1

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

As we approach 1998 and the centenary of the Art Theatre’s opening, there has been a return in the former Soviet Union to the kind of market conditions which gave rise to the Theatre’s original foundation. In many respects, its origin is similar to that of The Theatre, constructed by James Burbage in 1576 and run on shareholding lines. There are other historical parallels between the two events. Just as England was experiencing the rise of capitalism and the decline of feudalism at the end of the sixteenth century, so a similar process was occurring in Russia towards the end of the nineteenth. The spread of entrepreneurial activity was centred in Moscow, whilst St Petersburg remained the bureaucratic centre of a crumbling Empire, whose tsar was to lose absolute feudal authority under the impact of new historical pressures exerted by a rising merchant class. 1 The revolutions and civil war of 1905 and 1917 can, in this context, be seen to have a parallel in the rise of middle-class power and the resultant revolution/civil war in mid-seventeenth-century England. Just as, in England, the conflicts and tensions of the period were anticipated and reflected in revolutionary theatrical practice and in innovatory dramatic writing, so the theatre of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko also mirrored the innovativeness and social awareness of its Elizabethan/Jacobean counterpart and acquired its own ‘Shakespeare’, or in-house dramatist, in the person of Chekhov.

From the mid-nineteenth century, a class of capitalists began to emerge in Moscow amongst whom were many with ‘progressive’ attitudes. Not unlike Elizabethan London, Moscow produced a group of wealthy benefactors (in this case factory owners and merchants) who were prepared to vie with one another in the foundation, construction and provision of hospitals, schools,

-13-

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The Moscow Art Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • A Note on Transliteration and Names x
  • Part I - The Establishment of the Moscow Art Theatre 1
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Historical Background 13
  • 2 - The Society of Art and Literature 24
  • 3 - The Creation of a New Theatre 32
  • 4 - The Hermitage Theatre on Carriage Row 49
  • 5 - Actors, Salaries, Conditions of Service 58
  • 6 - Savva Morozov and the Lianozov Theatre 68
  • Part II - The Moscow Art Theatre Repertoire 1898-1917 83
  • 7 - First Season: 1898-1899 85
  • 8 - Second Season: 1899-1900 112
  • 9 - Third Season: 1900-1901 121
  • 10 - Fourth Season: 1901-1902 128
  • 11 - Fifth Season: 1902-1903 132
  • 12 - Sixth Season: 1903-1904 152
  • 13 - Season Seven to Season Ten: 1904-1908 165
  • 14 - Seasons Eleven and Twelve: 1908-1909 178
  • 15 - Season Twelve to Season Twenty: 1909-1917 199
  • 16 - Conclusion 204
  • Notes 209
  • Bibliography 226
  • Index 232
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