HISTORY OF THE VAKHTANGOV SCHOOL

 

In December 1913 a group of students of the Commercial Institute organized an amateur theatre studio. They invited a young actor of the Fisrt Studio of the Moscow Art Theatre EvgenyVakhtangov (1883-1922) – who used to be a student of Konstantin Stanislavsy – to become their Head.

By that moment he had already written his famous lines: “I’d like to make a studio where we would study. The main principle is to achieve everything on our own. The Head is everyone. To try the system of K.S. for ourselves.To accept it or reject it. To correct, add or take away the lie”. That is why when accepting the invitation of the amateur actors he didn’t only see his main task in spreading the Stanislavsky system but he also gave himself the right for his own creative search.

The members of the studio dreamt about mastering the fundaments of the System right in the process of doing a show. On March 26, 1914, in the space of the Hunt Club they gave a show “The Lanins’Country Estate” by B.Zaytsev. However, the show was an enormous fail. Then E.Vakhtangov - who thought that it made more sense to bring actors up rather than teach them – offered: “Let’s study now”. So, on October 23, 1914 they had their first lecture of EvgenyVakhtangov in the studio. That’s why we celebrate the birthday of The Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute on this day.

The next show “The Miracle of St.Antony” by M.Meterlink will only be played by the studio on September 15, 1918. All the years before that were the time of creating a strong and not just an amateur any more collective, in which innovations and the basic elements of the System would get together and form a unified vigorous creative structure.

Understanding that he was seriously ill and meaning to save the studio Vakhtangov in 1920 asked his teachers to include it into the studios of The Moscow Art Theatre, so it became the Third Studio of MAT which opened in 1921 with a show “The Miracle of St.Antony” in a new edition. The show is played in Arbat 26 (the address of The Vakhtangov Theatre now) in a dilapidated mansion that was turned into theatre by own strength of the studio members. Here Vakhtangov would put on the stage a fairy tale by Carlo Gozzi “Princess Tourandot” and… would pass away on May 29, 1922, leaving us a legacy of one of the best Russian shows. In “Princess Tourandot” Vakhtangov embodied an artistic trend that he called “fantastic realism”.

It hadn’t been a decade since the first meeting with the students in December of 1913 but EvgenyVakhtangov managed to lay the foundation of inviolable fundament of the school and the theatre which are still living. His personality, his ideas and the way he took the Stanislavsky system and brought up the artists were so powerful that being alone the students were able to save the school and assert their independence. And further on are milestones…

In 1925 Boris Zahava (1896-1976) becomes the Head of the school.

In 1926 the theatre obtains the status of the State Theatre named after EvgenyVakhtangov. Before 1937 the school exists inside the theatre. Students are only accepted in the school if the theatre has a necessity of new actors. They study and work in the shows of the theatre right from the beginning of their studies. Their teachers are direct disciples of Vakhtangov: Boris Zahava, Vera Lvova, Alexandra Remizova, Leo Shihmatov, Anna Orochko, Tsetsilia Mansurova, Ruben Simonov…

From 1932 the school becomes The State  Theatre College of Specialized Secondary Education and in 1937 moves into a new building that was built in the style of constructivism according to the project of architect N.Kruglov in the Bolshoy Nikolopeskovsky lane. The School is now independent of the theatre. The duration of studies becomes four years. 

In 1939 after the death of Vakhtangov’s disciple and a brilliant actor and a director of The Vakhtangov Theatre Boris Shchukin (1894-1939) the school was given his name which the Institute still bears.

In 1945 the College becomes officially equal to higher educational establishments.

1953 is the first year when courses from different republics come to the school. Since then presence of national studios in The Vakhtangov school has become a tradition.

In 1959 a correspondence course for directors started and later became the Directing Department of the Institute.

In 1964 the diploma show “The Good Man From Sezuan” by B.Brecht’s play gave a start to an experimental theatre that didn’t look like any other Moscow theatre of that time – The Taganka Theatre, the Head of which was Yiury Liubimov, an actor of The Vakhtangov Theatre and a graduate and a teacher of the college.

When Boris Zahava passed away in 1976 the Head of the college became GeorgyPelisov. He was an officer from a ministry, so it was extremely hard for him to manage such a complicated organism as a theatre school.

From 1987 to 2003 the College was headed by People’s Artist of USSR, professor Vladimir Etoush.

In 2003 The Boris Shchukin Theatre College becomes The Boris Shchukin Theatre Institute. Since then until now the Principal of The Vakhtangov School has been People’s Artist of RF, professor Evgeny Knyazev.