the director J. Littlewood, and the Theater Workshop were established at this time. The experimental theater movement that developed in the late 1960’s had a vividly expressed political orientation. The theaters representing this movement made use of documentary sources, poetry, literary drama, and plays without a literary basis that were created collectively by the companies themselves. The productions of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies by the Royal Shakespeare Theater with the director P. Brook and the actors P. Scofield and D. Tutin gained world renown.

In the USA, the Broadway theaters, which presented mainly musicals and light variety shows, were rivaled by off-Broadway theaters that had an artistic repertoire and a progressive ideological orientation (for example, the theaters forming part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.). During the 1960’s, off-Broadway theaters—small experimental theaters such as The Living Theater and the theater-café La Mama—staged innovative political revues. University theaters have played a large role in the development of the USA’s theatrical culture.

Important figures in the American theater include the directors H. Clurman, L. Strasberg, E. Kazan, E. Le Gallienne, and C. Houghton and the actors L. Fontanne, A. Lunt, K. Cornell, and E. Le Gallienne. The progressive, socially oriented theater in the capitalist countries has engaged in a constant struggle against reactionary trends. Many inferior popular entertainments, such as horror shows and plays advertising the products of various firms, serve to distract the common people from urgent social problems and to propagandize bourgeois ideology.

The theater and dramaturgy of the European socialist people’s democracies have achieved full development. This theater’s avowedly publicist stage art has attained psychological depth, lyricism, and poetic refinement. The theater of the European socialist countries depicts the formation of a new character type under new social conditions and deals with moral and ethical problems. The strengthening of the national artistic traditions of each country has been accompanied by assimilation of the theatrical experience and achievements of the other peoples of the socialist community in a new ideological and aesthetic unity. As a result, an artistic culture of developed socialism has emerged.

After their liberation from many years of colonial dependence, the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America have developed their traditional national theaters. This is primarily true of those countries that have started on the path of socialism. In the Democratic Republic of Vietnam the most popular forms of the traditional theater, the kich noi and cai luong, have been enriched by a topical repertoire, and the ancient folk puppet theater has been revived. The Association of Vietnamese Theatrical Artists studies and popularizes national theatrical traditions. In 1961 the Higher Drama School was founded in Hanoi. Theatrical companies in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea are developing national traditions and assimilating the experience of theaters of the other socialist countries. Many countries hold festivals demonstrating traditional forms of folk theater. After the victory of the 1959 revolution in Cuba, professional and amateur theatrical groups were established in the provinces, as well as theaters for children and young people. The National Theater of Cuba, the Experimental Theater, and the National Puppet Theater were founded in Havana, where annual festivals of the Latin American theater are held.

Similar progress in theatrical culture is taking place in other developing countries. In India, the Academy of Dance, Drama, and Music, founded in 1953, has branches in all states; it seeks to propagandize and revive national culture. Ancient, almost-forgotten theatrical forms such as bharata natya, kathak, Ram Lila, and jatra have become part of the repertoire of many Indian companies. Plays are performed in Hindi, Urdu, and Bengali and in other national languages of India. India’s first state theater school was founded in New Delhi. Many new theatrical organizations and theaters have been established in Africa. They include the Algerian National Theater (Algeria), the National Theater and Institute of Theater Art (Egypt), the School of Music and Drama and the National Dramatic Society (Ghana), and the National Institute of Arts and National Theater (Mali).

In the contemporary theater, psychological analysis, spontaneous emotions, and lofty moral concerns are often presented within a poetic and metaphorical context. Verisimilitude and the grotesque, lyricism and satire, and feeling and theatrical alienation (ostranenie) coexist in unexpected and daring combinations. The contemporary progressive theater stresses action on stage, substance, and economy of artistic means.

The function of the director in the contemporary theater is exceptionally important. The director supervises the staging of the production and leads the company. Also important is the role played by stage design—the art of creating a visual and spatial image on stage by means of properties, lighting, and scenery. The theater also makes extensive use of music, which often fulfills complex artistic functions in modern dramatic productions.

Since ancient times, the theater has accumulated a rich heritage and has given rise to abundant national theatrical traditions. The 20th-century theater has continued to draw on this experience.


Architecture. The first theater buildings were built in ancient Greece, presumably in the sixth century B.C. They were open-air structures consisting of three parts: the orchestra, a circular area where the chorus and actors performed; the theatron, composed of seats for the audience and surrounding the orchestra for three-quarters of its perimeter; and the skene, a structure containing dressing rooms for the actors and areas for storing properties. Theaters were built in the form of an amphitheater on the side of a hill, at whose base the orchestra and skene were located. Before the fourth century B.C., the theatron and skene were wooden; they were later made of stone.

During the fourth and third centuries B.C, the skene became a rectangular two-story building with a low proscenium. The flat roof of the proscenium—the logeion —was the main performing area, and the chorus was placed in the orchestra. Stairways and sloping ramps connected the logeion with the orchestra. The skene was adapted for the installation of painted sets (pinakes) and stage machinery. The Greek theaters, which were intended to accommodate all the citizens of a city, were often quite large. For example, the theater at Ephesus accommodated approximately 23,000 spectators; its theatron was about 152 m in diameter, and the orchestra, about 31 m in diameter. Greece also had enclosed theaters.

The open-air type of Greek theater was developed in Rome, where stone theaters were built beginning in the first century B.C. An example was the theater of Pompey in Rome (55–52 B.C.), with more than 17,000 seats; the proscenium had a depth of 25 m and a width of 100 m. The front edge of a low (1.5 m), wide area—the proscenium—extended through the center of the semicircular orchestra, which had seats for privileged spectators. Rows of seats (cavea) for the remaining spectators were installed in the form of an amphitheater supported on vaults. The amphitheater partially surrounded the orchestra in a semicircle and adjoined the sides of the stage, forming a unified enclosure with a large area. The upper tier of the cavea ended in an enclosed colonnade, and the walls of the stage that faced the spectators were decorated with niches and statues. The spectators entered the amphitheater by inner stairways. The first enclosed theater building (theatrum tectum), built by the Romans in Pompeii from the third to first centuries B.C., had approximately 2,000 seats. The structure of the classical theater had a strong influence on subsequent theater design and construction.

During the early Middle Ages, liturgical dramas were first staged in churches and later on the parvis, or area in front of the church. From the 14th to the 16th century, as in the case of the morality plays of the 15th and 16th centuries, liturgical dramas were presented on city squares and streets on temporary platforms or wheeled scaffolds known as pageants. Theaters were again built in the 16th century, during the Renaissance, at first in Italy and later in other European countries. The presentation of tragedies, comedies, and pastoral dramas necessitated an enclosed theater with a deep stage. The early 16th century saw the emergence of the perspective stage. It consisted of a low (approximately 1.2 m) platform, the proscenium, extended across the width of a rectangular hall; a rear area for mounting panels; and a backdrop with paintings in perspective that depicted streets and public squares. The floor of the backdrop area was sloping. The audience sat in a semicircular orchestra and on the seats of an amphitheater. Similar in design was the Teatro Olímpico at Vicenza (1580–85, architect A. Palladio, completed by the architect V. Scamozzi). The Teatro Farnese at Parma (1618, architect G. B. Aleotti) was the first to have a deep stage with a proscenium arch, paneled wings, and backdrops that could be changed.

The growing popularity of opera gave rise in the first half of the 17th century to a theater that had an auditorium with tiered galleries, good acoustics, and a deep stage with superior visibility; an outstanding example was the San Cassiano Theater in Venice (1630, architect A. Seghizzi). The rows of seats in the tiers were at first continuous but were later divided by partitions into individual boxes, or loges. The architect C. Fontana built the first theater with an oval, multitiered auditorium with loges—the Tordinona theater in Rome (1675). This type of theater, called the Italian type, later improved the technical equipment for the stage and introduced such auxiliary areas for the audience as foyers, vestibules, and ceremonial staircases. The most perfect example of the Italian type of theater is La Scala in Milan (1778, architect G. Piermarini), with 3,000 seats.

A unique type of theater building was developed in England in the late 16th century. It combined the structure of the open-air classical theater with an orchestra surrounded by tiers of galleries for spectators, and the type of stage used in medieval theaters on public squares. An example was the Globe Theater in London (1599). Such theaters could accommodate 2,500 spectators. Another type of theater built at this time was a small, private enclosed theater that usually had a rectangular auditorium and seats in the orchestra; an example was the Blackfriars Theater in London (rebuilt in 1596).

During the second half of the 18th century the French type of theater originated. It had a round auditorium, bounded along three quarters of its perimeter by open tiers not divided into loges; the tiers were supported by massive columns. The parterre had armchairs for privileged spectators. An example was the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux (1773–80, architect V. Louis).

Theaters of this period were generally formal, impressive buildings located in the center of cities. They were ornamented with colonnades, porticoes, and grandiose sculptures. The interiors were often splendidly decorated in the current fashion. During the 18th and 19th centuries the most common type of theater in Europe and America was the Italian type.

In Russia in the late 18th century and in the 19th century, theaters were both of the Italian type (for example, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and the Leningrad Academic Drama Theater) and the French type (for example, the estate theater in Ostankino). Some of the theaters built during this period are outstanding examples of architecture and are the focal points of important urban architectural ensembles.

As theater became differentiated into genres emphasizing drama and those stressing music—the opera, ballet, and operetta—need arose for a more democratic type of theatrical structure than that conforming to the custom—dating back to the feudal period—of seating spectators in different tiers according to their social class. These developments led to the appearance of a new type of theater during the last quarter of the 19th century. R. Wagner’s opera theater, opened in Bayreuth in 1876 (architects G. Semper and O. Brückwald), was the first theater with an auditorium in sections that was truncated on both sides by a rounded amphitheater without a parterre or tiers. This type of theater became widespread during the 20th century.

The development of stage art during the first few decades of the 20th century led to the designing of a theater without a deep proscenium stage but with an auditorium and an open stage area forming a unified, undivided space. An example was the Grosses Schauspielhaus in Berlin (1919, architect H. Poelzig). The size and shape of the auditorium and stage area could be altered, depending on the type of production, as exemplified by the Malmó Stadtsteater in Sweden (1944, architects S. Lewerentz and others). During the first half of the 20th century, theaters became widespread in which the amphitheater or parterre was supplemented by one or several large overhanging balconies.

In the USSR during the 1920’s, theaters were generally built in palaces of culture. Theater buildings as such were constructed beginning in the early 1930’s. One type of theater developed during this period was intended for synthetic productions that embraced various theatrical genres. In the mid-1930’s, the predominant type of theater construction provided for a sloping amphitheater in a round or sectional auditorium. Examples are the Byelorussian Bolshoi Theater of Opera and Ballet in Minsk (1935–37, architect I. G. Langbard) and the Theater of Opera and Ballet in Novosibirsk (1931–45, architects A. Z. Grinberg, T. Ia. Bart, and A. V. Shchusev, engineer P. A. Pasternak).

Theaters built during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s were primarily small in size. They had rectangular or semicircular auditoriums with a parterre and two balconies or an amphitheater and one balcony. Before the mid-1930’s, theater architecture was influenced by constructivism; an example was the M. Gorky Rostov-on-Don Theater (1930–35, architects V. A. Shchuko and V. G. Gel’freikh, rebuilt in 1962–63). Between the mid-1930’s and the mid-1950’s, theater architects made use of the heritage of Russian and world architecture, as well as of the national architectures of the USSR; an example is the A. Navoi Theater of Opera and Ballet in Tashkent (1938–47, architect A. V. Shchusev).

Since the 1960’s, an intensive development of theater architecture in the USSR and abroad has resulted in new types of theaters. Theater architects have sought to provide a greater dynamism to the stage action and to all the other expressive means used by the theater. Their primary aim is to give the audience an impression of observing actual life on the stage, an effect impossible in the case of motion pictures and television. Some modern theaters retain the traditional proscenium stage, for example, the new building of the Moscow Art Theater in Moscow (1972, architects V. S. Kubasov and others). Other theaters have an open stage area with seats for the audience going around three sides, for example, the Leningrad Young People’s Theater (1962, architects A. V. Zhuk and others, engineer I. E. Mal’tsin). Theaters whose stage area is surrounded by seats for the audience on four sides include the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. (1961, architect H. Weese). A theater in Versailles (1960, architect A. Bloc) has a circular stage and a revolving amphitheater. Other theaters have a composite stage area with a deep, three-sided panorama. Theaters combining these types of design include the M. Gorky Drama Theater in Tula (1970, architects S. Kh. Galadzheva, V. D. Krasil’nikov, A. A. Popov, and V. A. Shul’rikhter, engineers I. N. Kliuzner and L. F. Parshin).

In Russia, open-air theaters with a parterre or amphitheater on a hill and with a stage surrounded by wings composed of foliage were customarily built in the parks of palaces and villas beginning in the late 17th century, for example, the Amphitheater at Pa-vlovski (1793, architect V. F. Brenna). Since the last quarter of the 19th century, open-air theaters with a seating capacity of 1,000 spectators have been built at educational institutions and especially in public parks. Two types of open-air theater predominate. One has an open-air stage, as in the classical theater; the other has a covered stage with a proscenium arch and slightly raised gridirons. An example of the second type is the Green Theater in the M. Gorky Central Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow (1928, rebuilt in 1957; architects Iu. N. Sheverdiaev and others). In the USSR, open-air theaters have also been built in Baku, Sochi, Yalta, and other cities.



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The multinational Soviet theater embraces a variety of trends, forms, and genres, all of which use the method of socialist realism. At the same time, the Soviet theater is enriched by folk arts, the classical heritage, the contemporary theatrical arts of the peoples of the USSR and the fraternal socialist countries, and the achievements of the progressive foreign theater.

Among the peoples of the USSR, theater originated in various eras and historical periods. The beginnings of the theater can be traced to games and rites associated with religion or work. Noteworthy types of folk theater included the theater of the skomorokhi (itinerant performers) among the Slavs, the berikaoba theater in Georgia, and the theater of the kyzykchi and maskharabozy among the Uzbeks and Tadzhiks. A professional theater emerged among the Georgians in ancient times, and the Armenians have had a theater for more than 2,000 years. The development of these national cultures was interrupted by foreign invasions, however.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the school theater appeared in the theological seminaries of such peoples as the Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, and Georgians, and court theaters were established in Russia and Georgia. Amateur groups were formed in the cities in the first decades of the 18th century. F. G. Volkov’s company in Yaroslavl was the most famous; its finest actors went on to form the first permanent professional public theater in Russia, which was founded in St. Petersburg in 1756. The repertoire was composed chiefly of plays by A. P. Sumarakov, the founder of Russian classical drama. In 1757 a professional company began forming in Moscow; it drew on actors from a theatrical group at Moscow University. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries serf theaters became widespread in Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Georgia.

As a rule, theatrical companies were not strictly divided by art form until the 19th century: the same actors performed plays, operas (primarily comic operas), and occasionally ballets. Gradually, a distinction was made between dramatic companies and opera and ballet companies. In 1824 a dramatic company in Moscow began performing in the home of the merchant Vargin; it came to be called the Malyi (Little) Theater, in contrast to the Bolshoi (Big) Theater, whose new building was erected in 1824. In 1832 the Aleksandrinskii Theater was built to house a dramatic company in St. Petersburg. In 1856 the imperial theaters were granted a monopoly, and private theaters were forbidden in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In the provinces, private theatrical impresarios usually concentrated on the commercial side of the business. In order to attract the public, they sometimes staged five or six new productions a week, with no regard for artistic quality.

The bulk of the repertoire of both the imperial and provincial theaters was composed of plays expressing a semiofficial point of view, melodramas built on superficial effects, and vaudevilles. Progressive critics spoke out against the prevailing repertoire. The theater was substantially influenced by enlightenment and revolutionary groups, notably N. I. Novikov and his circle, the Decembrists, and, subsequently, such critics as A. I. Herzen and V. G. Belinskii. A. S. Pushkin, N. V. Gogol, and the revolutionary-democratic critics, led by N. G. Chernyshevskii and N. A. Dobroliubov, developed a realistic theatrical aesthetics. Articles on the theater were also written by such literary figures as N. A. Nekrasov, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, and I. A. Goncharov. Despite opposition from the censor and reactionary bureaucratic circles, theaters included in their repertoires progressive Russian plays by such authors as D. I. Fonvizin, A. S. Griboedov, Gogol, A. N. Ostrovskii, A. K. Tolstoy, and L. N. Tolstoy; these works contributed substantially to the development of a realistic Russian drama. Western classics by Shakespeare, Schiller, Lessing, Molière, and Lope de Vega were also staged.

When performing in vaudevilles and melodramas, the major actors enriched their roles and created characters of social significance. The finest works of Russian drama shed light on problems of history and contemporary life. In his play Boris Godunov, written in 1825 but barred from the stage until 1866, Pushkin became the first to show the people as the principal driving force in history. Griboedov’s Woe From Wit (1824) and Gogol’s The Inspector-General (1836) sharply criticized the autocracy and serfdom. The production of Ostrovskii’s plays in the 1850’s inaugurated a new era in the Russian theater. They depicted nearly every stratum of Russian society, focusing mainly on the merchantry and petite bourgeoisie. Ostrovskii’s heroes asserted their human dignity and opposed a society that was based on coercion and exploitation. With such powerful dramas at its disposal, the Russian theater became increasingly realistic, reflecting life through the portrayal of typical characters. Also inherent in the Russian theater was a revolutionary romanticism, a striving to see life as a process of development and a struggle against the forces of reaction.

The greatest actors of the first half of the 19th century were M. S. Shchepkin and P. S. Mochalov in Moscow and A. E. Martynov in St. Petersburg. Shchepkin used broad satirical characterizations to expose serfdom and tyranny in his portrayals of Famusov in Griboedov’s Woe From Wit and the Mayor in Gogol’s The Inspector-General. When playing simple, honest folk he achieved genuine pathos. Shchepkin’s acting affirmed critical realism in the Russian theater. Mochalov’s heroes, notably his Hamlet, asserted the great ideas of freedom. Martynov created profoundly human portraits of the “little people” of his day: in vaudevilles he portrayed minor government officials, artisans, and merchants; he also played Tikhon in Ostrovskii’s The Thunderstorm.

The traditions of the finest Russian actors underwent development in the second half of the 19th century. P. M. Sadovskii portrayed petty and tyrannical merchants in Ostrovskii’s plays; he also played characters who were victimized by society but continued to believe in good and justice, such as Liubim Tortsov in Poverty Is No Crime. Losing himself entirely in his characters and seeking “to live the role,” Sadovskii, like Ostrovskii, concentrated primarily on the speech characteristics of the people he portrayed. The tradition he established was continued by his son M. P. Sadovskii and by such other members of this artistic family as O. O. Sadovskaia and P. M. Sadovskii.

M. N. Ermolova’s heroines from Lope de Vega, Schiller, and Ostrovskii believed in the triumph of good over evil and ardently defended the highest principles of life. The acting of A. I. Iuzhin was noted for its romantic passion. M. G. Savina was known for her remarkable roles from the classic repertoire of Gogol, Ostrovskii, and Turgenev, but she also enjoyed great success in the drawing-room plays of the day, in which she satirically portrayed a gallery of women of fashion. As Katerina in Ostrovskii’s The Thunderstorm and Lizaveta in A. F. Pisemskii’s A Bitter Fate, P. A. Strepetova created portraits of simple Russian women trying to assert their right to love but broken by the burden of life. K. A. Varlamov and V. N. Davydov revealed the richness of life in all its tragedy and humor, its poignancy and cruelty. The art of V. F. Komissarzhevskaia, whose characters searched for a moral ideal and affirmed the human dignity of woman, reflected the mood of the prerevolutionary years. From 1904 to 1910 the theater she founded in St. Petersburg staged progressive contemporary plays by M. Gorky, A. P. Chekhov, and H. Ibsen.

Although the theater of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had some outstanding artists, the theatrical arts as a whole were in the grip of a crisis. At a time when important social changes were taking place and revolution was imminent, the stage was dominated by plays intended purely for entertainment and far removed from contemporary problems; the artistry and stagecraft of the productions did not attain a high level. Attempts at reform, such as the work of the actor and director A. P. Lenskii at the Malyi Theater in Moscow, were not supported by the time-serving bureaucrats who managed the theaters.

Of particular importance under such circumstances was the Moscow Art Theater, which opened in 1898 under K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. Drawing on the achievements of the foreign and the Russian theater, it promoted a new type of art. The Moscow Art Theater developed a genuine ensemble out of all the members of its productions and asserted new principles of directing and acting. The director became the ideological and artistic head of the company. The Moscow Art Theater emerged as a rallying point for the democratic intelligentsia. Plays by Chekhov and Gorky occupied a central place in its repertoire. Chekhov’s plays dealt with the yearning for a better life, the impossibility of reconciling oneself to a philistine existence, and the dream of a happy future. Gorky’s plays were imbued with a spirit of protest against a world founded on man’s exploitation of man and asserted the idea that life should be ruled by those who work.

At the Moscow Art Theater, Stanislavsky developed his method of acting and directing. Firmly opposed to artistic dilettantism, he devoted particular attention to the training of the actor-citizen. He considered the highest form of theater to be the art of a sense of truth, in which the actor’s goal is not to present a finished product, but to re-create at every performance a living, organic process based on an idea of the role that has been thought through previously.

At the same time, the Moscow Kamernyi Theater, founded in 1914 by A. Ia. Tairov, asserted the primacy of the actor as virtuoso; it opposed psychological drama and the drama of everyday life and objected to the subordination of the theater to literature. The productions by V. E. Meyerhold, who staged plays primarily at Komissarzhevskaia’s Theater and the Aleksandrinskii Theater in St. Petersburg, were of a controversial nature; his work, although stylized and heavily influenced by symbolism, pointed the way to new means of dramatic expression.

The first professional theaters in the Ukraine appeared in the early 19th century; by the end of the century several touring companies had been formed. Professional theaters were founded in Georgia in 1850, Armenia and Latvia in the 1860’s and 1870’s, Estonia and Azerbaijan in the 1870’s, and Byelorussia and Tataria in the early 20th century. An upsurge in national drama spurred the development of dramatic art. The foundations for a realistic national theater were laid by I. K. Karpenko-Karyi (Tobilevich), M. L. Kropivnitskii, and M. P. Staritskii in the Ukraine; G. D. Eristavi and A. A. Tsagareli in Georgia; G. M. Sundukian and M. F. Akhundov in Armenia and Azerbaijan; and V. I. Dunin-Martsinkevich in Byelorussia.

In the early 20th century the development of national drama was associated with such writers as I. Ia. Franko and Lesia Ukrainka in the Ukraine; D. Mamedkulizade, N. Vezirov, and A. Akhverdov in Azerbaijan; and A. Shirvanzade in Armenia. The traditions of Russian realism beneficially influenced the drama among the various peoples of Russia. The founders and members of the first actors’ companies usually came from the progressive intelligentsia. Opposition to social inequality and the bourgeois order was strikingly evident in the work of such out-standing actors as the Armenian tragedian P. Adamian; V. Aleksi-Meskhishvili, the founder of romanticism on the Georgian stage; the Ukrainian actress M. Zan’kovetskaia, who applied the principles of national folk art; and the realistic actors G. Chmyshkian in Armenia, D. Zeinalov in Azerbaijan, P. Saksaganskii and M. Kropivnitskii in the Ukraine, A. Alunāns in Latvia, and T. Altermann in Estonia.

The development of a theatrical culture among the peoples of Russia occurred amid a bitter struggle between democratic art and the art of the ruling class. The tsarist administration and the reactionary bourgeoisie could not stifle the democratic and social aspirations of the people, and in the grave creative crisis during the years immediately after the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07, progressive cultural figures sought to express in art the ideas of freedom.

1917–45. The October Revolution of 1917 ushered in a new era in the dramatic art of the peoples of the USSR. Firmly committed to the method of socialist realism, the Soviet theater continued to uphold the finest traditions of prerevolutionary realism. By a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) dated Nov. 9 (22), 1917, the theaters were placed under the authority of the State Commission on Education, subsequently reorganized as the People’s Commissariat for Education. The decree referred to the theater as a major factor in the communist education of the people. The theater was now attended by a new audience: workers, peasants, and soldiers. Prominent actors and entire companies traveled to workers’ clubs, villages, and the front lines of the Civil War.

On Aug. 26, 1919, V. I. Lenin signed a decree of the Sovnarkom that consolidated theatrical affairs and nationalized the theaters. The oldest were given the designation “academic,” among them the Malyi Theater, the Moscow Art Theater, and the Aleksandrinskii Theater (now the Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater). The theaters came under the direct control of the people’s commissar for education and enjoyed extensive artistic rights. Despite the country’s difficult economic and political circumstances, new theaters were built: the First Theater of the RSFSR (1920, subsequently the Meyerhold Theater), the Third Studio of the Moscow Art Theater (1921, subsequently the Vakhtangov Theater), the Theater of the Revolution (1922, now the Mayakovsky Theater), and the Moscow City Soviet Trade-union Theater (1923, now the Mossovet Theater), all located in Moscow; the Bolshoi Drama Theater (1919) in Petrograd; and the Krasnyi Fakel (Red Torch) Theater (1920) in Odessa. (The Krasnyi Fakel Theater toured throughout the country and in 1932 became permanently based in Novosibirsk.) Children’s theaters were established, notably the Mossovet Children’s Theater (1918) in Moscow, the Moscow Theater for Children (1921, now the Central Children’s Theater), and the Young People’s Theater (1922, now the Leningrad Young People’s Theater) in Petrograd.

The mass mobilization of the working people to build a new life revealed the talents of the USSR’s peoples and brought about a flourishing of amateur arts, which gave rise to professional theaters. After Soviet power was established in the Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Tataria, professional companies were joined together and strengthened; in addition, theaters were given state funds and permanent facilities. The Shevchenko Kiev Drama Theater was founded in 1919, followed in 1920 by the Byelorussian State Theater (now the Ia. Kupala Byelorussian Academic Theater) in Minsk, the Franko Ukrainian Theater in Vinnitsa (later moved to Kiev), and the Azerbaijan Drama Theater (now the M. Azizbekov Azerbaijan Drama Theater). The Armenian Theater (now the G. Sundukian Armenian Theater) in Yerevan and the Rustaveli Georgian Theater in Tbilisi opened their doors in 1921, followed by the Berezil’ Ukrainian Theater (now the Shevchenko Kharkov Theater) in Kiev and the Zan’kovetskaia Theater in Kiev (now in L’vov) in 1922. In the 1920’s the foundations were laid for the development of theatrical arts among peoples that previously had lacked a professional theater. Amateur arts circles formed the basis of an Uzbek theater founded in 1919 (now the Khamza Theater in Tashkent) and a Kazakh theater founded in 1925 in Kzyl-Orda (moved to Alma-Ata in 1928, now the Auezov Theater).

Mass theatricalized holidays were organized in such cities as Moscow, Petrograd, Voronezh, and Irkutsk. The companies associated with Proletkul’t (Proletarian Cultural and Educational Organization) were of some importance in the development of agitational theater. Despite the mistaken views of the Proletkul’t leaders, who underestimated the importance of the cultural heritage and were guilty of epigonism in their use of futurist and symbolist methods, many of these companies engendered elements of a new revolutionary theater. The experience of mass agitational theater in the early years of Soviet power led to the emergence in the 1920’s of the Blue Blouse groups, which presented topical material, and theaters of young workers. Red Army, kolkhoz, and sovkhoz theaters were founded in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The number of children’s and puppet theaters reached about 150 by 1936.

The Communist Party devoted a great deal of attention to the theater as a vehicle for communist ideas. The Twelfth Congress of the RCP(B) in 1923 pointed out the need “to increase efforts to create and select an appropriate revolutionary repertoire in which the heroic moments in the struggle of the working class are predominant” (KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 8th ed., vol. 2, 1970, p. 466). Creative competition among different trends engendered new developments in the theater. The resolution of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) On Party Policy in Literature (1925) stressed the importance of such competition and the need to move decisively in order to overcome bourgeois influences and tendencies dominated by vulgar sociologism and Proletkul’t views. In the mid-1920’s and late 1920’s new plays by such dramatists as K. A. Trenev, V. N. Bill’-Belotserkovskii, V. V. Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Ivanov, B. A. Lavrenev, and V. V. Vishnevskii provided a basis for development in the theater.

Of great importance was the work of E. B. Vakhtangov, who worked in the Theater Department of the People’s Commissariat for Education in 1919. Vakhtangov, a student and adherent of Stanislavsky’s and head of the Third Studio of the Moscow Art Theater, insisted on the popular nature (narodnost’) of art and held that the artist was responsible to the people, who had made the revolution. His 1921 production of the revised version of M. Maeterlinck’s The Miracle of St. Anthony attacked the vulgarity of the petite bourgeoisie and exalted love for the common people. His 1922 production of C. Gozzi’s Turandot became part of the permanent repertoire of the future Vakhtangov Theater; highly contemporary in its optimism, it was openly theatrical and replete with bright colors. In the mid-1920’s the Vakhtangov Theater began concentrating on contemporary plays; it staged L. N. Seifullina and V. P. Pravdukhin’s Virineia (1925) and Lavrenev’s Break (1927), both directed by A. D. Popov, and L. M. Leonov’s The Badgers (1927).

Meyerhold’s art began to acquire a new character. The director took an active part in building a highly colorful, markedly political and agitational Soviet theater. In his own theater he publicized the ideas of the revolution in highly contemporary productions of E. Verhaeren’s Dawns in 1920 and Mayakovsky’s Mystery-Bouffe in 1918 and 1921. He continued his close collaboration with Mayakovsky, staging productions of The Bedbug (1929) and The Bathhouse (1930), both of which sharply attacked Philistinism, bureaucratism, and political accommodation.

The Moscow City Soviet Trade-union Theater re-created the heroic uprising of the masses and presented contemporary types in its strikingly topical productions of Bill’-Belotserkovskii’s The Gale (1925) and D. A. Furmanov and D. Polivanov’s The Uprising (1927), both directed by E. O. Liubimov-Lanskoi. The influence of the revolution was also evident in the work of the Moscow Art Theater and the Malyi Theater. The former’s productions of Ostrovskii’s Fiery Heart in 1926 and P. Beaumarchais’s Marriage of Figaro in 1927 and the latter’s production of Rasteriaeva Street (after G. I. Uspenskii) in 1929 were profound and multifaceted explorations of the ideological essence and artistic distinctiveness of classic plays. The two theaters also presented outstanding productions of Soviet plays.

The Moscow Art Theater, striving for a philosophically generalized and psychologically profound presentation of character, created realistic productions devoted to the historical past and the Civil War that were imbued with revolutionary heroism: Trenev’s The Pugachev Rebellion (1925), directed by Nemirovich-Danchenko, and Ivanov’s Armored Train 14–69 (1927), directed by I. Ia. Sudakov under Stanislavsky’s supervision. The theater also attracted young writers: it staged M. A. Bulgakov’s Days of the Turbins (1926), V. P. Kataev’s Squaring the Circle (1928), and L. M. Leonov’s Untilovsk (1928). The Malyi Theater, continuing the heroic and romantic traditions with which it is inseparably linked, staged Trenev’s Liubov’ Iarovaia (1926) and B. S. Romashov’s Fiery Bridge (1929), plays that depicted the triumph of socialist revolutionary ideas during the armed struggle for Soviet power and in the period of peaceful construction.

The Moscow Kamernyi Theater staged O. Wilde’s Salomé and E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Princess Brambilla, works far removed from contemporary life. The theater also presented the actress A. G. Koonen in such major tragic productions as E. Scribe’s Adrienne Lecouvreur (1919) and J. Racine’s Phèdre (1921). Tairov’s production of Vishnevskii’s An Optimistic Tragedy in 1933 was an important theatrical event and an affirmation of revolutionary heroism.

Important productions staged in the other republics included M. Kulish’s The 97 (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1924), Trenev’s Liubov’ Iarovaia (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1927), Furmanov and Polivanov’s The Uprising (Franko Theater, 1928), and Lavrenev’s Break (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1928). In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s permanent Russian theaters were founded in nearly all the capitals of the Union republics; new theaters were organized in Vladivostok and Rostov-on-Don in the RSFSR, as well as in cities in the other republics. The Byelorussian Theater in Vitebsk (now the Kolas Theater) opened in 1926, followed in 1928 by the Georgian Theater in Kutaisi (now the Mardzhanishvili Theater in Tbilisi). The Tadzhik Drama Theater in Dushanbe (now the Lakhuti Tadzhik Drama Theater) and the Turkmen Theater of Drama in Ashkhabad (now the Mollanepes Turkmen Theater) were founded in 1929, and the Kirghiz Drama Theater, in 1941. Theaters were established in the Severnaia Osetiia, Komi, Yakut, Buriat, Kabarda-Balkar, and other autonomous republics of the RSFSR. The development of theatrical culture among peoples lacking a theater was made possible by the assistance of the other Soviet peoples, above all the Russian people.

A decree of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) dated Apr. 23, 1932, On the Restructuring of Literary and Artistic Organizations, furthered the expansion of creative competition aimed at encouraging a realistic stage art. Theoretical studies of the method of socialist realism were undertaken. Outstanding works of Soviet drama written in the late 1920’s to the early 1940’s influenced theater in the republics and affirmed the principles of realism and the popular nature of the theatrical arts. Such works included plays by N. F. Pogodin, Leonov, K. M. Simonov, A. N. Afinogenov, A. E. Korneichuk, I. Kocherga, Kulish, K. Krapiva, Ia. Kolos, D. Dzhabarly, M. Auezov, and K. Iashen. Many plays dealt with the Civil War, life in the USSR, and the building of a socialist society. Productions were mounted of Korneichuk’s The Destruction of the Squadron (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1933; Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater, 1934; Central Theater of the Red Army, 1934), L. I. Slavin’s The Intervention (Vakhtangov Theater, 1933), V. B. Vagarshian’s In the Ring (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1930), Iashen’s Two Communists (first version staged at Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1930; second version, Defeat, staged there in 1934), Auezov’s Night Thunder (Kazakh Drama Theater, 1935), Shanshiashvili’s Arsen (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1936), Krapiva’s The Partisans (Kupala Byelorussian Theater, 1938), and Ulug-Zoda’s Redsticks (Lakhuti Tadzhik Drama Theater, 1941).

The socialist reconstruction of the countryside was depicted in V. M. Kirshon’s Bread (Moscow Art Theater, 1931), Pogodin’s After the Ball (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1934), Dzhabarly’s Almas (Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater, 1931), and Iashen’s Honor and Love (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1936). Socialist industrialization provided the theme of Pogodin’s Tempo (Vakhtangov Theater, 1930), Poem of the Ax (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1931), and My Friend (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1932). The world view and ideological development of the Soviet intelligentsia were the subject of Afinogenov’s Fear (Leningrad Academic Drama Theater and Moscow Art Theater, 1931), Korneichuk’s Platon Krechet (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1934; Moscow Art Theater, 1935), and Leonov’s Skutarevskii (Malyi Theater and Central Theater of the Red Army, 1934). The new hero was depicted in V. M. Gusev’s Glory (Malyi Theater, 1936) and Simonov’s A Lad From Our Town (Moscow Lenin Komsomol Theater, 1941).

Contemporary problems also provided the subject matter for I. Mikitenko’s The Girls of Our Country (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1932) and Dzhabarly’s Iashar (Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater, 1932). Comic and satiric plays included Korneichuk’s On the Steppes of the Ukraine (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1940; Malyi Theater, 1941), V. V. Shkvarkin’s Someone Else’s Child (Moscow Theater of Satire and Leningrad Theater of Comedy, 1933), P. Kakabadze’s Marriage in the Kolkhoz (Mardzhanishvili Georgian Theater, 1938), and Krapiva’s He Who Laughs Last (Kupala Byelorussian Theater, 1939). In addition to its rich subject matter, the Soviet drama was characterized by diversity of genres, including epicheroic plays, psychological dramas of everyday life, and comedies, which ran the gamut from highly topical to satiric to lyric.

Major achievements of the Soviet drama were the portraits of Lenin in Pogodin’s Man With a Gun (Vakhtangov Theater, 1937, B. V. Shchukin as Lenin; Voronezh Theater, 1937; Kolas Byelo-russian Theater, 1938) and Korneichuk’s The Truth (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1937, M. M. Straukh as Lenin; Franko Theater, 1937). Among the first actors to portray Lenin were A. M. Buchma and M. M. Krushel’nitskii in the Ukraine, P. S. Molchanov in Byelorussia, and V. B. Vagarshian in Armenia.

The development of Soviet theater was profoundly influenced by the ideological and artistic principles of Gorky, the founder of socialist literature. In the 1930’s and 1940’s outstanding productions were mounted of Gorky’s Egor Bulychov and the Others (Vakhtangov Theater, 1932; Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1933), Enemies (Moscow Art Theater, 1935), Smug Citizens (Central Theater of the Red Army, 1935), The Summer People (Gorky Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1939), The Barbarians (Malyi Theater, 1941; Gorky Theater, 1943), The Lower Depths (Leninakan Theater, 1932), and The Last Ones (Franko Ukrainian Theater and Kupala Byelorussian Theater, 1937). Combining deep psychological truth with a precisely rendered social milieu, Gorky’s finest plays exemplify the art of creating typical characters and evidence an ability to plumb the sociophilosophical essence of characters. They helped strengthen the method of socialist realism and contributed to the art of directing and acting.

The development and application of the principles of socialist aesthetics bore fruit in the 1930’s in the work of actors of different generations. At the Moscow Art Theater such masters as O. L. Knipper-Chekhova, V. I. Kachalov, L. M. Leonidov, I. M. Moskvin, and M. M. Tarkhanov were joined by a new generation of actors, among them O. N. Androvskaia, B. G. Dobronravov, K. N. Elanskaia, A. N. Gribov, N. N. Ianshin, N. P. Khmelev, B. N. Livanov, V. A. Orlov, A. O. Stepanova, A. K. Tarasova, and V. O. Toporkov.

At the Malyi Theater the older generation, represented by A. A. Iablochkina, M. M. Klimov, S. L. Kuznetsov, V. O. Massalitinova, A. A. Ostuzhev, V. N. Ryzhova, P. M. Sadovskii, and E. D. Turchaninova, collaborated with actors whose talent matured in the Soviet period, such as N. A. Annenkov, E. N. Gogoleva, and V. N. Pashennaia. Joining the company in the 1930’s were I. V. Il’inskii, N. M. Radin, E. M. Shatrova, M. I. Tsarev, M. I. Zharov, A. I. Zrazhevskii, and K. A. Zubov.

The company of the Leningrad Academic Drama Theater, which included such major figures as Iu. M. Iur’ev, E. P. Korchagina-Aleksandrovskaia, V. A. Michurina-Samoilova, and I. N. Pevtsov, was joined by such gifted younger artists as B. A. Babochkin, A. F. Borisov, N. K. Cherkasov, and N. K. Simonov.

In the 1930’s the Soviet theater, which was developing on all fronts, affirmed with increasing resolve the tenets of socialist realism. The psychological profundity of the Moscow Art Theater’s productions was complemented by the brilliant productions offered at the Malyi Theater of plays dealing with everyday life. Highly stylized productions included Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (Central Theater of the Red Army, 1937). Every effort was made to create social types and to reveal the ideological meaning of characters. This sociopolitical orientation was reflected in the work of such masters of the Russian stage as M. F. Astangov, M. I. Babanova, A. D. Chudinova, Iu. S. Glizer, A. I. Goriunov, B. F. Il’in, A. G. Koonen, A. G. Kramov, Ts. L. Mansurova, V. P. Maretskaia, S. A. Martinson, N. D. Mordvinov, S. M. Muratov, D. N. Orlov, R. Ia. Pliatt, A. V. Poliakov, M. F. Romanov, S. D. Romodanov, B. V. Shchukin, I. A. Slonov, and M. A. Tokareva.

The emotional expressiveness and poetic insight characteristic of the Ukrainian school of acting were given new force in the art of A. M. Buchma, G. P. Iura, I. A. Mar’ianenko, Iu. V. Shumskii, and N. M. Uzhvii. The finest democratic traditions of Byelo-russian stage realism were sustained and developed by G. P. Glebov, A. K. Il’inskii, P. S. Molchanov, B. V. Platonov, and I. F. Zhdanovich. The performances of the Georgian actors V. I. Andzhaparidze, V. A. Godziashvili, A. A. Khorava, A. A. Vasadze, and S. A. Zakariadze were imbued with heroic and romantic pathos. Psychological complexity and expressive power marked the art of the Armenian actors Asmik, A. M. Avetisian, G. D. Dzhanibekian, R. N. Nersesian, V. K. Papazian, V. B. Vagarshian, and A. T. Voskanian. In Azerbaijan, Ul’vi Radzhab, A. Sharifzade, M. Aliev, and M. Davudova developed romantic and realistic acting in the national theater.

The high cultural level achieved by the theatrical arts was fully evident in the work of A. Khidoiatov, S. Ishanturaeva, Sh. Burkhanov and A. Khodzhaev in Uzbekistan; A. Kul’mamedov, S. Muradova, A. Durdyev, and B. Amanov in Turkmenistan; K. Kuanyshpaev, S. Kozhamkulov, Sh. Aimanov, and Kh. Bukeeva in Kazakhstan; A. Burkhanov and M. Kasymov in Tadzhikistan; and M. Ryshkulov and B. Kadykeeva in Kirghizia.

The ideological profundity and artistic maturity of the Soviet theater in all its variety are inseparably linked to achievements in the art of directing, as represented by the work of such figures as Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, Meyerhold, Tairov, Liubimov-Lanskoi, Popov, Iu. A. Zavadskii, N. V. Petrov, A. M. Lobanov, F. N. Kaverin, S. M. Mikhoels, R. N. Simonov, A. D. Dikii, I. N. Bersenev, N. P. Okhlopkov, and N. P. Akimov. The search for new artistic paths yielded highly original results in K. A. Mardzhanishvili’s work and S. Akhmeteli’s romantic and spirited productions in Georgia, as well as in the experimental work of L. Kurbas and the striking realism of Iura’s productions in the Ukraine. Other directors helping to shape the development of the theater in the 1930’s included the Ukrainian M. M. Krushel’nitskii, the Armenian V. M. Adzhemian, and the Byelorussian E. A. Mirovich.

The principles of socialist realism were also expressed in productions of classic dramatic works, notably Nemirovich-Danchenko’s productions of Resurrection (after L. N. Tolstoy, 1930), Anna Karenina (after L. N. Tolstoy, 1937), and Chekhov’s The Three Sisters (1940), all at the Moscow Art Theater, and the Malyi Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Othello (1935), with Ostuzhev in the title role. Russian and Western European classics were of great importance for the theaters of all the peoples of the USSR, affording them a wealth of experience in world stage art. Ostrovskii’s works received new and socially profound interpretations, particularly The Thunderstorm (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1935; Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater, 1938), Even a Wise Man Stumbles (Malyi Theater, 1935), The Forest (Malyi Theater, 1937), Guilty Though Guiltless (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1938), The Ultimate Sacrifice (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1939), and Truth Is Good, But Happiness Is Better and Wolves and Sheep (Malyi Theater, 1941).

Among the foreign classics staged were Shakespeare’s Othello, which was performed in such Union republics as Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, and Turkmenistan and in autonomous republics; Much Ado About Nothing (Vakhtangov Theater, 1936; Franko Theater, 1940), Hamlet (Khamza Theater, 1935), King Lear (State Jewish Theater, 1935), Romeo and Juliet (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1935), and As You Like It (Ermolova Moscow Theater, 1940). Other noteworthy foreign works included Schiller’s The Robbers (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1933), Gutzkow’s Uriel Acosta (Malyi Theater, 1940), Molière’s Tartuffe (Moscow Art Theater, 1939), Sheridan’s School for Scandal (Moscow Art Theater, 1940), Lope de Vega’s The Gardener’s Dog (Moscow Theater of the Revolution, 1937), Goldoni’s The Tavern Maid (Mossovet Theater, 1940), and Madame Bovary (after G. Flaubert, Kamernyi Theater, 1940, title role played by Koonen).

Classic plays were given contemporary readings in K. A. Mardzhanishvili’s production of Lope de Vega’s The Sheep Well (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1922) and L. Kurbas’ production of The Haidamaks (after Shevchenko, Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater, 1924). New productions were mounted of such classic plays by non-Russian authors from the peoples of the USSR as Franko’s Stolen Happiness (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1940), A. M. Shirvanzade’s For the Sake of Honor (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1939), and Khamza’s Landowner and Farmhand (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1939). Ten-day art and literature festivals devoted to works of the peoples of the USSR have been held in Moscow since 1936.

In 1939 and 1940 the number of theaters in the USSR increased as the Western Ukraine, Western Byelorussia, Bessarabia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were incorporated into the country. The major companies in these regions achieved great success and made an important contribution to the multinational Soviet theater; they included the Latvian Drama Theater and the Latvian Art Theater in Riga, the Estonian Drama Theater in Tallinn, the Vanemuine Theater in Tartu, the Drama Theater of the Lithuanian SSR in Vilnius, and the Pushkin Moldavian Music and Drama Theater in Kishinev. Important contributions to the Soviet theater were made by the Latvian directors E. Ia. Smil’gis (E. Smijgis) and A. F. Amtman-Briedit (A. Amtmanis-Briedītis), the Lithuanian director B. F. Dauguvetis (B. Dauguvietis), the Estonian directors K. Ird and A. Lauter, the Latvian actors A. Filipsons, L. Bērziņš, J. Osis, and V. Līne, the Estonian actors A. Talvi and K. Karm, and the Moldavian actors K. Shtirbul and D. Darienko.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 the multinational Soviet theater channeled its creative energies into the struggle against the fascist invaders. The newly created frontline theaters and brigades presented shows and concerts for the army in the field. The heroic ardor, patriotism, and close ties with the people that were characteristic of the Soviet theater were particularly evident in wartime productions of Leonov’s Invasion (Malyi Theater, Mossovet Theater, and Kupala Byelorussian Theater, 1943), Simonov’s The Russian People (Moscow Art Theater, Sundukian Armenian Theater, Sverdlovsk Theater, and Yaroslavl Theater, 1943), and Korneichuk’s The Front (Malyi Theater, Vakhtangov Theater, Franko Ukrainian Theater, and Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater, 1942–43).

The heroic struggle at the front and the Soviet people’s labor at the rear were depicted in Auezov and Abishev’s Guard of Honor (Kazakh Drama Theater), Vagarshian’s Monastery Gorge (Sundukian Armenian Theater), and M. Ibragimov’s Makhabbet (Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater). Immediately preceding and during the war, plays were produced that dealt with the country’s heroic past: Korneichuk’s Bogdan Khmel’nitskii (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1939), D. M. Demirchian’s Native Land (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1940), B. Amanov and K. Burunov’s Keimer-Ker (Turkmen Theater of Drama, 1940), and Kh. Alimdzhan’s Mukanna (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1943).

Postwar period. In the second half of the 1940’s and in the 1950’s plays that dealt with contemporary life continued to be written. Certain erroneous tendencies surfaced, however. They were criticized in the decree On the Repertoire of the Drama Theaters and Measures to Improve It, issued by the Central Committee of the ACP(B) on Aug. 26, 1946. The decree noted that the repertoire contained weak plays that depicted modern man in a simplistic fashion, as well as ideologically alien bourgeois plays and pseudohistorical plays that distorted and idealized the past. In contrast to such tendencies was the heroic spirit of the period’s finest dramatic works.

Participants in the Great Patriotic War were portrayed in several plays staged in 1947: The Young Guard (after A. A. Fadeev; Moscow Drama Theater, now the Mayakovsky Theater; Sundukian Armenian Theater; Franko Ukrainian Theater; Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater), Lavrenev’s To Those Who Are At Sea! (Malyi Theater), A. Movzon’s Konstantin Zaslonov (Kupala Byelorussian Theater), and I. O. Mosashvili’s The Stationmaster (Rustaveli Georgian Theater). Contemporary issues were dealt with in Sofronov’s In a Certain Town (Mossovet Theater, 1947) and Korneichuk’s Makar Dubrava (Vakhtangov Theater and Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1948) and Wings (Malyi Theater and Franko Theater, 1954).

Soviet man and his devotion to the motherland were the theme of L. A. Maliugin’s Old Friends (Ermolova Moscow Theater, 1946), Ia. Galan’s Love at Dawn (Zan’kovetskaia Ukrainian Theater, 1952), A. Kakhkhar’s Silk Siuzane (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1952), G. Mukhtarov’s The Family of Allan (Turkmen Theater of Drama, 1946), and A. Gudaitis-Guziavičius’ The Justice of the Blacksmith Ignotas (Lithuanian Drama Theater, 1950).

Notable comedies of this period were Korneichuk’s The Snow-ball Grove (Malyi Theater, 1950), N. M. D’iakonov’s Wedding With a Dowry (Moscow Theater of Satire, 1950), Krapiva’s The Larks Are Singing (Kupala Byelorussian Theater, 1950), and A. I. Tokaev’s The Bridegrooms (Severnaia Osetiia Theater, 1949). Outstanding plays on historical and revolutionary themes included Kocherga’s Iaroslav the Wise (Shevchenko Ukrainian Theater, 1947), Abai (after Auezov, Kazakh Theater, 1949), and Uigun and A. I. Sultanov’s Alisher Navoi (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1948). Major achievements of the Soviet theater were new productions at the Moscow Theater of Satire of Mayakovsky’s The Bathhouse (1953), The Bedbug (1955), and Mystery-Bouffe (1957). A noteworthy production was also staged of Vishnevskii’s An Optimistic Tragedy (Leningrad Academic Drama Theater, 1955).

New, contemporary readings of the classics included A. V. Sukhovo-Kobylin’s The Case (Lensovet Leningrad Theater, 1953), Saltykov-Shchedrin’s Shadows (Lensovet Leningrad Theater, 1955), and Chekhov’s Ivanov (Pushkin Moscow Drama Theater, 1955; Malyi Theater, 1960), The Seagull (Novosibirsk Krasnyi Fakel Theater, 1952), The Cherry Orchard (Sundukian Armenian Theater, 1951; Central Theater of the Red Army, 1965), and The Three Sisters (Latvian Art Theater, 1951). Other notable productions from the classic repertoire were L. N. Tolstoy’s The Living Corpse (Pushkin Leningrad Drama Theater and Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater, 1950), The Fruits of Enlightenment (Moscow Art Theater, 1951), and The Power of Darkness (Malyi Theater, 1956); Lermontov’s Masquerade (Mossovet Moscow Theater, 1952); Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1956); and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Mayakovsky Theater, 1954), Julius Caesar (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1958), Antony and Cleopatra (Kingissepp Estonian Theater, 1955), and Richard III (Mardzhanishvili Georgian Theater, 1957).

The productions of Gorky’s plays in this period strove for a philosophically profound, humanist interpretation of character and a broad sociohistorical and sociopsychological sweep; major productions were mounted of Enemies (Lithuanian Drama Theater, 1946), Vassa Zheleznova (Malyi Theater, 1952), Smug Citizens (Riazan’ Theater, 1951), Egor Bulychov and the Others (Franko Ukrainian Theater, 1952; Kirghiz Drama Theater, 1953), The Lower Depths (Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater, 1956), and The Barbarians (Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1959).

An important place in the repertoire was held by plays that presented portraits of the contemporary builder of communism, dealt with the formation of the character of Soviet man, and affirmed lofty communist moral and ethical standards. This trend was strikingly evident in productions representing a variety of genres and styles: V. S. Rozov’s Good Luck! (Central Children’s Theater, 1954), Leonov’s The Golden Carriage (Moscow Art Theater, 1957), A. N. Arbuzov’s Irkutsk Story (Vakhtangov Theater, 1959; Mayakovsky Theater and Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1960), Sofronov’s The Cook (Vakhtangov Theater, 1959), S. I. Aleshin’s Everything Is Left to People (Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater, 1959), and A. M. Volodin’s Elder Sister (Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1961). Lenin was portrayed in a new version of Pogodin’s The Kremlin Chimes (Moscow Art Theater, 1956) and in Pogodin’s Third Pathétique (Moscow Art Theater, 1958); in both productions, B. A. Smirnov took the role of Lenin. Lenin was also the subject of D. I. Zorin’s The Eternal Source (Malyi Theater, 1957).

The theater of the peoples of the USSR experienced an upsurge in the 1960’s and 1970’s in connection with major events in the history of the Soviet state: the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lenin, and the 50th anniversary of the formation of the USSR. Productions were mounted of A. P. Shtein’s The Ocean (Mayakovsky Theater and Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1961) and Between Downpours (Mayakovsky Theater, 1964); Conscience (after D. G. Pavlova, Mossovet Theater, 1963); The Maternal Field (after Ch. Aitmatov, Kazakh Drama Theater, 1964); V. V. Lavrent’ev’s Honor Thy Father (Moscow Art Theater, 1964); and M. F. Shatrov’s The Sixth of July (Moscow Art Theater, 1965).

An important theatrical event in this period was the production of the revolutionary-historical trilogy composed of L. G. Zorin’s The Decembrists, A. P. Svobodin’s The Members of the People’s Will, and Shatrov’s The Bolsheviks at the Moscow Sovremennik Theater in 1967. Other noteworthy productions were Vishenvskii’s An Optimistic Tragedy (Malyi Theater, 1967), Bill’-Belot-serkovskii’s The Gale (Mossovet Theater, 1967), Slavin’s The Intervention (Moscow Theater of Satire, 1967), Marcinkevicius’ Mindaugas (Lithuanian Drama Theater, 1969), A. E. Makaenok’s Tribunal (Kupala Byelorussian Theater and Moscow Dramatic Theater on Malaia Bronnaia Street, 1971), I. M. Dvoretskii’s The Outsider (Moscow Dramatic Theater on Malaia Bronnaia Street and Lensovet Leningrad Theater, 1971), B. L. Vasil’ev’s The Dawns Here Are Quiet (Moscow Theater of Drama and Comedy on the Taganka, 1971), I. Drutse’s Birds of Our Youth (Malyi Theater and Pushkin Moldavian Theater, 1972), G. K. Bokarev’s The Steelworkers (Moscow Art Theater, 1972), A. I. Gel’man’s The Party Committee Meeting (Moscow Art Theater, 1975; Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, where it played under the title Proceedings of a Meeting, 1975), and Shatrov’s Tomorrow’s Weather (Moscow Sovremennik Theater, 1975).

Major productions of the classics included Euripides’ Medea (Mardzhanishvili Georgian Theater, 1962), Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus (Khamza Uzbek Theater, 1969), Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro (Moscow Theater of Satire, 1969), and Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Panevézys Lithuanian Theater, 1961), Antony and Cleopatra (Azizbekov Azerbaijan Theater, 1962), Coriolanus (Vanemuine Estonian Theater, 1964), and Julius Caesar (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1973). Since the 1960’s plays by B. Brecht have been staged many times: Mother Courage and Her Children (Mayakovsky Theater, 1960), The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui (Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater, 1963), The Good Woman of Setzuan (Moscow Theater of Drama and Comedy on the Taganka, 1964), and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Rustaveli Georgian Theater, 1975).

Prominent directors of the 1960’s and 1970’s were G. A. Tovstonogov, B. I. Ravenskikh, V. N. Pluchek, O. N. Efremov, A. A. Goncharov, E. R. Simonov, Iu. P. Liubimov, and A. V. Efros in the RSFSR; K. Ird, E. Kaidu, and V. Panso in Estonia; A. Jaunušans and A. Linins in Latvia; G. Vancevicius and J. Miltinis in Lithuania; T. Kiazimov and M. Mamedov in Azerbaijan; V. Adzhemian and R. Kaplanian in Armenia; R. Sturua and N. Chkheidze in Georgia; B. Khuchaev in Northern Ossetia; S. V. Danchenko and S. Smeian in the Ukraine; V. N. Raevskii and B. I. Lutsenko in Byelorussia; and A. Mambetov in Kazakhstan.

Notable actors of the 1960’s and 1970’s in the RSFSR included Iu. K. Borisova, A. S. Demidova, T. V. Doronina, L. K. Durov, E. A. Evstigneev, A. B. Freindlikh, B. A. Freindlikh, I. O. Gorbachev, N. O. Gritsenko, Iu. V. lakovlev, O. M. Iakovleva, S. Iu. Iurskii, K. Iu. Lavrov, E. A. Lebedev, V. V. Merkur’ev, A. D. Papanov, I. M. Smoktunovskii, O. P. Tabakov, Iu. V. Tolubeev, and M. A. Ul’ianov. Outstanding actors in the other republics included Kh. Abramian and B. Nersesian in Armenia; R. Chkhikvadze in Georgia; V. M. Dal’skii, P. V. Kumanchenko, E. P. Ponomarenko, and B. V. Romanitskii in the Ukrainian SSR; M. Vakhidov in Tadzhikistan; V. Artmane, H. LiepinS, L. Freimane, E. Radzina, I. Buran, G. lakovlev, and J. Dumpis in Latvia; D. Banionis, R. Adomaitis, and G. Kurauskas in Lithuania; F. Sharipova and A. Ashimov in Kazakhstan; and G. S. Ovsiannikov and G. K. Makarova in Byelorussia.

The underlying principle of the Soviet theater, as of all Soviet art, is the Leninist principle of partiinost’ (party spirit). The theater is the party’s helper in the struggle to present communist ideas in living form. The finest dramatic works exhibit close ties to the people, who are depicted as the driving force in history, and reveal the spiritual wealth of Soviet man and his devotion to the motherland. The exchange of practical experience in creative work makes an important contribution to the development of the theater. A distinctive feature of the arts in the Soviet Union, including drama, is the mutual influence and enrichment that take place among the national cultures. Unity of ideological content is combined with a rich variety of national forms.

The Stanislavsky method, used by actors when developing a role and by directors in mounting a production, has received international recognition. The Soviet theater is an important influence on theater throughout the world. Many Soviet companies perform abroad to great acclaim, take part in festivals devoted to works by playwrights from the socialist community, and maintain fruitful creative contacts with the socialist countries, with which they exchange directors and producers. The finest foreign companies tour the USSR. Soviet participation in the International Theatre Institute helps strengthen international contacts in the field of drama. The USSR National Center of the ITI was established in 1959.

Actors and directors are trained at the A. V. Lunacharskii State Institute of Theatrical Arts, the M. S. Shchepkin and B. V. Shchukin theatrical schools, and the Nemirovich-Danchenko School-Studio, all located in Moscow; at the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music, and Cinematography; and at theatrical institutes, cultural institutes, and schools in Tbilisi, Yerevan, Tashkent, Baku, Kiev, and Minsk. A number of theatrical societies exist for theater workers (see).

In 1975 the USSR had 570 theaters, including 344 drama theaters and 155 children’s theaters and young people’s theaters. Performances are given in more than 40 of the national languages of the USSR.



Stanislavsky, K. S. Sobr. soch., vols. 1–8. Moscow, 1954–1961.
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Evg. Vakhtangov: Materialy istat’i. Moscow, 1959.
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Ocherki istorii russkogo sovetskogo dramaticheskogo teatra, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1954–61.
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Kask, K. “Dramaturgiast teatrikulastaja pilguga.” In Kirjanduse radadelt. Tallinn, 1962.
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Nurdzhanov, N. Tadzhikskii teatr: Ocherk istorii. Moscow, 1968.
Maknys, V. Lietuvių teatro raidos bruožai, vol. 1. Vilnius, 1972.

The Soviet circus has a centuries-old history. As early as the 11th century, the rudiments of modern circus acts were evident in the performances of the skomorokhi (itinerant performers). The wit of the jester who donned a mask expressing foolishness became a basic element of circus clown performances. Among the peoples of Middle Asia, ropewalkers and comedians (dorbozy and maskharabozy) who performed in village squares were popular. In the Caucasus masters of the high wire and trick riding have long been renowned. In many areas great popularity was attained by festivities featuring the show booths known as balagans and by riding schools that staged exhibitions of skill by riders and horse trainers.

The first professional circuses in Russia appeared in the 18th century. Initially, these were touring companies made up of foreign artists. They gradually came to include Russian apprentices and performers, and the first generation of Russian circus performers emerged. After settling in Russia, some of the touring artists founded circus dynasties that exist to this day. In 1873 the brothers D. A. Nikitin, A. A. Nikitin, and P. A. Nikitin, who had previously performed in balagans, opened the first Russian circus, in Penza. By the early 1900’s they had become prominent impresarios with circuses in many cities; they opened circuses in Moscow in 1886 and 1911. The Nikitins trained indigenous performers.

The tsarist government considered the circus nothing more than a form of amusement for the lower classes and did not subject it to censorship until the early 20th century. Because of the circus’s mass democratic audience, satiric, topical clown routines were developed at the turn of the century. Leading masters of the genre were A. L. Durov, V. L. Durov, Bim-Bom (I. S. Radunskii and M. A. Stanevskii), and V. E. Lazarenko. Restrictions were imposed on the new routines by the police and the censor.

Russian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who achieved an international reputation included the equestrians P. A. Fedoseevskii, P. I. Orlov, V. T. Sobolevskii, and N. L. Sychev; the gymnasts M. M. Egorov, the Kovrigins (Kavrelises), P. A. Nikitin, and P. K. Rudenko; the acrobats V. P. Vinkin, Ar. P. Vinkin, N. P. Vinkin, and Al. P. Vinkin; the ropewalker F. F. Molodtsov; and the trick cyclists M. O. Baranskii, S. O. Baranskii, and I. K. Podrezov (Jan Pol’di). Leading animal trainers included the Durovs, I. L. Filatov, and the Zherebilovs (Voian’s). The best-known clowns were S. S. Al’perov, D. S. Al’perov, D. I. Babushkin, M. I. Beketov, P. A. Brykin, Iu. K. Kostandi, and V. K. Kostandi. Notable wrestlers and strong men included P. F. Krylov, I. V. Lebedev (Uncle Vania), I. M. Poddubnyi, and I. M. Zaikin.

In Middle Asia the Tashkenbaev ropewalkers were popular, as were such circus troupes as Dzhumabaiaka, Avzamat-aksakal, the Zaripovs’ troupe, and M. Mansurov’s troupe. In the Caucasus the bareback riders A. K. Gudtsev and A. T. Kantemirov were renowned. Talented circus performers emerged in the Baltic provinces, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia. Large-scale pantomime performances based on historical and contemporary subjects were staged, with the latest technical effects being used. Despite the presence of excellent performers and modern equipment, a crisis was developing in the circus by the early 1900’s, the clearest evidence of which were trivial and frequently tasteless acts and programs.

The October Revolution of 1917 was of crucial importance for the restructuring and development of the circus, which was now recognized as a genuine art form. On Aug. 26, 1919, the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) issued a decree on the unification of the theatrical arts that affirmed the democratic nature of the circus and set the task of eliminating bourgeois vulgarity from the repertoire. A. V. Lunacharskii, in his article “The Tasks of the Renovated Circus” (1919), stressed that the circus must become a place for displaying man’s physical beauty and for presenting clown acts and pantomimes of a topical nature; he called upon the circus to expand its educative role. Circuses were placed under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariat for Education, in which a special section was established that later was named the Central Administration for State Circuses. During the Civil War of 1918–20, circus performers appeared at the front and at plants and factories. Between 1921 and 1928 the government, lacking the funds needed to refurbish equipment and costumes or to maintain buildings, rented out circus buildings to private individuals and performers’ companies; the government retained ideological, artistic, and financial control, however. In 1927 traveling rural circuses were organized.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s circus associations were established in the RSFSR, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Middle Asia. By the late 1930’s a single nationwide organization, the Association of State Circuses, was formed as part of the system of the Committee for the Arts under the Sovnarkom of the USSR; in 1953 it became part of the system of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR.

As early as the mid-1920’s such writers and poets as V. V. Mayakovsky, D. Bednyi, V. I. Lebedev-Kumach, and V. Z. Mass helped create circus programs, as did leading artists, ballet masters, composers, and theatrical and motion-picture directors. A system introduced in the mid-1930’s provided the large circuses with artistic directors. Shows and individual numbers were now staged by directors, with the help of professional artists; their music was either written or selected by composers. Considerable attention was devoted to staging shows with a plot—pantomimes on historical subjects and contemporary topics—and to the presentation of circus acts unified by a theme. Clown routines were revamped: masters of the art rejected coarse and abstract stock figures and set about creating everyday, familiar characters that were more appealing; prominent in this reform were P. A. Alekseev, K. A. Berman, Karandash, and B. P. Viatkin.

A major contribution to the art of the circus was made by the animal trainers I. N. Bugrimova, A. N. Buslaev, Iu. V. Durov, V. G. Durov, B. A. Eder, and N. P. Gladil’shchikov; the magician E. T. Kio; the equestrienne L. M. Khodzhaeva; the tight-rope walkers Z. B. Kokh, K. B. Kokh, and M. B. Kokh (the Kokh Sisters); the directors A. G. Arnol’d, A. A. Fedorovich, B. A. Shakhet, G. S. Venetsianov, and N. N. Zinov’ev; and the historian and theorist of the circus and estrada (variety stage) E. M. Kuznetsov.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, members of the circus entered the ranks of the Red Army; frontline circus brigades and a frontline circus were formed and gave performances for military units. Circuses continued to be staged at permanent locations, and new acts were presented. The Soviet circus, as before, developed as a multinational art form. The establishment of circus companies among the non-Russian peoples, which had begun before the war, continued during the postwar years: a Gypsy company was formed in 1939, and companies were formed in Lithuania in 1940, Uzbekistan in 1942, Azerbaijan in 1945, Armenia and the Ukraine in 1956, Georgia in 1957, Byelorussia in 1959, and Kazakhstan in 1976.

Circus acts from the Union and autonomous republics have gained nationwide and international fame, notably the Kirghiz acrobatic ensemble directed by E. A. Dzhanibekov; the Russian acrobatic troupe directed by V. N. Beliakov; the Dagestani tight-rope-walking troupe Tsovkra, directed by R. G. Abakarov; the Tuvinian troupe of tightrope walkers and jugglers directed by V. Oskal-Ool; the Ossetian trick-riding troupe Iriston, directed by D. M. Tuganova; the Turkmen trick riders directed by D. G. Khodzhabaev; and the Zaripovs, an Uzbek family of trick riders.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s innovative companies, acts, and attractions came to the fore, notably the Bear Circus, the Circus on Ice, and the Circus on Water.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s the leading Soviet circus performers won world renown. The most prominent aerialists were the Bubnovs, V. M. Lisin and E. L. Sin’kovskskaia, R. M. Nemchinskii and I. B. Nemchinskii, and S. A. Razumov and P. S. Chernega. Outstanding ropewalkers included the Abakarovs, the Gadzhikurbanovs, the Tashkenbaevs, and the Volzhanskiis. The most famous clowns were L. G. Engibarov, G. T. Makovskii and G. A. Rotman, A. N. Nikolaev, Iu. V. Nikulin and M. N. Shuidin, and O. K. Popov. Well-known animal trainers included Bugrimova, the Filatovs, V. V. Ivanov, V. K. Ivanov, S. I. Isaakian, R. R. Kaseev, A. N. Kornilov, I. F. Kudriavtsev, M. P. Nazarova, and the Tikhonovs.

Other notable circus figures of this period were the tightrope walkers directed by E. T. Milaev and by L. L. Kostiuk; the tight-rope walker V. L Serbina; such balancing artists and jugglers as the Kisses, the Cerniauskases, the Shirais, and O. A. Ratiani; and the magicians Kio and Iu. K. Av’erino. Prominent circus directors included N. E. Bauman, V. V. Golovko, R. A. Gril’e, V. M. Lisin, M. S. Mestechkin, A. A. Sonin, A. N. Shirai, and E. M. Ziskind.

The Circus Arts Workshop (since 1961 the State School of Circus and Estrada Art) was founded in Moscow in 1926; in Leningrad, the Museum of Circus Art was founded in 1928, and the Workshop for the Development of New Circus Acts, in 1930. As of 1975, the USSR had 94 circus enterprises, including 58 permanent circuses.



Dmitriev, Iu. Sovetskii tsirk. Moscow, 1963.
Dmitriev, Iu. Sovetskii tsirk segodnia. Moscow, 1968.
Kuznetsov, E. Tsirk, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.

The estrada (variety stage) of the peoples of what is now the USSR developed from the performances of folk musicians, singers, wits, puppeteers, jugglers, animal trainers, and acrobats. Of particular importance were the traditions represented among the Slavs by the itinerant performers known as skomorokhi and by the dedy-raeshniki, or barkers, who called the public into balagans (that is, show booths or playhouses) to view performances; among the Georgians by the folk theater known as the berikaoba; and among the Uzbeks and Tadzhiks by the folk actors known as maskharabozy or kyzykchi.

Beginning in the 17th and early 18th centuries, singers and dancers appeared in divertissements, which were inserted or concluding parts of dramatic, operatic, and ballet productions; a divertissement was usually not related to the main theme of the production. Singers who performed in divertissements in the early 19th century included E. S. Sandunova and A. O. Bantyshev. Eventually instrumental music, poetry, short stories, and kuplety (satirical songs) were added to the divertissement repertoire. Among the actors and actresses who presented short stories and poetry were P. S. Mochalov, M. S. Shchepkin, V. A. Karatygin, P. M. Sadovskii, and, later, M. N. Ermolova and V. N. Davydov. I. I. Monakhov was well known for his renditions of kuplety. Such performers brought to the stage satirical works by N. V. Gogol and M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, as well as poems by A. S. Pushkin, A. V. Kol’tsov, N. A. Nekrasov, and I. S. Nikitin.

An important contribution to the development of the estrada was also made by Russian, Ukrainian, and gypsy choruses. The Slavic Choir, under the direction of D. A. Agrenev-Slavianskii, enjoyed great success in Russia in the 1860’s and also performed abroad. Popular soloists in the choruses included P. I. Bogatyrev, V. V. Panina, and N. V. Plevitskaia; also well known were P. F. Zhukov and N. F. Monakhov, both of whom performed kuplety, and P. E. Nevskii, an accordionist and singer of chastushki (folk ditties, often humorous).

At the beginning of the 20th century, theaters of miniatures were established, notably the Letuchaia Mysh’ (Bat) in Moscow and the Krivoe Zerkalo (Distorting Mirror) in St. Petersburg. Talented performers appeared, including the reciter I. F. Gorbunov, the singer of kuplety G. V. Molodtsov, the singers A. D. Vial’tseva and A. N. Vertinskii, and the masters of ceremonies N. F. Baliev, A. G. Alekseev, and K. E. Gibshman.

A new era in the development of the estrada began after the October Revolution of 1917. During the Civil War of 1918–20, many performers traveled to the front or performed at workers’ clubs. The repertoire of the estrada was reworked, and new genres were developed. N. P. Smirnov-Sokol’skii and G. I. Afonin established the topical political satire. L. O. Utesov presented kuplety written in the form of newspaper headlines. During the 1920’s, the Blue Blouse groups were formed; using the expressive means of the theater, they presented publicist material of the kind found in newspapers. Among those who contributed to the estrada repertoire were V. V. Mayakovsky, Dem’ian Bednyi, and V. E. Ardov. The literary montages of V. N. Iakhontov and A. Ia. Zakushniak (the creator of the genre) reached the level of high-quality political publicist writing and effectively conveyed philosophical implications. The Teadzhaz (now the State Variety Orchestra of the RSFSR) received wide recognition under the direction of Utesov, who founded the group in 1929. T. S. Tsereteli and I. Iur’eva specialized in singing lyric estrada songs.

During the 1930’s, I. O. Dunaevskii, M. I. Blanter, and the brothers Dm. Ia. Pokrass and Dan. Ia. Pokrass created new types of mass songs and lyric songs, thus contributing to the development of many groups and individual singers. Outstanding performers of the 1930’s included the estrada singers K. I. Shul’-zhenko and L. A. Ruslanova, the satiric actor V. Ia. Khenkin, the singers of kuplety B. S. Borisov and I. S. Nabatov, and the master of ceremonies M. N. Garkavi. R. V. Zelenaia became well known for her distinctive stage manner. A. I. Zagorskaia, I. P. Iaunzem, and R. Beibutov performed folk songs of various nationalities. L. B. Mirov and E. P. Darskii (who was later replaced by M. V. Novitskii) formed a popular stage team, as did M. V. Mironova and A. S. Menaker. The team of Iu. T. Timoshenko and E. I. Berezin acquired fame in the 1940’s.

Estrada dancing reached new heights with the choreography of K. Ia. Goleizovskii and the performances of A. A. Redel’ and M. M. Khrustalev. Folk dancing received considerable attention; the singer and dancer Tamara Khanum was among those who achieved recognition for performances of folk dances from such republics as the RSFSR, the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Georgia, Armenia, and Uzbekistan. In 1939 the Leningrad Theater of Miniatures was founded, with A. I. Raikin as its artistic director and leading performer.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, many estrada artists in frontline brigades performed in war zones, in hospitals, at munitions plants, and at kolkhozes. In the postwar years the multinational character of the estrada in the USSR has been strengthened.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s new estrada groups were formed in Georgia, Armenia, and the Baltic republics. This period saw the founding of the Saratov Theater of Miniatures, the Moscow Theater of Miniatures, the Moscow Music Hall, the Leningrad Music Hall, and the Theater of Miniatures in Odessa. Many choral groups were formed, including Druzhba (founded 1955), Pesniary (founded 1969), and Orera. Popular singers included L. G. Zykina, M. N. Bernes, M. M. Magomaev, G. M. Velikanova, O. I. Voronets, R. T. Baglanova, M. Kodrianu, M. V. Kristalinskaia, E. S. Piecha, E. A. Khil’, and I. D. Kobzon. Other popular performers were the balalaika player P. I. Nechiporenko, the baian player A. V. Beliaev, and the dancer M. Esambaev, who performed folk dances from all over the world.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, various estrada genres were further developed, and new ones were created. For example, concert performances by puppeteers reached new heights in the work of S. V. Obraztsov and the team I. N. Divov and S. Ia. Mei (now Divov and N. A. Stepanova); new types of puppeteering were also developed, such as the use of large puppets operated by puppeteers who are visible to the audience. Moreover, the art of the pantomime was revived by such performers as A. A. Elizarov. New works for the estrada were created by the writers V. A. Dykhovichnyi, M. R. Slobodskoi, V. Z. Mass, M. A. Chervinskii, and F. A. Lipskerov and the composers T. N. Khrennikov, A. I. Ostrovskii, O. B. Fel’tsman, A. N. Pakhmutova, and N. B. Bogoslovskii.

Concerts by foreign variety artists are staged on a regular basis in the USSR, and many Soviet performers have made foreign tours to critical acclaim and have successfully taken part in competitions and festivals in various countries.

Performers are trained for the estrada, and acts are developed for them, at studios and schools in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, and Sverdlovsk. The A. V. Lunacharskii State Institute of Theatrical Arts in Moscow has a division for estrada directors.



Kuznetsov, E. hproshlogo russkoi estrady. Moscow, 1958.
Dmitriev, Iu. Estrada i tsirk glazami vliublennogo. Moscow, 1971.

Amateur theatrical groups began forming immediately after the October Revolution in 1917. During the Civil War of 1918–20, about 1,000 drama circles performed at the front. In 1919 a subdivision for workers’ and peasants’ theaters was created within the Theater Department of the People’s Commissariat for Education to deal with the development of the amateur theater.

During the 1920’s, performances by amateur groups were primarily agitational in nature. Living Newspaper groups gained popularity; Blue Blouse groups were formed in the cities, and Red Shirt groups in the countryside. The groups presented revues, literary montages, and topical pieces dealing with industrial production, international relations, and other issues, often involving the enterprise or institution where the performance took place. The members of the groups usually wrote the scripts and handled the staging themselves.

The theater of young workers (TRAM) movement was of great importance in the development of amateur arts. Several amateur groups, including theaters of young workers, became professional theaters. Examples are the Komsomol theaters in such cities as Moscow and Leningrad and drama and musical drama theaters in the Uzbek and Kazakh SSR’s.

In 1930 the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR issued the decree On the Improvement of the Theater, which was aimed at strengthening cooperation between professional and amateur theaters. In 1936 the All-Union House of Amateur Arts was established in Moscow to provide guidance and assistance to amateur arts; the house was named in honor of N. K. Krupskaia in 1939. Similar houses were established in all the republics and oblasts of the USSR. A department of amateur arts was formed within the Committee for the Arts under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, and a section for amateur arts was created under the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions in 1940.

In the late 1930’s leading professionals in various arts began devoting a portion of their time to the amateur arts in order to share their knowledge with novices. In Moscow, for example, I. M. Moskvin undertook to help the House of Culture of the Likhachev Automotive Plant, and M. M. Tarkhanov offered his assistance to the Gorbunov House of Culture. Outstanding Soviet and classical plays began entering the repertoires of amateur theatrical groups, and amateur musical theaters appeared.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, amateur groups performed at the front, in military hospitals, and in munitions plants. A number of important works were presented at the all-Union amateur arts festivals sponsored by trade unions in 1948, 1951, and 1954. These included Gogol’s The Inspector-General (Leningrad State University), Gorky’s Egor Bulychov and the Others (Vyborg House of Culture in Leningrad and the Palace of Culture of the Gorky Automotive Plant), A. E. Korneichuk’s The Snowball Grove (Gorbunov House of Culture), V. N. Bill’-Belotserkovskii’s The Gale (Gorbunov House of Culture), L. B. Geraskina’s Certificate of Secondary Education (House of Culture of the Likhachev Automotive Plant), and the operas Ivan Susanin by M. I. Glinka (Urzhum House of Culture) and The Tsar’s Bride by N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov (opera group of the Kirov House of Culture in Leningrad).

Once every five years an all-Union festival of amateur arts of the working people is held in the USSR. Within the framework of the festivals, events are sponsored on the all-Union, republic, krai, oblast, city, and raion levels. They include exhibitions of photography and fine and applied arts, as well as competitions and festivals involving amateur films, choruses, wind orchestras, estrada (variety stage) orchestras, vocal and instrumental ensembles, drama groups, people’s amateur theaters, propaganda theaters (agitbrigady), folk-instrument orchestras, folk dance groups, solo singers, and reciters. The best amateur groups take part in special presentations at the Exhibition of the Achievements of the National Economy of the USSR. Amateur groups also perform at international festivals and competitions.

Many well-known performers began their careers in amateur groups, including I. S. Kozlovskii, S. Ia. Lemeshev, I. I. Petrov, and A. P. Ognivtsev (all of the Bolshoi Theater), as well as S. Ishanturaeva and A. Khidoiatov (both of the Khamza Uzbek Drama Theater). Other professionals who began in amateur groups are I. O. Gorbachev (A. S. Pushkin Leningrad Academic Drama Theater), S. Iu. Iurskii (Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater), V. K. Vasil’eva (Moscow Theater of Satire), V. S. Lanovoi (Vakhtangov Theater), and I. S. Savvina (Moscow Mossovet Theater and Moscow Art Academic Theater).

Soviet amateur arts groups are well organized and maintain a consistently high level of activity. Large numbers of people throughout the country engage in amateur arts. A variety of genres are represented.

In the late 1950’s, as a result of extensive instruction and pains-taking preparation for performances, the best amateur groups began to approach the level of professional ensembles, choruses, and theatrical groups. Some amateur theatrical groups came to have a permanent troupe, an established repertoire, and a regular performance schedule. Since 1959 the finest amateur groups have received the designation “people’s.” As of 1975, there were more than 4,500 such groups.

The largest and most popular amateur groups are choral groups, vocal ensembles, and dance groups. Folk dance ensembles have been organized in many palaces and houses of culture—for example, the Palace of Culture of the Cheliabinsk Metallurgical Plant and the F. E. Dzerzhinskii House of Culture of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Georgian SSR. Palaces of culture in Dneprodzerzhinsk, Minsk, and Kishinev sponsor the Dnipro, Liavonikha, and Mertsishor dance groups, respectively. Some palaces and houses of culture have song and dance groups (such as the group at the University of Vilnius and the ensemble Arira at the Abasha Raion House of Culture in the Georgian SSR) or choral groups (such as the Russian folk chorus of the Palace of Culture of Metallurgical Workers in Lipetsk and the groups Dventus and Dzintars in the Latvian SSR).

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, a number of interesting productions were staged by people’s amateur theaters associated with palaces and houses of culture. These productions included The Blue Notebook (after E. G. Kazakevich, House of Culture of the Likhachev Automotive Plant in Moscow), K. Capek’s Mother (Bol’shevik Palace of Culture in Kiev), B. L. Vasil’ev’s The Dawns Here Are Quiet (House of Culture of Textile Workers in Tashkent), A. Iu. Kuznetsov’s The Broken Window (Palace of Culture of Petrochemical Workers in Angarsk), V. N. Korostylev’s The Warsaw Alarm (Palace of Culture of Petrochemical Workers in Omsk), G. D. Nakhutsrishvili’s General Leselidze (House of Culture of Railroad Workers in Tbilisi), G. K. Bokarev’s The Steelworkers (House of Culture of Automotive Workers in Minsk), A. D. Salynskii’s The Drummer Girl (House of Officers in Kharkov), and S. Wyspiański’s The Wedding (in Polish, House of Teachers in L’vov). Noteworthy productions by other people’s amateur theaters include A. Tammsaare’s The Landlord of Kõrboja (E. Vilde Theater in Tartu), Korostylev’s I Believe in You (Paul Pinna Theater in Tallinn), and Hello, Person (after A. S. Makarenko, Eniseisk Theater).

Student theaters associated with houses of culture of higher educational institutions have increased in number. Prominent examples of such theaters are the people’s amateur theaters at Moscow University, Leningrad University, the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, and the Cheliabinsk Polytechnic Institute. Young people’s theaters, which are working to establish their own repertoire, have also grown in number. Noteworthy productions have included an adaptation of Mayakovsky’s narrative poem It’s Good! (Perm’ People’s Amateur Theater for Youth) and University Campus (Campus Theater of the University of Vilnius).

In addition to people’s amateur drama theaters, there are people’s amateur musical theaters. Operas that have been staged include K. V. Molchanov’s The Dawns Here Are Quiet (Central House of Culture of Railroad Workers in Moscow), M. P. Mussorsky’s Boris Godunov (Kirov House of Culture in Leningrad), G. Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore (Klaipeda Theater), and Iu. S. Meitus’ The Young Guard (House of Culture of the Tashkent Transportation Machine-building Plant). The ballet Giselle (music by A. Adam) has been staged by the Gorky House of Culture in Leningrad.


Filippov, V. A. Puti samodeiatel’nogo teatra. Moscow, 1927.
Berliant, M. L. Samodeiatel’nyi teatr. Moscow, 1938.
Narodnye talanty: Khudozhestvennaia samodeiatel’nost’ profsoiuzov. Moscow, 1958.
Zograf, N. G. “Teatral’naia samodeiatel’nost’.” In Ocherki istorii russkogo sovetskogo dramaticheskogo teatra, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1954–60.
Kukaretin, V. I. “Samodeiatel’nyi teatr.” Ibid., vol. 3. Moscow, 1961.
Narodnye teatry strany. Moscow, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A building or outdoor structure providing a stage (and associated equipment) for the presentation of dramatic performances and seating for spectators.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Abbey Theatre
home of famed Irish theatrical company. [Irish Hist.: NCE, 3]
Moscow’s premier ballet company. [Russ. Hist.: NCE, 327]
famous theatrical district at New York’s Times Square. [Am. Hist.: Hart, 107]
Carnegie Hall
New York’s venerable theater for concert-goers. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 460]
(Théâtre-Francais) world’s oldest established national theater. [Fr. Hist.: EB, III: 33]
Drury Lane
London street famed for theaters; the theatrical district. [Br. Hist.: Herbert, 1321]
Federal Theater
provided employment for actors, directors, writers, and scene designers (1935–1939). [Am. Hist.: NCE, 932]
Garrick Theatre
famous London playhouse; named for David Garrick. [Br. Lit.: NCE, 1048]
Globe Theatre
playhouse where Shakespeare’s plays were performed. [Br. Lit.: NCE, 1094]
Habima Theater
national theater of Israel; its troupe is famous for passionate acting style. [Israeli Hist.: NCE, 1170]
La Scala (Teatro alla Scala)
“Theater at the Stairway”; Milan opera house; built 1776. [Ital. Hist.: EB, VI: 57]
Lincoln Center
New York’s modern theater complex. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1586]
Metropolitan Opera House
famous theater in New York City; opened in 1883. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1761]
Old Vic London Shakespeare
theater (1914–1963). [Br. Hist.: NCE, 1999]
Radio City Music Hall
New York City’s famous cinema; home of the Rockettes. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2338]
Shubert Alley
heart of Broadway; named after the three Shubert brothers. [Am. Hist.: Herbert, 1322]
Winter Garden
a famous old theater in New York City. [Am. Hist.: Payton, 738]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(US), theater
a. a building designed for the performance of plays, operas, etc.
b. (as modifier): a theatre ticket
2. a room in a hospital or other medical centre equipped for surgical operations
3. plays regarded collectively as a form of art
4. the theatre the world of actors, theatrical companies, etc.
5. writing that is suitable for dramatic presentation
6. US, Austral, NZ the usual word for cinema
7. a circular or semicircular open-air building with tiers of seats
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Theaters may be a metaphor for our physical lives. To paraphrase Shakespeare, life is a stage and we are merely trying to make the best of it. Maybe in your dreams you are acting out some of your personal issues and concerns. Think about the details of your dream and what is going on in the theater. Is it a comedy or a tragedy? Are you having fun, or are you very uncomfortable or bored? All of these will give you clues in regard to the meaning of theater-based dreams.
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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