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Directing Theatre -- Meyerhold Page
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Meyer sum
(c)Spring 2003: Don Juan * Fall 2003: The Possessed [ director's notes ]


Folks, if you are looking for historical data on M. -- check other sites (, for example). This is a directing class and my aim is the applications of M's ideas.


notes on M



Meyerhold'95 page in BM directory (legacy).

Summer 2003, August.
How I plan to use M. for The Possessed.
Staging a novel: compositions.


V. Meyerhold:

M. on Theatre

Meyer @ Work

M. Speaks

Braun -- Meyer.

Theatre of M.

Stanislavky & M.

Theatre of the Grotesque

M. & Brecht

Revolution in Theatre

Dark Genius


M. and his theatre


Vsevolod Meyerhold by Jonathan Pitches; Routledge, 2003 - 1: A Life of Contradictions - 2: Meyerhold's Key Writings - 3: Meyerhold's Key Production - 4: Practical Exercises

The thrust of his work, for almost forty years, was toward the melding of audience and stage, both physically (the stage extending into the auditorium, claques of actors in the hall, and so on) and intellectually (the development of a montage theater, in which disparate artistic elements are presented and the playgoer's imagination has to fill in the gaps). This theatrical philosophy had its problems, however. Meyerhold wanted to have the audience as creative partner, but he also wanted to teach and influence the audience. What happens when the tastes and demands of the playgoers and the director-artist don't happen to coincide? Then the director, in his greater experience and wisdom, must have the last word. (58) [ The Theater of Meyerhold and Brecht by Katherine Bliss Eaton; Greenwood Press, 1985 ]

Meyerhold Pages


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Meyerhold : Matrix -- Stage Directing

2004: 2007
One "Meyerhold" page is in Biomechanics (Meyerhold for Actors) and another one is lost with the whole site "Ant Theatre"; so, here I am to put the minimum you need to know about Meyerhold. Check the links with the reference webpages and get some book(s) on Meyerhorld (I use Amazon for listings).

"Meyer" (nick name) is known mostly for Biomechanics (if known at all), but his theory of stage directing is practically unknown (even in Russia). "Stagematrix" is his term, I use.

See Meyer mini-page for links.

"In 1939, Meyerhold was arrested and accused of anti-government political activities. He was executed in Moscow on February 2, 1940."

All right, I said that I will talking about my secrects. So, here is another personal secret. I want Meyerhold's ideas about directing to be known no less than Stanislavsky's about acting. Should we say by the year 2040? Too bad I will never know...

M (Meyer): Anatoly?

A: Yes, Master!

M: Could you stop it? This nonsense, I mean!

A: What nonsense, sir?

M: Your nonsense about "Meyerhold"! Why don't you stick to the subject, old boy? Directing! Directing, damn it!

A: Sorry, Mr. Meyerhold. I try this Virtual Theatre thing. The hypertext, sir. I am so sorry...

M: Virtual Theatre? I like it. What is it?

A: A new thing, sir. Nobody knows...

M: Virtual? Good. Virtual... What does it have to do with me?


... Kids, you have to live with this "episodic" structure of my webpages and my thoughts. I still hope that some day they will find its true shape.


Mayakovsky see FUTURISM page! Vladimir Mayakovsky and Meyerhold @ amazon *



... Last years. Why didn't he write it down? He had a long life. Looking back and looking forward (the days before the execution). What will be used in the future? The end of his life was as extraordinary and his entire life. "Revolution devour its own children," they say. He was the artist of theatre, not many saw the stage as a specific medium to work with. Yes, there was long history of drama and everything in theatre history was about it -- the extention of the history of dramatic loterature. Only at the turn of the 20th century the stage languages were trully discovered (set, light, sound). Contructivism was the naked essense of that revolution in performative principles. Everything had to be re-evaluated, the way of acting included.

I think that he didn't believe that this was the end. He was a communist, one of the first Russian artist to join the Party. He thought that his imprisoment was a mistake...




Meyerhold and about Meyerhold in "Directors on Directing" (textbook)

See biblio and books pages.

Books on Meyerhold: recommendations

Stage Directing from Amazon *

I'm repeating myself: if you want to know about directing, read The Book of Spectator!


1. History and the story

2. Art and Craft of directing

3. Before and After Meyerhold

4. Advanced Directing?

5. Film directing : the background of stage

6. Universality of director's languages

7. Best directors

8. Taganka and other related pages.

9. My shows

10. Film directing lessons for the stage

Meyerhold, borrowing heavily from the Russian Formalists and particularly from Vladimir Propp, developed the notion that character was little more than an action-function and that there were only a limited number of "types." The goal of the actor--in conjunction with the director--was to identify his or her action type and assume an easily interpreted, or decoded, means for representation. Meyerhold embraced two means for delineating action-function; the first was the assumption of the facial mask and the second was the utilization of the Formalist notion of "deformation and estrangement." The twin goals of estrangement and masks were to reveal social rather than personal meaning. The actor does not psychologically embody the character portrayed but rather illustrates the social type. For each scene, the actor--through proficiency of craft--assumes a specific facial mask that reflects on both character and action. In keeping with the Formalist notion of estrangement and the illustrative acting method, Meyerhold s ought to render actor from character and to prevent identification and psychological assumption. He achieved this by encouraging cross-gender casting, and by consciously avoiding giving actors roles for which they were apparently well suited. THR Semiotics
Direct: members only
Next: mise-en-scene
Sorry, folks, this webmaster (me) tries the new cool tricks and it takes away from the writing, the content! I do not know how to fight the guy; after all, this is theatre webpages and I (writer) understand why he wants to make it a spectacle, a show! The flash banners, layout -- and etc.
@2003-2004 film-north *

... The wealth of dramatic methods and motives which Meyerhold opposes to realism is limited only by the bounds of the most restless fancy. Rejected as a mere means of copying life, the simplist and most homely details take on new significance as they are molded in the theatre into a new world of the imagination. From a prospectus of his Studio, which aims mainly "to develop in the actors the mastery of movement in conformity with the platform where the play goes on", I take these phrases, which indicate roughly the new implications which ordinary acts and facts may be made to assume: "The meaning of the 'refusal'; the value of the gesture in itself; the self-admiration of the actor in the process of acting; the technique of using two stages, the stage and the forestage; the rôle of the outcry in the moment of strained acting; the elegant costume of the actor as a decorative ornament and not a utilitarian need; the headgear as a motive for the stage bow; little canes, lances, small rugs, lanterns, shawls, mantles, weapons, flowers, masks, noses, etc., as apparatus for the exercise of the hands; the appearance of objects on the platform and further destiny in the development of the subject dependent on these objects; large and small curtains (permanent and sliding, curtains in the sense of 'sails') as the simplist method of changes; screens and transparencies as a means of theatrical expressiveness; gauzes in the hands of the servants of the forestage as a means of underlining the separate accents in the playing of the leading actors,--in their movements and conversations; parade as necessary and independent part of the theatrical appearance; various forms of parade in conformity with the character of the general composition of the play; geometrization of the design into the mise en scène, created even ex improviso; the mutual relation of the word and gesture in existing theatres and in the theatre to which the Studio aspires."


subjects : 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * visual composition * concept * light * sound * color * montage * SM * Dramaturg *

Meyerhold, The Death of Ivan the Terrible

"... DON Juan in rehearsal was antic and jolly. In performance, it was sheer joy,--the joy of the theatre as theatre. You face Meyerhold's stage with no illusion that it is not a stage. Of course it is a stage! Why pretend it isn't? There it is, under the full lights of the auditorium, curtain removed and apron extended twenty feet beyond the proscenium arch. It's a play you shall see, a play, you who love the theatre for its own sake! No cross-section of life here, no attempt to copy life! No illusion here, to be shattered by the slightest mishap or by a prosaic streak in the spectator's make-up. It's a play you shall see, and you'll know it all the time, for you'll play, too, whether you realize it or not. The audience is always an essential factor in the production of drama, but never does it enter so completely, so keenly into the psychological complex as in the theatre theatrical. The give and take between audience and actor is dynamic and almost incessant."

Theatre w/Anatoly
'... Meyerhold's facile invention and his instinct for the elements of the dramatic are evident throughout the production of "Don Juan." In addition to solving the secret of the means wherewith to make the play live today with the same zest as at its original performance, he has devoted to every scene a mind alert for those eloquent but uncatalogued nuances and emphases by which a producer heightens the dramatic effect of a play. Such methods are particularly suitable in the theatre theatrical, for it lives and thrives on artifice contrived with skill and imagination. In Don Juan's scene with the peasant girls, for instance, Meyerhold has developed the amusing series of asides to first one girl and then the other in such a way that Juan describes a kind of fantastic geometric figure in his dual conversation. It is all highly artificial, just like Molière's language in the scene, but it is also highly amusing and even mildly exciting in its stimulus to our sense of gesture. By an equally adroit use of suspense, the arrival of the Statue at the feast is built up in a combined spirit of awe and droll extravagance which leaves the spectator in that baffled mood which Meyerhold and even Molière, it would seem, deliberately sought.'


Marking the 125th Birth Anniversary of Stage Director V. Meyerhold

By Olga Rusanova

"He built a production as they build a house. And we were happy to be even a door knob in this house", so the actors, who knew him, used to say about the outstanding Russian stage producer Vsevolod Meyerhold. On February 9, we marked his 125th birth anniversary, a remarkable date for the Russian and world stage. At the turn of the century Meyerhold was among the pioneers who created a new, avant-garde theater, a theater that survives to this day. Much from the master's heritage will undoubtedly be taken along to the 21st century. Meyerhold died almost 60 years ago, in 1940, disappearing in one of the Stalin labor camps. At first the totalitarian regime elevated the innovative stage producer, who, in a sense, became a spokesman of the revolution, and then destroyed him without mercy. Yet Meyerhold was famous in his lifetime and had a theater bearing his name, which existed for 15 years, from 1923 through 1938.

At first Meyerhold's revolutionary pathos and rebellious spirit appealed to the regime. But his artistic individuality, bright, free and unpredictable, caused mistrust and began to be feared. This provided sufficient reason for arrest. And Meyerhold disappeared in the camps. His art too was long absent from the Russian stage. Not until the 1960s, the years of the so-called ideological thaw, was his name mentioned anew and his art began to be revived. Unfortunately, we can get acquainted with Meyerhold's style of staging only from memoirs. Mikhail Chekhov, a nephew of the famous playwright, actor and stage director, who taught many of the Hollywood stars the art of acting, once wrote to Meyerhold: "You know what a tight grip I have on your art. I feel I must imitate you in many ways!" And the Nobel Prize winner, poet Boris Pasternak: "When I came to You, I knew that this was the first and only time that I had come to the theater. I realized what it means and believed in the reality of such art... You are a dramatist no lesser than You are a stage director, and also an amazing historian… I can't say how much I've received from Your "Government Inspector" and "Woe" (Woe to Wit)". The range of Meyerhold as director was enormous. He embraced the Russian and western classics, including Moliere, Dumas fils, Ibsen, Pushkin, Lermontov, Ostrovsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy… and the contemporary dramatists Maeterlinck, Bernard Shaw, Mayakovsky, Olesha, Blok. He also produced the operas "Tristan and Isolde" by Wagner, 'The Queen of Spades" by Tchaikovsky, and "Orpheus" by Gluck.

On stage and in life he was nervous, passionate, hot-hearted, and this attracted people to him. He had contacts with a great number of outstanding contemporaries, including Tolstoy, Chekhov, Prokofiev, Shagal, Tairov, Benois, Bakst, Apollinaire. His company boasted such celebrities of the Russian stage as Garin, Babanova, Iliinsky, Zharov, Okhlopkov, Martinson. Meyerhold was dubbed a theater magician, but more often people called him Master. The pupil of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, he argued with them and moved farther from their school in a search for new forms and means of expression. Yet he always thought of them with respect and admiration. What was Meyerhold's own manner of staging? The leader of the Meyerhold Creative Center Valery Fokin has this to say about it: " He always sought to create a sensual theater… an emotional theater… He loved the classics but never bent the knees to it. True, he had some experience of transforming famous plays. But finally he realized that one should be free when dealing with any writer, even feeling great love and respect for this writer, trying to speak with him as equals. That's what appeals to me in this figure. More important is that his every production was a debut. We have a cliched idea of him as an innovator, a rebel who destroyed everything. We forget that his every work was new to himself, that every new work was a challenge." "The biography of a true artist is that of a person beset with self discontent," Meyerhold used to say. "The life of an artist is the rejoicing on one day, when the last touch is thrown onto the canvas, and the greatest suffering on another day, when the artist sees all his blunders. Only an amateur is free from doubt and is always content with himself. Master is always very strict to himself." Indeed, Vsevolod Meyerhold was a Master.

Quotes & Thoughts:

History Notes

from Psycho-drama perspective:
Ed Hug wrote around April, 1998:

Graciela Rojas-Bermudez (wife of Jaime, my Spanish psychodrama teacher) passed along to me a chapter of a book on the history of the Russian theatre which has some interesting developments coming out of that revolution which show the ferment of the times which are relevant to Moreno's "Living Newspaper", which certainly must have participated in that ferment in some way. Exactly in what way the individual and the "ferment" interact is of great interest to me. As Moreno would have acknowledged, no person acts in a void or feels in a void or thinks in a void. Depending upon whether you believe in the "diffusion" or the "archetypal" hypothesis for the spread of ideas, you may look at the following in a different way. The book is:

Hesse, Jose (19??). Breve Historia del Teatro Sovietico (Brief History of the Soviet Theatre--in Spanish). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.

and under Chap.4 ("Scenography & interpretive technique"), under Sections entitled ... "The psycho-technical school of Stanislavski" and "People's Theatre and the 'Living Newspapers'" we find the following (in translation from Spanish):

"Vsevolov Meyerhold was one of the first disciples of Stanislavski... Notwithstanding the initiatives attributed to Meyerhold in the creation of the large, open-air theatres, it was Nicolas Evreinov, the great theoritician of the Russian theatre, who brought them to realization. He put on stage his idea of revitalizing theatre by pulling out from the play all elements which distracted the audience from the core of the work. He believed strongly in the magic power of theatre and thought of overcoming the limitations of time itself by making the past become present through dramatically locating them in those same places where the events had happened, and through a mise-en-scene which created the illusion of making time go back. Through simplicity of decoration he used everything that could provoke a collective illusion or hallucination (the noise of drums, artificial fires, etc.). The year 1920 was the heroic times for these big shows, intending to make arise the 'healthy civic sense' of the people....
"A new modality of the open air theatre, playing with the most simple theatrical elements, was called the "Living Newspaper" ["Diarios Vivientes"], which appeared in Moscow in 1923 at the initiative of M.Yujanin, theatre director and student of [what today would be called] journalism. The idea of Yujanin was to bring the news to the illiterate people, as well as the political commentary and cultural articles usually covered by the newspapers. This was done using a group of actors and the medium of dialog, monolog and pantomime to dramatize the news. The idea was extraordinarily successful and soon more than 300 groups were performing living newspapers, going from village to village by all sorts of means of transportation. In Leningrad alone, 30 trams were dedicated to the transport of these small theatre groups.

"Yujanin established the model for these plays, and his group (the 'blue shirt') was famous in all the Soviet Union and imitated by most of the other theatre groups. The play was based on the expressive force of the actors, with the scenery and decoration being very simple. The technique of the actors was derived directly from the bio-mechanical theories of Meyerhold.

"Soon a sort of simple, short piece was added at the end to make things lighter. All of the plays had a 'collective author'. The simplicity of the plays and the improvement of the cultural level of the audience, together with the opposition of Lunacharski (who thought that written text was very important for theatre) and the professionalization of actors, made these 'Living Newspapers' almost disappear around 1930."

In the above book, reference is also made to ... Vetrov,B (1926). Le Journal Vivant (The Living Journal). Moscow: ???

Of course there is a basic difference between this and Moreno in the role of the audience. Moreno went further to remove the "fourth wall" than was common in that time." -- Ed Hug

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