3

THE CREATION OF A NEW THEATRE

There was much talk of the need to establish a new theatre. As early as February 1897, Fedor Shekhtel’, a friend of Chekhov’s and the architect destined to build the Art Theatre’s second home in 1902, was already proposing the construction of a People’s Theatre along the lines previously suggested by Ostrovsky. 1 On 1 March 1897, Chekhov informed Suvorin:

At the actors’ conference you’ll probably see the plans for the huge people’s theatre we are planning. We means the representatives of the Moscow intelligentsia…. A theatre, auditorium, library, reading room and buffets, and so on and so forth, will be gathered under one roof in a neat attractive building. The blueprints are ready, the constitution is being drafted and the only thing that is holding us up is a paltry half million. There will be stockholders, but it will not be a charitable organisation. We are counting on the government.

(Chekhov 1974-83: vol. 6:297)

Needless to say, these were not the first plans to be based fruitlessly on hope of government support.

Planning the Society’s work for 1897, Stanislavsky anticipated much of what was to be included in the Art Theatre’s repertoire in 1898 including Tsar Fedor, The Merchant of Venice and The Mistress of the Inn. He began negotiations with the entrepreneur Ya.V. Shchukin over the lease of the Ermitazh Theatre on Carriage Row (Karyetnyy ryad) where he proposed that the Society give regular performances for two-and-a-half months. 2

Why was Stanislavsky so confident that he could succeed where others had failed? In the first place, he was neither as naive nor as impractical as many have suggested. He had had experience of

-32-

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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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