cover of book

Meyerhold at Work
by Paul Schmidt
translated by Ilya Levin and Vern McGee
University of Texas Press, 1980
Paper: 978-1-4773-0711-3 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-0713-7

“Not a mirror but a magnifying glass”—such, in the poet Mayakovsky’s words, was the theater of Vsevolod Meyerhold. The first to insist on the primacy of the director’s role, indeed the first to conceive of it as a role, this passionately dedicated Russian director tore down the fourth wall and forced the actors and audience together into one inescapable community of experience. Yet Meyerhold recorded few of his theories in writing, and the intensity and brilliance of his work must be recaptured through the actors and artists who helped create the performances. Focusing on Meyerhold’s postrevolutionary career, Paul Schmidt has assembled in this book journals, letters, reminiscences, and, of special interest, actual rehearsal notes that build a fascinating, intimate picture of Meyerhold as a theorist and as a man. Included are Meyerhold’s frantic notes to his teacher, friend, and bête noire Stanislavsky; detailed descriptions of how he trained his actors in “biomechanics”; and memories by such students as Eisenstein and such friends as Pasternak and Ehrenburg. One chapter deals with Meyerhold’s never-realized conception of Boris Godunov, while another describes his direction of Camille, which starred Zinaida Raikh, his wife, and which played its 725th and last performance on the day Stalin’s government liquidated Meyerhold’s theater. Paul Schmidt’s introduction and headnotes enhance our understanding of Meyerhold as a pioneer of modern theater.

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