"We, too, will show you life that's real—very! / But life transformed by the theater into a spectacle most extraordinary!" writes Vladimir Mayakovsky in the prologue of his famous Mystery Bouffe. [ Theatricality as Estrangement of Art and Life In the Russian Avant-garde ] :
In 1917, Russian Formalist scholar Victor Shklovsky coined the term ostranenie to describe the artistic strategy of presenting the well-known as if seen for the first time. The term is translated into German as Verfremdung, which became the cornerstone of Bertolt Brecht's anti-Aristotelian dramaturgy of estrangement.
Some men's words I remember so well that I must often use them to express my thought. Yes, because I perceive that we have heard the same truth, but they have heard it better. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
new Spring 2002 THR221 Intermediate Acting (focus on biomechanics) * Comedy & Biomechanics Forum *
Contact new Meyerhold Center in Moscow (Valery Fokin, director); see NYT article.
SummaryI lost the main Meyerhold's page. Too bad. I need to introduce the narrator for BM and directing pages. The profession is young, at the best hundrend years. Compare the history of directing with the history of drama, which we still call "theatre history"!
I believe that "history of acting" hasn't began yet, because the art of directing is so young. Not the "word" but performance is the nature of theatre, and director is the artist to develop the future theatre.
On the page that got lost I wrote about the last days of Meyerhold, his arrest, death, murder of his wife in Moscow -- 64.13% typed "revolution devour its own children" [ that what the search engine said about the people who came to Meyer's pages ].
One Act Fest
Notes* training as an actor and director at the Moscow Art Theatre which he entered in 1901
1907, Meyerhold moved to the Imperial Theatre.
Between 1913 and 1917, ending with the revolution—in addition to his large scale productions—Meyerhold established his own studio, The Meyerhold Studio.
2004 & After
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
[ Theatre Theory ]
During his first years as actor and director at the Imperial Theaters in St. Petersburg (from 1908), Meyerhold worked out a theory and practice of the grotesque, a concept which he introduced, as early as 1912, into "the vocabulary of Russian theater."  The grotesque, "based on the conflict between content and form," is a means of transcending "the commonplace in life." Because the grotesque emphasizes the outward, visible elements of the production, it tends to promote the development of all those aspects of theater which appeal to the senses: music, dance, movement, gesture. And since the grotesque is itself a synthesis of opposites, it helps us become aware of the paradoxes of life. The "apparently illogical combination of dissimilar elements which comprises the grotesque, by its strangeness helps to avoid sentimentality," and "creates a picture of the objective world which leads the audience toward an attempt to guess at the mystery of the hidden world." When grotesque elements are inserted in a realistic drama (as in The Unknown Woman, Spring's Awakening, The Earth Spirit, Pandora's Box, Vanka the Butler and Jean the Page), the combination of realism and grotesquerie "compels the audience to have an ambivalent attitude toward what is happening onstage. Isn't it the job of the dramatic grotesque continually to keep the audience in this condition of ambiguity toward the dramatic action, by changing its movement with contrasting strokes?" (65) [ The Theater of Meyerhold and Brecht by Katherine Bliss Eaton; Greenwood Press, 1985 ] (Grotesque -- dict + "Theatricality")
* Meyerhold liked to have his actors do multiple roles, not because there were not enough actors but because the "principle of transformation" is important to a play. (65) He wanted, not the actor's disappearance, but a performer who could let the audience see the player behind the role.
* The motto for his ideal school for dramatists would have been: "words in the theater are only patterns on the canvas of movement."
(The project comprised four workshops led by Alexei Levinski and one workshop led by Gennadi Bogdanov, in Cardiff 14th to 26th October; and an international symposium in Aberystwyth 27th to 29th October)
As the first in the Past-Masters series, my expectations for the Meyerhold workshops and symposium were naturally quite high. However, it wasn't until the end of the entire event that I became aware of a sense of privilege. This was an extraordinary occasion which made space for so many contrasts and, more significantly, for so many meetings.
Two weeks of workshops in Biomechanics - Meyerhold's system of actor training - began the event. The workshops were led by Alexei Levinski and Gennadi Bogdanov - the two leading (and only, as Alexei noted) teachers of Biomechanics in Russia. I participated in two of the workshops led by Alexei, who took us through a daily routine of the basic components of Biomechanics. Work with sticks - throwing, turning and moving them around our bodies - began our day, bringing focus and humility to us all. Basic exercises in balance and tap dance followed. Finally, time was spent learning two of the "etudes" devised by Meyerhold: "The Game with the Stone" and "The Slap". It was here, in this painstakingly slow and precise work, that I became acutely aware of a connection with Meyerhold's work. As my muscles and sinews strove to take on the form of the etudes, my body began to "learn" about Meyerhold.
The body-learning of the practical workshops was then met by the mind-learning of the symposium. As the presentations were made a striking sense of diversity and contrast became apparent, both in Meyerhold's work, and in the work of those who draw inspiration from him:
The political context of Meyerhold's work (often-discussed) was foregrounded in a lively discussion chaired by Robert Leach ... The poeticism and spirituality of Meyerhold (seldom-discussed) was revealed in a paper by Edward Braun.
Richard Taylor drew connections between the grotesque popular art forms in early soviet cinema and Meyerhold's theatrical technique ... BQatrice Picon-Vallin spoke of the form of Meyerholds theatre as aspiring to the beauty of music.
Gennadi Bogdanov showed the importance of preserving Meyerhold's Biomechanics in its pure and unaltered form - exquisitely illustrated by excerpts from the video textbook being produced with the Mime Centrum Berlin ... Alexei Levinski showed the importance of carrying forward Meyerholds Biomechanics as a practical way of training actors, regardless of their level of study - generously illustrated by an impromptu class, "Stick Work for Academics".
Mel Gordon located Meyerhold's acting techniques within the precise context of the constructivist movement ... J¸rg Bochow and Phillip Zarilli both highlighted essential similarities between Meyerholds Biomechanics and other formalised movement systems such as Commedia, Kabuki and martial arts.
Vadim Sherbakov showed us the importance of his task of helping to edit and publish Meyerhold's performance scores ... Nikolai Pesochinski emphasised the importance of remembering the passionate realms of creativity made possible by Meyerhold's acting aesthetics.
Maya Sitkovetskaya took us through Meyerhold's journey of development in cinema from an early primacy of the literary text to later work which viewed the entire film as "text" in its own right ... With the help of Ralf RSuker and Julia Varley, Eugenio Barba took us through his own personal journey of coming to understand the essential sources of Meyerhold's Biomechanics.
Finally, the past and the future met at the Russian Banquet where Meyerhold's granddaughter Maria Valentey was overcome with emotion at the sight of a gathering whose purpose was to celebrate Meyerhold, both as past master, and as an inspiration for the future.
Carla Shepherd (Bristol)
(In response to the desperate situation threatening the existence and fabric of the Meyerhold Museum, housed in Meyerhold's former apartment and cared for by his granddaughter, an appeal for funds was made during the conference and over $1,500 was raised for refurbishment. In gratitude, Maria Valentey promised to return to Moscow to lay on Meyerhold's grave, on behalf of all the conference delegates, the bouquet of flowers presented to her.)
This web spun by Simon Wheatley, email@example.com.
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projects: BM software
webpages: new BM directory for Spring 2004!
Actingland.com - Acting resources, career guides, and casting information.
MEYER page in directing.
Biomechanics Links + Stagematrix Links + Theatre Theory Links
NEW -- references pages
Quotations Page (?):
By M. and about M.
[ not sort out ]
By M. and about M.
[ not sort out ]
First and foremost, Meyerhold believed that theatre was not subject to the same laws as reality. The language, signs, materials, and time and space of Meyerhold’s productions differed in spirit from those of naturalism. He effected a renascence of theatricality, bringing back the magic of the theatre of masks and the forms and conventions of the commedia dell’arte, the cabotin (strolling minstrel player or story teller) and the Japanese Kabuki theatre. Meyerhold destroyed the footlights that cast shadows on the stage and separated the audience from the stage with a wall of darkness. He bared the stage, constructed bridges into the auditorium, introduced constructions to set the actor into a three-dimensional perspective and made lighting a new device for dividing scenes and individualising episodes and details of the set.
Meyerhold, at this time, also introduced a new discipline of the study of gesture and motion, based on devices used by older theatrical traditions and the training of gymnasts and circus performers. This attitude differed significantly from Stanislavski’s in that the goal was to train actors to study the conventions of gesture rather than the psychological motivations for these same gestures.
In addition, he also declared that the director was the author of the production and has the right to revise classics and to interpret dramatic material freely ... (Kiebuzinska 1988:47).
"Excitability--this is our term in the theatre. We know that everything we may do on the stage, our actions, walk, attitudes, facial expressions, movement, everything has to convince the audience; the audience must believe the actors even when you're enacting the improbable. And when a grotesque interpretation gets too theatrical, too broad, the audience has to believe it, anyway.... And if what the audience sees on the stage is a fish who has no blood and, moreover, is frozen, can it believe such an actor, can he be convincing at all? (II: 196)"
"You haven't studied it yet. One must know how the character walks, loves, eats or drinks; you don't know him exhaustively yet. Stanislavsky comes to mind again. When he prepares a role, he is constantly immersed in it--whether he receives a letter, or is approached by someone, or has dinner--he always is in character, he tries various things all the time. He practices beyond rehearsing. He sticks to it. He keeps searching, looking for gestures. (I: 138)
"Stanislavsky told us that when he invented certain movements, certain gestures, certain facial expressions for Doctor Stockman, he tried to use all those movements, gestures, and expressions in his daily life. He went to sleep as Doctor Stockman would and he woke up as Doctor Stockman; he experienced this character not only within the framework of the role but in his own existence. What is this process? It is the process of fixing the [outline of the] role in your imagination.... (II: 194)
"Your facial expressions are all wrong.... Facial expressions must emerge from the actor's clear notion of the person he is actually playing.... Your gestures are not well-defined, and consequently your facial play is poor, without any idea of the character. The impression here is that the actor meticulously carries out the mise-en-scene, invented by the director. But you can't deceive the audience; the audience takes in [the performance] as a whole. If an excellent mise-en-scene is accompanied by poor facial play, the spectator will disapprove the mise en scFne as well. (II: 194)
"When people go to a sculpture exhibit, they do not expect to find painted eyes or real natural eyes inserted into a tiger's skin. Nobody demands that these eyes sparkle like the real ones; nobody says: where is the true color of the human skin? The theatre audience also knows the secret of the stage, it knows that everything will be theatrical, not real.... Excitability must be measured according to the stage's needs; it is absolutely necessary for the actor to have an inner controller who helps him to measure [excitability] in front of the audience. There is one degree of excitement for Sophocles's Antigone and another for a vaudeville. (II: 197-98)
Stagematrix -- direct.vtheatre.net
[ The quotations are from "Actors on Acting" and "Meyerhold" by Rudnitzky ( ) ]
... "the fundamental principles of the art of relativistic, or conditional (uslovnyi), theatre." (137)
"In relativistic theatre the stage action poetically transforms reality." (139)
"The theatre and the audience `arrange' in advance the emotional coloration of the action." (139)
"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."
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)
Relativistic theatre seeks applause.... Relativistic theatre feels confined in ordinary theatre buildings. Its ideal is street theatre. (140)
"In relativistic theatre the action is just as naturally broken up into separate episodes, fragments or `numbers'." (140)
"Relativistic theatre, meanwhile, is an arranged, specially organized and even more intense and condensed from of action." (141)
"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." (142)
"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)
"What is basic to the grotesque is the progress of the viewer from just-deciphered plane of perception into another, totally unexpected one." (160)
"An aftertaste of theatricality came to architecture. The STYLE was exotic." (179)
"Stanislavsky. His path is from characters though characters to characters." (201)
"But in essence the talent always experiences a role emotionally, while mediocrity only represent." (203)
"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)
"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)
"Now we no longer defend the interests of the author, but those of the audience." (269)
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)
....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)
"What did in essence Meyerhold see in life, in people? His imagination always led him to archetypes (that's how I should put it). For him there was no simply a character... never! For him only types did exit, more than types, -- they were some deformed reincarnations of the human nature itself... directing he acted as a merciless... sychoanalytic." Michael Chekhov
"Child Game. 1. Element of Imitation (`like adults'), and 2. Fantasy. And children are divided on `monkeys' and `make believers,' who compose and create their own world. The same with actors -- `eye-dropping' (borrowing from life) and creating. In grotesque `stealing from life' is allowed because from noticing to creating a figure (image) lays an enormous distance." From Meyerhold's lecture described by Sergey Eisenstein
"Not a photography, but a game." Biomechanics
"When we say `to play on stage,' our first instinct is to be transformed. When we strive for transfiguration and when we aim to play, do we have in mind, even for a moment, a question -- to reproduce it exactly as in life?" Grotesque
"Actor lives on stage a double life, he lives in two worlds -- in the world of his role, he created; and in a world of his own `I.' He is an executive, a manager; sometimes an adventure seeker, sometimes a prophet, he knows how he has to re-distribute all he needs." Eiseinsten's Notes on Meyerhold (144)
"Actor immediately reacts through improvisation to all demands of the public."
"Never there's an equality of personal mood of actor and his character."
"We never express ourselves directly, always indirectly. In order to express ourselves on stage, we use masks. True actors among us are only those who knows how to create a mask, and after that how to wear it and to use it. The moment you reject the necessity to wear a stage mask or to neglect it, you immediately would lose your connection with the art." Michael Chekhov
"When I stage the play the most murderous task is casting."
"Must see in reality its fantastic (essence)."
"Actor is higher than his character." Mikhoels
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. (Meyerhold 294)
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. (Meyerhold 139)
....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...
"The biography of a true artist is that of a person beset with self discontent, 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."
"He built a production as they build a house. And we were happy to be even a door knob in this house..."
"You know what a tight grip I have on your art. I feel I must imitate you in many ways!" Mikhail Chekhov
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)".
An online course supplement *
2005-2006 Theatre UAF Season: Four Farces + One Funeral & Godot'06
Film-North * Anatoly Antohin * eCitations *