Meyerhold, Vsevolod

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Meyerhold, Vsevolod

Vsevolod Meyerhold (fəsyĕ´vəlŭt mē´ûrhōlt), 1874–1940?, Russian theatrical director and producer. Meyerhold led the revolt against naturalism in the Russian theater. Working with the Moscow Art Theater, he experimented with his own directing ideas until the outbreak of the Revolution. Meyerhold was a member of the Bolshevik party, and as head of theatrical activities for the state he directed the first theater to specialize in Soviet plays. He was among the earliest advocates of the theater of the absurd. In his avant-garde productions he employed various grotesque elements, pantomimes, and acrobatics, emphasizing the plays' visual, nonverbal aspects. He produced Bolshevik propaganda dramas, using bare constructivist settings and formalized scenery, and eliminating the curtain. Meyerhold directed his actors according to his principle of "biomechanics," reducing the actors' individual contributions to a minimum, in the interests of the play as a whole. His work eventually became unprofitable, and the state discontinued his subsidy. He was an outspoken opponent of socialist realism. A victim of the Soviet purges, Meyerhold died under circumstances that remain unclear; the date of his death is open to question.

See Meyerhold on Theater, ed. by E. Braun (1969); biography by M. L. Hoover (1974); J. M. Symons, Meyerhold's Theatre of the Grotesque (1971).

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