2007 class -- acting2
GeoAlaska: Theatre & Film
Spring 2003: Don Juan
ShowCases: 3 Sisters, Mikado, 12th Night, Hamlet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Dangerous Liaisons, Don Juan
If you never heard of Meyerhold or biomechanics, read Rudnitsky or Brown, the books I recommend. Everything you need to know about Meyerhold (and the basics of Biomechanics) is there. My task is different, I speak about the use of it
Meyerhold thought that his Biomechanics is a science and easy to understand. It's a skill; all you need is a training.
I agree. The knowing makes theatre even more mysterious!
Fundamentals : BioMethod
One Act Fest
Notes"Stanislavski told the actor he must forget that he is on stage ... Meyerhold told him he must remember that he is one of the audience." ... Meyerhold wanted to bring about a new relationship between the stage and the audience by focusing on the theatre as a mirroring device by means of which other codes—social, political, cultural—and not only aesthetic ones could be reexamined. (Kiebuzinska 1988:44)
2004 & After
[ summary page? ] * Eisenstein on Biomechanics (1920-22 lectures' notes) -- in Russian.
"By the end of the Civil War, Eisenstein had completely shed his career as a civil engineer and was seeking a theater group to join. The Bolshevik Revolution had ushered in a veritable golden age of the arts. Within the criterion of support to the Revolution, myriad schools of aesthetics sprang up, each enthusiastically seeking a way to express the power of the revolution through art and each having its own theater group, magazine, writers’ circle, etc. As Soviet film director Igor Yutkevich recalled in 1966:
In the midst of this vast laboratory of the arts, Eisenstein applied to the theater group and school led by the great and controversial director, Vsevelod Meyerhold, and was accepted. Meyerhold had broken from the traditional "naturalist" theater and stressed spectacle and "biomechanics" (precise stage movement and acrobatics) in his classes. Although Eisenstein had applied for training as a designer, Meyerhold made him and every other student participate in every aspect of production, including acting. Though not primarily a film director, Meyerhold taught or influenced the majority of film directors who emerged from this period. He was to die before Stalin’s firing squad in 1939.
Eisenstein may have officially been the designer on many of the subsequent productions up through his affiliation with the Proletkult Theater, but was actually fulfilling the role of director more and more. Increasingly, he brought into each production his impatience with the restrictions of the theater. For the production of Jack London’s The Mexican, on which he was designer, he staged the climactic scene, an actual boxing match, in front of the curtain. Ordinarily, such a scene would have taken place off-stage and been merely referred to in the play. For the production of Enough Simplicity in Every Wise Man, which he directed, he introduced circus acts (including a tightrope walker) and a short film to depict the main character’s diary. For the production of Gas Masks, which he directed, he moved the play entirely out of the theater and staged it in a gas factory. The play, which depicted life in a gas factory, ended each performance as the new shift came to work."
* As a youth, Sergei Eisenstein attended the science-oriented Realschule, to prepare himself for engineering school. However, he did find time for vigorous reading in Russian, German, English and French, as well as drawing cartoons and performing in a children's theater troupe which he founded. In 1915, he moved to Petrograd to continue his studies at the Institute of Civil Engineering, his father's alma mater. On his own, he also studied Renaissance art and attended avant-garde theater productions of Meyerhold and Yevreinov.
The outline is at Contents page with the description of each page-file (you may call them chapters). The support pages are not developed, but you can find good bibliography on Meyerhold at existing books. There are several Internet sources and I try to keep them in Links. The Glossary is more than anything else is a work-in-progress; the terms and definitions are not for me with my lack of self-discipline. If you want to know how I plan to work on this "webscript" -- go to Notes, those are the notes for myself. I am not sure that "BioMX for Actors" indeed can be a textbook, but I try to force myself to stay organized. Your comments, suggestions, recommendations are welcome.....
I will be adding more graphics (drawings and diagrams), but more about it in Introduction. I am glad that this "project" began on the web, which offers this postmodern hypertext structure to compose your own narrative. I can offer you several paths of reading. If you are interested in theory, follow the outline (chronotope-time-space, etc.); for impatient actors -- go to the Body-As-Prop... or make your own plan for your journey!
If and when the book is to be published, I will get to the Notes. Abbriviations: M -- Meyerhold (quotations and page numbers are from "Meyerhold, Director"), BM -- Biomechanics and so on.
In addition to BM Glossary I linked some of the terms to my other teaching webpages in acting, directing and theory of drama. Also, some files from Russian-American Theatre (RAT) Project of 1992-94.
Meyerhold: «Actors work to all intents starts after the premier. I believe that a performance is never ready in premier. And that is not because we didn’t have the time to, but because it matures only in front of the audience».This is one of the first pages on Biomechanics (the original is still @ Biomech, Acting Directory). There are two more pages @ Theatre w/Anatoly: BioMX, The Summary and Biomex in Class (all are drafts). The original title for my website "Lab Theatre w/Anatoly" was to stress the backstage nature of studing theatre. I believe that is how Meyerhold understood MAKING theatre.
If you are a director, there is an old paper 3 Texts, which is based on Meyerhold's concepts. This webBook is is for Actors Only!
I. RUSSIAN SILVER AGE AND STUDIO THEATRESMarginally professional, amateurs and students. "Studio" = research. [Tradition of "home theatres" - non-professional, semi-amateur, non-commercial]. Studio-theatre with experimental, not box-office orientation, often performed only a few shows and mostly to "special" public. Theatre for theatre people. Theatre for the insiders. Meyerhold worked with numerous studio-theatres (properly, they should be called "groups"). During the perestroika after the abolishing of censorship (1989) the small numbers of "underground" theatres went into literal explosion. Instead of one group each city got hundreds of them. (From Russian-American Theatre Files)Meyerhold maintained his contact with studio-theatres even when has was a director of the Alexandrinka (Imperial) Theatre in St. Petersburg before the Revolution; to experiment with theatre forms, which the big stage is not suitable for. The studio-theatre movement became a laboratory (kitchen) of Theatre Arts. Yes, Russia has its own off- and off-off-Broadway. (See Russian-American Theatre (RAT) Project)
By the time of the revolution those two parallel theatrical trend came to the point when many believed that the new theatre is about to be born. It was born and radically replaced the "old" representational theatre. Realistic (and often naturalist) theatre, which two decade ago gave a birth to "new" theatre of Russia, became an object of attacks and a symbol of the past. The time moved so fast that for a new generation Stanislavsky was the old news."Today the impersonate and interpret; tomorrow they must represent; and the third day the must create." Gorden Craig
1. NEW THEATRE: THEATRICAL THEATREGood theatre is always "stylized" theatre. The Silver Age was dominated by the symbolism. Style = form, i.e. theatre language (specifically theatrical ways of communications). Difference between the Form and the Content. "Art for Arts Sake" -- the only criteria of the artist and "artistic." Against the other Russia's tradition of propaganda new (progressive) ideas: to teach and to serve the people. Art (especially poetry) served as a vehicle of social changes; the future foundation of Socialist Realism. A-historical, metaphysical (mystic) -- aqumeism (akmeism). Focus on aesthetics, Russian School of Formalism (pre-semiotics). Issues of structure (structuralism), construction (constructivists). Style is an organizational mechanism and style as a message. Vigodsky: form overcoming the material, their initial conflict, and synthesis.
Poetics of Theatre: theatricality. What is theatrical (performance) language? First, theatre lost its dependence on dramatic literature (Mayakovsky), good literature (stage compositions), and any text all together (street manifestation, political happening). Free of the tyranny of the Word, theatre concentrated on stage-forms of expression. Theatre discovered a new author -- director. Designers entered this new theatre as theatre artists. Even light moved from being functional to expressive language of theatre communication. Producing the classics ("The Inspector General" by Gogol, "Forest" by Ostrovsky), the new theatre has to fulfill its new interpretive obligations -- new production has a right to exist only on condition of a new "reading" of the classical text. "Text" became a material for another "text" (performance). (See 3Texts)
The principle of one (true) reading of the play was rejected. Play from now on was an object of "interpretation" -- the stage got a priority over literature. In this world of "visions" the same play would be done by several directors at once an treated as different messages. It was a world of view points (or POV). Theatre not only was granted this right of creating a new meaning to previously produced drama, but required the new vision of the known. It has to be "another" "Hamlet," it has to be rediscovered and "created" anew.
The Post-Einstein perception of the world:
"...the fundamental principles of the art of relativistic, or conditional (uslovnyi), theatre."(137)
Meyerhold understood that the "formal" principle is not a question of "artistic license" but a truly fundamental, even a metaphysical issue. Since there were many competing interpretation of the "same", we have to understand to which degree the real was "real" -- "vision" of reality was competing reality itself. Which reality is real? -- stage reality is purified (true) reality of the real. (This is the postmodern issue, but the Russian Communists and one the brightest of them, Meyerhold, believed that they were beyond the "modern" -- the capitalism. Read their manifestos to understand how radical they were, or read the prophet Marx, who saw everything as a material to work with).
"In relativistic theatre the stage action poetically transforms reality." (139) The children of Futurism, the Formalists (Schklovsky), replaced the word "transforms" with "constructs" (creates) reality. The reality itself at this level is not even a material, but an inspiration for theatre artists, a departuring point in your journey narrating the vision of "your" world. Dramatic (objective) narrative becomes a poetic narrative. That's why Brecht introduced "Epic" structures, which Aristotle separated from drama twenty five centuries ago. That's radical, man!
Formal Theatre had to re-define its priority; genre isn't a matter of dramatic narrative, but the rules of linguistic pre-arrangements. Tragic or comic become formative categories. Rethink Structure and Texture, Aristotle!
Genre: "The theatre and the audience `arrange' in advance the emotional coloration of the action." (139)
Audience and theatre go for the aesthetic contract. Meyerhold puts into psycho-fine-arts terms -- the emotional coloration of the action. But could it done "in advance"?"He believed that reality should be created in the mind of the spectator rather than on stage, and based his work on Pavlov's Theory Association."Pavlov? Professor Pavlov and his Tacko-Bell-dog discovered that if you ring a bell and give food, very soon you will have a syliva at the ring (food or not). If a dog has "associations" -- oh, boy, don't I have them!
Implications? Eisenstein's theory of montage is based on this physiological principle: if you see a shot of man's face and a naked woman, your mind concludes -- Aha! Sex!
If you see the same shot (CU) of the same man next to the shot of a humburger = Oh! He is hungry!
You see, everything is in your mind! The link! The meaning!
That was a revolution!
For men, not dogs.
This revolution was against the overwhelming success of representational theatre (Moscow Art Theatre School). There was a secret side of the naturalist theatre -- dramatic narrative from the birth of theatre belong to many characters, theatre messages were expressed in hidden (not openly articulated) forms -- we always were "guessing" the message, comparing statements and actions of many. As in life. Verisimilitude was pregnant with this twentieth century cultural explosion. In the times of revolt of the masses and success of the industrial (manufacturing) revolution, an individual claimed his right to see the world "his" way. Spectator revolted against the public. Mimesis, which ruled arts (drama to the extreme), contradicted not only the interpretive nature of the dramatic (author voice is never direct, only through many voices), it contradicted the sensitivity. We, Americans, didn't see the past in control of the present: the future rules the present. We are not inhabitants of the existing reality, but the builders of our "own" designed -- and "artificial" (man-made) reality. Instead of being a great teacher, History acted as a burden, that was the begging of the American Age.
The theater of direct conformity to life: Stanislavsky.The theatre of direct conformity to life attempts to confront the audience with all the unpredictable complexity of reality and the unexpected development of events, attempting to conceal both the ending and the emotional coloration of the action from the public. Stage action is to catch the audience unprepared, so that its impact is increased. This is why the genre `play' or `drama' exists; the theatre of direct conformity to life warns the audience of nothing in advance, and the same time is the bearer of detailed and accurate minutiae, both of everyday life and psychology, which make the artistic whole believable. (139)That's the justification for the "Forth Wall." We wash imitation of life's complexity, we have to forget that we are in theatre, suspend the sense of division between the stage and the public. We don't not notice "theatre" -- and lose the chance to enjoy the theatricality. The artfulness of representational theatre is to make us not to see the artificiality, language, and -- art of theatre.
Two Modes of the Audience (Theatrical and Non-Theatrical public):Relativistic theatre seeks applause.... Relativistic theatre feels confined in ordinary theatre buildings. Its ideal is street theatre. (140)Paradoxically, the Formalistic Theatre turned to forgotten forms of folk, pre-classical theatre. The theatre public got divided into two types of audiences; one -- capable of "reading" theatricality of performance, and general public which still saw theatre as a dramatic carrier of moral (ideological) messages. After the 1917 Meyerhold tried to combine the both: mass and elitist theatres. He expected that the new (non-bourgeois) previously un-exposed public (workers) could be formed into a new third type of audience. (Similar attempt by Bertolt Brecht). Epic Theatre in Germany and Formalism in Russia have went into "presentational" mode of performance. Style of acting, dramatic texts went from self-contained entities into an open-structure systems when the audience has to play active role into theatrical process."In relativistic theatre the action is just as naturally broken up into separate episodes, fragments or `numbers'." (140)After Brecht it became known as "fragmentic" (non-climatic) structure ("episodic structure"). Another way to establish "distance attitude" -- to alienate the audience in order to make intellectual contact with them. We have to be reminded that we are in the theatre! Audience has to play its part in the show (inter-active). In this model audience is the part of the show machine which is supposed to link, to connect, to complete the "product." [The way we, as film viewers connect shots into a comprehensive narrative.] The product of the show -- us, our aesthetic (dramatic) experience. Public is co-producer, co-author (Foucalt)."Relativistic theatre, meanwhile, is an arranged, specially organized and even more intense and condensed from of action." (141)"Action" has to be understood as "theatrical" action (not only dramatic, narrative).
2. THE DETAILSM: "The greatest unpleasantness is the stage floor, its evenness. As a sculptor sculpts clay, so let the stage floor be sculptured and, from a wide field become a compact collection of planes at various heights."Theatre totally free from the power of literature, a theatre without a play or predetermined text. Examination the "nucleus" of theatre-pure, wordless action.
"The actor, whose figure did not dissolve in the decorative draperies which were now removed to the background, becomes the object of attention as a work of art. And each gesture of the actor becomes increasingly extractive; simple, precise, set in relief, rhythmical." (142)
Theatrical truth -- special experiences. What kind?
Music is the substance of the action!
Most of the Meyerhold's terminology came from the music theory.
3. GROTESQUEExpressiveness of alogism:M: "What is basic to the grotesque is the progress of the viewer from just-deciphered plane of perception into another, totally unexpected one." (160)Mask juxtaposed the art of the intelligentsia with simple folk art. New function of mask: masked person = the double face.
Style "Moderne" avoided straight lines and clear geometric contours. (different, removed, even otherworldly beauty, the uniqueness of each structure > modernism)"An aftertaste of theatricality came to architecture. The STYLE was exotic." (179)
Fantasy and symbolismMeyerhold? "Effect-maker" ("gala presentations," grand spectaculars"). "The Montage of Attractions" by Eisenstein. Film is the biggest special effect of theatre!M: "Stanislavsky. His path is from characters though characters to characters." (201)Meyerhold at Work by Paul Schmidt, Ilya Levin, Vern McGee -- This book is intended to provide a view of Meyerhold at work on a few selected productions, as he was observed and remembered by those who worked with him, and to trace some patterns in the major events of his artistic life. The focus of these materials is specifically Meyerhold's work onstage and the complicated personal relationships that were a constant part of that work, and not primarily the cultural and artistic context in which the work was produced. This book is meant as a source book for actors, directors, and designers; it was compiled with the needs of contemporary theater people in mind.
Meyerhold brought back the stock characters of the Commedia. Eisenstein, his student, didn't believe in "actors" in film. Only with the sound he had to bring them in.M: "But in essence the talent always experiences a role emotionally, while mediocrity only represent." (203)Here is the biggest secret for you, actors:"The essence of the theatrical business is the complete absence of freedom and full freedom of improvisation. This may sound paradoxical, and it is so." (204)Marxism:
Freedom in subordination.
"Why reflect, this modern life?
It must be overcome.
We must improve the body of man." (205)....find forms and colors, movements and sounds, that symbolicly would express the soul and content locked within the dramatic action, which would be an artistic flesh until the end of the corresponding soul of the poetic work. (214)
Merezhkovsky: "mind of the brain and mind (intellect) of the soul (emotion)." Very Russian!
Kugel:This show -- the first presentation of Masquerade -- was on Saturday, February 25, when the Revolution already was in full swing. In the streets, distant ones, it is true, there was firing. The trolleys were not running, the street lamps burned dimly... Scarce cabdrivers asked incredible sums. Cries could be heard and crowds with flags were gathering. There were no people and it was eerie. The theatre, however, was full -- and what prices! In the 6th row a seat cost 22 or 23 rubles... At the theatre entrance automobiles stood in solid black row.... They worked five years and spent three hundred thousand in gold only on the set. A bullet killed a student in the vestibule of the theatre. Patrols checked documents in the streets....
...On this tragic evening of Russian history there was something that persistently, annoyingly, and continuously confronted the eye. When the first curtain rose, artistically painted by Mr. Golovin, then came a second painted by him with equal artistry, then, for some reason a third and then a fourth of transparent gauze, while in the wings stood portals of undetermined significance with gilded sculptural decorations by Mr. Evseev and the costumes flickered past, one more magnificent, more incredible, more intricate and, I dare say, more stupid than the next, and everyone was exclaiming, `ah, ah, ah, how luxurious, how rich!" -- in a word, when this Babylon of mindlessly absurd luxury appeared before me in all its Semiramide artistic lasciviousness I was afraid. I knew -- everyone knew -- that two or three miles away crowds of people were shouting for bread and that some policemen receiving 70 rubles per diem were pouring machine-gun lead on these hungry people craving bread.
...And in this requiem that concluded the existence of the Imperial Theatre there was something symbolic. (231-232)
[notes -- Brown and Rudnitzsky]
II. RED OCTOBER"in the prologue to Mystery-Bouffe the actors simply tore to shreds the posters from Petrograd theatres." (259)
Carnival, Revolution, Masks"Now we no longer defend the interests of the author, but those of the audience." (269)
....text became something of an obstacle. Decoration was replaced by a construction. the construction of drama = attraction assembly (episodic structure). There is no stage and auditorium anymore; to organize the stage space most conveniently for the actors, to create "working space for the players. A machine. Non-individual approach to reality.
Pushkin's formulas: masks of exaggeration, truth of passions, verisimilitude of feelings under the proposed circumstances, freedom of judgement by the street, blunt openness of popular passions.
"Americanization" of life: the theatre of the near future would be a sort of school giving the audience lessons in rational, laconic, expedient motion.
Life-construction (zhiznestroenie):Biomechanics establishes the principles of precise analytical execution of each motion, establishes the differentiation of each motion for purposes of maximum precision, demonstrativeness -- visual Taylorism of motion (Sign of refusal -- the establishing of the start and end points of motion, a pause after each accomplished motion, the geometrization of movement in planes.) We must be able to show the modern actor on stage as a complete automation. (294)
The actor's art is the creation of plastic forms in space. Therefore, the actor's art is the ability to utilize the expressive potential of his body correctly. This means that the route to image and feeling must begin not with experience, not with seeking to plumb the meaning of the role, not with an attempt to assimilate the psychological essence of the phenomenon, in sum, not "from within" but from without; it must begin with motion. This means the motion of an actor excellently trained, possessing musical rhythm and easy, reflectory excitability; an actor whose natural abilities have been developed by systematic training. (294-295)
Actor = Artist (Method) + Medium (Biomechanics)From the external (which is easy caught, grasped and may be fixed) -- to the internal (which even if understood to the end is not always grasped and in practice cannot be fixed for repetition). (295)....ease the actor's self-control and his entry onto the stage. In no way does biomechanics contradict the expression of the internal content of human emotional experience, etc. (304)ENDNOTES:
My notes on Rudnizky's book, all quotes and pages from that edition. I do not know how long will it take for the "notes" to become "texts"....
 One of many; "Fairy-Tale" (Skazka) Theatre in St. Petersburg reappeared during the Perestroika. (147) And still functions as a city children theatre. It's a solid professional theatre but connection with its pre-revolution period is only in name.
 _Actors on Acting_ (379)
 _Actors on Acting_ (501)
There are some relevant themes in Father-Russia, another unfinished book of mine.
Vsevolod Meyerhold (Directors in Perspective) by Robert Leach, Christopher Innes (Editor) -- This book traces the career of the Russian revolutionary theater director, Vsevolod Meyerhold, from his early years as a founding member of the Moscow Art Theater with Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, through his Symbolist period, his experiments with commedia dell'arte and other popular forms, and his glittering triumphs in the tsarist imperial theaters. Leach examines Meyerhold at the height of his fame and influence after the Russian Revolution and during his demise in the Stalin era. He describes in detail Meyerhold's "system" of theater, which involved the audience, the place of the forestage, "biomechanics" and actor training, and the mise-en-scene. An exploration of Meyerhold's legacy, which can be detected in the work of Brecht, Eisenstein, Peter Brook and others, concludes the study.
MEYERHOLD AND THE THEATRE THEATRICAL *
An online course supplement *
2005-2006 Theatre UAF Season: Four Farces + One Funeral & Godot'06
Film-North * Anatoly Antohin * eCitations *