EVGENY VAKHTANGOV

(1883-1922)

 

It’s very hard to understand a genius both for contemporaries and descendants. It’s a great happiness when after years and decades pass one still has loyal disciples and followers who – having once accepted – keep the Master’s heritage as a disinterested gift. The said above has direct connection with our School that develops rich heritage of its founder. The name of Evgeny Vakhtangov is connected with history of the Institute, with its Past and Future forever.

He was born on February 1 (13), 1883 in Vladikavkaz in a Russian-Armenian family of a tobacco manufacturer. Having got enthusiastic about theatre he rejected his father’s legacy and a career in commerce.

After that he studied at the Science and Law Departments of The Moscow University. Vakhtangov wrote a lot, put shows on stage and of course played in amateur hobby groups in Riga, Grozny, Vladikavkaz, Viazma… There, on amateur stages appeared his passion for experiment, team work, improvisation and paradoxes of acting.

In 1909 Vakhtangov enters drama courses of A.Adashev. The teachers here are the best actors and theatre workers of that time: V.Kachalov, V.Luzhsky, L.Sulerzhitsky… In 1911 Vakhtangov was enrolled in Moscow Art Theatre. He studies, plays, comprehends… He becomes Konstantin Stanislavsky’s assistant in developing a method of acting that soon will be called “The Stanislavsky System”, he works with young people of the theatre, which later on will become the core of the First Studio of The Moscow Art Theatre. Moral perfection, a performance as spreading of beauty and kindness – this is how he sees aims of serving the Art: “I want theatre not to have names. I want the audience not to be able to realize their own sensations, want them to bring the sensations home and live with them long. It’s only possible when performers (not actors) open their souls to each other without any lie… To banish theatre from the theatre, an actor – from a play. To banish make-up, costumes”.

At the same time Vakhtangov teaches a lot. He works with amateur hobby groups and keeps developing ideas of team work and constant search. A special place in his life is given to a student drama studio in which he started rehearsing a play by B.Zaitsev “The Lanins’ Country Estate” in 1913. Later, in 1917 this hobby group will become The Moscow Drama Studio under the direction of Evgeny Vakhtangov, in 1920 it will become The Third Studio of The Moscow Art Theatre, and then, in 1926 – The State Vakhtangov Theatre.

October Revolution was a special stage in the life of Evgeny Vakhtangov. He defines his aims and tasks in the article “An Artist Will Have to Answer…” written in 1919 that became one of the first manifests of the soviet art of theatre directing. “If a artist wants to create “new”… he should create together with People. Not for them, not for the sake of them, not without them but together with them”, writes Vakhtangov.

The time required new principles of expression and for Vakhtangov “fantastic realism” became such a principle. It’s a unity of hyperbole, grotesque and buffoonery. “It’s time to bring theatre back to the theatre!” proclaims the director who said directly opposite things before. He rejects principles of everyday life in theatre. He chooses the way of creating new language on stage that requires both expressive form and deep psychology in a show. Shows of this kind were C.Gozzi’s “Princess Turandot” and “Gadibuk” by S.Ansky (S. Rapoport). They became the fundament for a dynamic, changing and never growing old theatre.

He didn’t live several weeks till the opening night of “Princess Turandot”. Vakhtangov died on May 29, 1922 as was preordained by himself: “end one’s days on the Earth well and – if possible – end them ably and finely”.