Eugeniy Vakhtangov


Yevgeniy Bogrationovich Vakhtangov was an outstanding director, actor and teacher, the head and the founder of the Student Drama School (1913, since 1921 — 3rd Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre, since 1926  — the Vakhtangov Theatre).He was born in Vladikavkaz to a Russian-Armenian merchant family. His father was a major tabacco fabricant and expected his son to continue his business. But even when he was in gymnasium he started being interested in theatre and decided to devote his life to the theatre art. Despite the prohibition of his father Yevgeniy participated in numerous plays, actively and very successfully. After the graduation he entered the Moscow State University, faculty of Physics and Math, and immediately joined the student theatre. The following year he transferred to the Law faculty and the same year had his debut as a director – he staged the student play “Teachers” (by O.Ernst). It was a charity concert that took place 12 January, 1905. At the same time Yevgeniy quarreled with his father when he married his school friend, Nadejhda Michailovna Boytsurova. Soon their first child Segejha was born. Yevgeniy’s father was outraged. He regretted giving Yevgeniy education and deprived him of his inheritance. During his student years Yevgeniy often visited his home town and dreamed of making a theatre in it. He also dreamed of getting the buiding of his father’s factory for the theatre. In 1904-05 he participated in illegal gatherings of young people. In December 1905 he helped building barricades in one of the Moscow lanes and provided the first aid for the wounded. In summer 1909 he was the head of the Vladikavkaz Drama club and staged there “Uncle Vanya and “By the Realm Doors”. The father was again in rage – he considered the posters with his last name being shameful. In summer 1910 Vakhtangov again arrives in Vladikavkaz together with his wife and little son. He staged there an operetta of a local author M.Popov which was very successful in Vladikavkaz and Grozniy. Vakhtangov left the Law faculty and entered the Adashev Drama School, and in 1911 entered the company of the Moscow Art Theatre. Very soon he was noticed by K.S.Stanislavskiy He asked Vakhtangov to teach according to his technisue the practical lessons in the 1st MAT Studio. Vakhtangov became especially famous for this work. His debut as an actor was the role of Freser in Beger’s “Flood”. In the studio he created several chamber plays in which he participated as a actor as well. He contined to look for new methods of acting. Later on he realised that Stalislavskiy’s methods are too harsh and strict, and became interested In V.Meyerhold’s techniques. However, very soon he rejected it too. He had his own image of the theatre which was very different from Stanislavkiy’s, and formulated it in the phrase “fantastic realism”. That was the basis for his own theatre. He agreed with Stanislavskiy that actor is the main person in the theatre. However, he suggested to separate the personality of the actor from his role. He also suggested changing decorations (in his very last play “Turandot”) and costumes. For example, modern costume was to be covered with an unusual and decorated theatre bathrobe. These weird costumes were supposed to be worn right at the stage so that an actor is able of becoming an actor in just several seconds. This was the first time ever when there was created a border between the personality of the actor and his role. Vakhtangov, who was extremely inspired by the revolution of 1917, considered this manner of playing very modern and accorging to the political change. After the revolution he attempted to create new “national” theatre. He worked a lot, the rehearsals took place in the Mat, Gabima Studio and National Theatre group. He also taught and prepred the play for the anniversary of the revolution. Vakhtangov dreamed of staging “Kain” and The Bible but death interrupted his plans. Just one year before his death he founded the 3rd MAT Studio which later became the Vakhtangov Theatre. Early in 1921 he staged Meterlink’s “Resurrection” in which he apllied his new ideas. It was a very successful play which allowed to formulate the director’s metaphoric way of thinking. His “Turandot” established the new movement in directing work. Masks and other Italian techniques allowed his to make the tale actual and topical. Everything that took place in the post-revolutionary Russia was discussed right at the stage in a form of specific dialogues. That allowed the actors to express their own opinion about the actions that took place in the country. Night of 23 February, 1922 became the very last night for Vakhtangov. After the rehearsal, which he attended in furs and with a wet tube around his head, Vakhtangov returned home and lied down in his bed. After the first rehearsal of “Turandot”K.S.Stanislavskiy told his geniuos student, who was already very ill, that he can fall asleep as a Winner. 29 May Vakhtangov’s wife called the 3rd MAT Studio and asked everyone to visit them immediately. Right before the death, Vakhtangov, surrounded by his students, sat down, looked carefully at them and said very quietly his last goodbye. «Turandot» became his last work, and the premiere took place just several weeks after his death. He was buried at the Novodebichie Cemetery.