He could have become a successfulbusinessman to continuethe family
business- hisfather ownedtobacco factoryin Vladikavkaz.
But hebecame a theater-loverwhile studying inhigh school; he performed on the amateur stageof his native city. In 1903,EugeneVakhtangoventered the Moscow Universityfirst onphysics and mathematics faculty,and thento a law school,and at oncetook an active partin studenttheater group.
Comingto Vladikavkaz, he kept staging performancesand playing in them, thus arousing resentmentof his father,who believed that theson has been dishonoring theirrespectablename.MarriageofVakhtangov with his school loveagainst the will ofhis fatherledto a final breakdownwith the family -Vakhtangovwas disinherited. But he has madehis choice-theater becomes his mainpassion andlife’s devotion.
In 1909 Vakhtangovjoined the”Courses ofdrama of Adashev”, where he was taught by actors ofthe Moscow Art Theater(including V.Katchalov), and the course,was admitted to thecompany ofthe Moscow Art Theatre in 1911. He is 28years old, buthe still enthusiasticallyparticipatesincrown scenes of a renowned Moscow Art Theatretogether with his friend, a brilliantactorMichael Chekhov(nephew of Anton Chekhov).
But timeis already countingthose 10 shirt years, left forVakhtangov to implement the most daringideas. Very quicklyVakhtangovbecomes one of thefavorite studentsof K.Stanislavsky,a faithful followerofhis system, a person who may be trustedclasseswith the other actorsonthe new methodology.Vakhtangov is involved in teaching a group ofyoung people, whichformed the core ofthe firstStudio of the Moscow Arts Theatre; he plays in productions of theStudio, stages “Holiday of the World” after G. Hauptmannand “Flood” of Y.Berger thatenjoy success.Vakhtangov wasgreatly influenced byLeopoldSulerzhitsky, aStudio Director, who passed away too early. He was an associate of Stanislavsky, an extraordinary man,a unique individual withan unusual destiny.
Sulerzhitsky’scredowas acontinuous self-perfection, the truth of experiences, preaching of good,as a main scopeof the theater, the principle of the studio’sexistence as a groupof like-minded people and moral principlesas an essentialcomponent ofcreativity. Vakhtangov’snamebecame well-knownamong theyouth of thetheatre sphere. And in1913, on the request of talentedyoung men and womenhe headed the Student DramaTheatre(hereinafter named as “Mansurova’s studio”), a studio, whichin 1920became thethirdMoscow Arts TheatreStudio, and from 1926 is called theVakhtangov Theater.
To his first classat the Studentdrama studiothirty-year oldEugeneVakhtangovcame dressed in a morning coat, striped trousers andstarchedshirt.”Dressed up” – thoughtone ofthe Studio students. It was only later that he understood, after he hasheard the words ofthe Master:”A THEATRE is a HOLIDAY. One should come to the studio as if it were a holiday. In the artist’s soul there should always be ringingsilver bells! Or hugebells! One cannotcreateartin his usual,ordinary, everydaywell-being!”.These wordsare a keyto understanding of thecreative Vakhtangov’s credo.As iffeeling thetransienceof his own life, Vakhtangov seeksto realize histalent as much as possible.
It would be enoughto name all thestudiosand clubs, where Vakhtangov works in 1912-1922 to see howselfless andresponsible he is devoting himself to his life-business. The Drama course of S.Halyutina, a Jewish studio “Habima”, the secondMHATStudio, Studio of A.Gunst, Studio of F.Chaliapin, an Armenian studio. Moreover, hecontinues his work inthe FirstStudio of the Arts Theatre, and of course,in his,Mansurova Studio. It was a timeof massenthusiasm around theater, the search of new forms,anda lot ofstudios, courses and study groups appeared in Moscow.
“Andall of thisenormousburden- wrote Vakhtangov – Idrag, halfcrouched, slanted by my illness, and I cannot afford myself to leaveat least oneof these activities…I haveto give whatI’ve got until I have some time”.
The last yearsof his life -1920-1922, when the terriblediseasemakes itself evident in horrendouspain, operations, hospitals, are amazingly fruitfuland rich. Vakhtangovreleases the secondversion of the “Miracle of St. Anthony” by M. Maeterlinck’s play. The premiereof the play in November 13, 1921is the birthday ofthe VakhtangovTheater.
WithJewishactors of”Habima” Studio in January 1922 a tragedy ofS. An-sky is released – theperformance named “Gadibuk” that later has become his directorialmasterpiece. The performance is played in Hebrew,but the action is soexpressive thatit becomes understandablewithoutknowing of the language. A littleearlier he had completedanotherstagetragedy- the play “Erich XIV” by A. Strindberg’s play in theFirstStudio of the Moscow Art Theaterworkingwith Mikhail ChekhovandSerafimaBirman.
K. Stanislavsky claimsVakhtangovcannot find thetime for workingwith him on theplay by AlexanderPushkin “Mozart and Salieri”. While on thestage of the Third Studio ofthe Moscow Arts Theatre the rehearsing of his masterpiece, a resplendentbrilliant”PrincessTurandot” byCarlo Gozzi is already started.Vakhtangovfanciedputting on stage «Cain” by Byronand the Bible,but deathprevented those plans.
February 14, 1922 heappeared on stageas an actor for the last time,playingFraserin the performance of theFirststudio,”The Flood”. According to the memoirs of M. Chekhov”His playing was more thanexcellent.Allhis partnersjustadmiredthem.Butthey thoughtto themselves thatthis wasthe last performancewith Vakhtangov”. Atnight from 23 to24 February 1922 the last rehearsalin the life ofVakhtangov was held.He was verybad, the temperature rose to 39 degrees,he was sitting ina fur coat, having wrappedhis headwith a wet towel.
At 4 am, when everyone was literallydead on his feet, he announced a run-throughof the play “Princess Turandot”: “The whole play – from beginning toend”. This was the only timeVakhtangov hadseen his whole creation,inall its splendor ofhis creation. He had never shown upin the theater againand never got up from his bed.
Dyingdirectorstaged a sunny play, filled with the joy of lifeand free creativity. His play “Princess Turandot” was admired by everyone: masters –Stanislavsky,Nemirovich-Danchenko, Katchalov and the audience (Nepmen,workers, students,theater-goers, colleagues) … A perfume”PrinceCalaf” was created and the waltzfrom the play became really fashionable.
Vakhtangovdied inMay 29, 1922. He fulfilledhis covenant – “to end his days on the earthin a best way”. Being Stanislavsky’s favorite pupil, he deeply studiedhis system and got interested inMeyerhold’sideas at some point. But Vakhtangov has created his ownmethod, having named it “fantastic realism”, ensuring a special way of existence of anactor on stage, which has indeed become a uniqueVakhtangovtheater style.