Stanislavsky and the Avant-Garde

Authored by: Julia Listengarten

The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415535649
eBook ISBN: 9780203112304
Adobe ISBN: 9781136281853


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In 1902, Valery Briusov, a Russian poet and advocate for the symbolist philosophy and aesthetic, published a seminal article titled “Unnecessary Truth,” in which he challenged the naturalistic conventions that prevailed on contemporary stages at the turn of the century, specifically in the productions of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT). 1 Pointing to directors' excessive attention to detail as they attempt to reproduce life faithfully on stage, Briusov shared his observations that in most Russian theatres “actors endeavor to speak as they would in a drawing room, scene painters copy views from nature, [and] costume designers work in accordance with archaeological data” (qtd in Cardullo and Knopf 2001: 73). In the same article, he encouraged theatre artists to engage the spectator&s imagination through innovative, non-realistic approaches to scenery and lighting, and he urged playwrights to abandon “superfluous, unnecessary, and ultimately futile copying of life” in search for the spiritual and universal (qtd in Cardullo and Knopf 2001: 76). Around the same time, Anton Chekhov, too, showed interest in symbolist drama and encouraged Konstantin Stanislavsky to expand his realistic repertoire by venturing into the works of the Belgian symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. Stanislavsky later admitted that it was indeed upon Chekhov&s gentle prodding that the MAT made an unlikely decision to produce Maeterlinck&s three one acts — The Blind, The Intruder, and The Interior (Stroeva 1973: 136). Thus, in May 1904 Stanislavsky began his work on Maeterlinck&s dramatic miniatures in translation by the Russian symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont. 2

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