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History of†the Moscow Art Theater School

The Moscow Art Theater School opened in†1943†as†an†affiliation of†the Moscow Art Theater. Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, the creator of†the school, was also one of†the founders of†the Moscow Art Theater (MXAT).

On†March 21, 1943 the leaders of†the MXAT gathered together at†Nemirovich-Danchenkoůs apartment. “I†have invited you here to†talk about the school,“ he†began. On†April 25, 1943, not long after that meeting took place, Nemirovich-Danchenko passed away, and in†his legacy as†a†teacher and director, he†left behind a†great idea for a†school. On†April 26, 1943 the Soviet Ministry of†Culture immortalized the name of†the great master in†establishing the theater school at†the MXAT, named after Nemirovich-Danchenko.

At†the first audition for the school, held in†the foyer of†the Moscow Art Theater, great actors of†the day were present, such as†Moskvin, Kachalov, and Knipper-Chekhova. Vasiliy Sachnovsky was appointed as†the first director of†the school. (Knipper-Chekhova jokingly used to†call Vasiliy, a†brilliant director and theater philosopher, the only intelligent person in†the Soviet Moscow Art Theatre. Nemirovich-Danchenko managed to†save him from prison and bring him back to†the theater to†participate in†the production of†Hamlet.) The official opening of†the school was on†October 20, 1943.

Speaking to†the first class of†students to†enter the school, Artistic Director of†the Moscow Art Theater, Khmelev, echoed the words of†Nemirovich-Danchenko. „I†would give all my†efforts to†the school only because it†has a†tremendous meaning for the art…I would devote the rest of†my†life to†it.”

The core of†the acting method taught at†the school was originally developed by†Stanislavsky to†create a†sharp sense of†truth and real life on†the stage, the truth of†organic acting and spiritualized mastery.

The atmosphere of†the school was permeated every minute by†the efforts to†comprehend the nature of†acting. Everything was subjected to†it; not only acting classes, but also lectures and workshops. They used to†organize meetings with famous artists of†that time such as†Knipper-Chekhova, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Richter, Erenburg, and many others. Almost all of†the students of†the first graduating class of†1947†were admitted to†the Moscow Art Theater. The production of†Dombey and Son (1949), was a†testament to†how gifted the young trained actors were.

Oleg Efremov was a†leader among the graduates of†1949. The graduation of†1950†produced Alexei Batalov, a†star of†Soviet-Russian film, and Lilia Tolomacheva, who became famous on†the stage of†the Sovremennik (Contemporary) Theater. In†1951, the Moscow Art Theater School gave birth to†Oleg Borisov. Borisov began as†a†comic actor and later became one of†the greatest modern tragic actors, combining analytical acting with extreme passion; he†was very adept and skillful in†the mastery of†his temperament. In†fact, 1951 was a†fruitful graduation year for the art of†theater in†this country. In†addition to†Oleg Borisov, there were Victor Korshunov (Artistic Director of†the Mali Theater) and Ekaterina Elanskaya (Artistic Director of†Sfera Theater). 1952 brought Nikolai Rushkovsky, Artistic Director of†the Ukranian Theater named after Lesia Ukrainka, who also graduated from the school. Clearly, the solidity of†artistic successes coming out of†the Moscow Art Theater School has proven to†be†extraordinary time and again.

The MXAT is†known for its tradition of†having the leading masters of†the theater serve as†teachers at†the school. This tradition is†well-preserved. The majority of†the teachers are former graduates of†the Moscow Art Theater School†— pupils of†Stanislavskyůs pupils.

Among the teachers and master teachers of†the school are famous actors, directors, dramaturgs, leading movement teachers, famous dancers, and professors of†voice and speech. The majority of†teachers also have substantial experience working abroad.

The acting faculty worked with the leaders of†the school to†found a†production faculty. Theater is†a†collaborative art, and communication between actors and production managers, lighting designers, costume designers, and set-designers was, and still is, very close. The students of†the production faculty designed the thesis shows of†the acting students.

At†first, production students satisfied only the artistic needs of†the Moscow Art Theater. Nowadays, almost all of†the production managers of†Moscow theaters are former graduates of†the production faculty of†the Moscow Art Theater School. The production faculty began to†reach its height in†1946, when the efforts of†two Moscow Art Theater School leaders, Ivan Gremislavsky and Vadim Shverubovich, were put together. Ivan Gremislavsky was Stanislavsky's make-up designer, from the start of†his days with the Society of†Art and Literature. Shverubovich was the son of†Vasily Kachalov, leading actor of†the Moscow Art Theater. The formidable force created by†this dynamic duo set a†precedent of†high standards in†aesthetics for the Moscow Art Theater. Student disciples included such stage and lighting designers as†Matveyev, Belov, Leskov, Udler; administrative directors and production managers; teachers such as†Ponsov, Kunin, Erman, Maklakova. Oleg Sheintsis, who is†now the leading set-designer of Lenkom Theater, was also a†pupil of†Shverubovich.

In†1956, emerging from the heart of†the Moscow Art Theater, the Sovremennik (Contemporary) Theater was born. It†was created by†former students who were inspired by†their teachers' idea of†bringing a†genuinely human audience to†the theater. The first productions of†this theater rehearsed in†the Moscow Art Theater School.

The Dean of†the Art Studies Department, Professor Vitaly Vilenkin, who was teaching the history of†the Moscow Art Theater at†the school in†the 1950s, also served as†an†inspiration for the Sovremenik. The director of†the school, Veniamin Radomislensky, supervised the project. The core company of†the “Theater of†Young Actors“ (later known as†Theater-Studio Sovremennik), consisted of†former graduates of†the Moscow Art Theater School: Oleg Efremov (class of†1949), Lilia Tolmacheva (1956), Oleg Tabakov (1957), Vlad Zamansky (1958).

Nowadays, it†is†nearly impossible to†find a†theater in†Moscow, St.†Petersburg, or†any other city, that does not have graduates of†the Moscow Art Theater School. Among the graduates are famous masters of†Russian theater and film: Lev Durov (1954), Leonid Bronevoy (1955), Oleg Basilashvili and Mikhail Kozakov (1956), Valentin Gaft and his classmate, Eugene Urbansky (1957), who died tragically.

The group supervised by†professor Stanitzin (1959) had incredible talents such as†Vladimir Kashpur, Tatiana Lavrova (notable for her work in†the acclaimed film Nine Days Of†The Year), Alexander Lazarev, Eugene Lazarev, Elena Millioti, Galina Moracheva, Vyachelav Nevinny, Alla Pokrovskaya, Anatoly Romashin, Albert Filozov, Genady Frolov. In†1960, Vladimir Visotsky graduated, and was admitted to†the Taganka Theater, where he†went on†to†become the „tragic baritone” of†his time.

The school continues to†serve its main goal of†„refreshing the blood of†alma-mater” by†providing the company of†the Moscow Art Theater with young talented actors. The majority of†the current faculty who are bringing the traditions of†the school to†the 21st century are also former students of†the Moscow Art Theater School.

The current Artistic Director of†the Moscow Art Theater named after Chekov is†Oleg Tabakov (1957), who graduated one year after the Artistic Director of†the Moscow Art Theater named after Gorky†— Tatiana Doronina (1956). The other actors of†the MXAT†— Dmitri Brusnikin, Igor Vasiliev, Anastasia Voznesenskaya, Nina Gulyaeva, Vladlen Davidov, Natalia Igorova, Vecheslav Zhelobov, Igor Zolotovitsky, Vladimir Kashpur, Eugene Kindinov, Sergei Kalesnikov, Tatiana Lavrova, Raisa Maksimova, Polina Medvedeva, Irina Miroshnichenko, Andrei Myagkhov, Vyacheslav Neviny, Viktor Sergachev, Boris Scherbakov†— all of†them are from the same nest, though it†may be†hard to†tell them apart because their talents are so†diverse.

The Department of†Art Studies is†an†inherent part of†the school. It†documents scientific research of†the Moscow Art Theater history, as†well as†the memoirs of†the founders of†the theater. To†date, the department has published the main works of†Stanislavsky (the ninth edition was released in†1999). The fourth edition of†Nemirovich-Danchenkoůs works is†being prepared for publication, and the book Life And Creations Of†K.†S.†Stanislavsky, by†I.†N.†Vinogradsky, was also released by†the department. In†the near future there will be†another edition of†this book published, including new materials once prohibited in†the Soviet era.

Under the authority of†Dr.†Anatoly Smeliansky, Pr.†Inna Solovieva and Olga Egoshina, the Department of†Art Studies prepared the two volume edition of†Moscow Art Theater: One Hundred Years. They also released two volumes of†interviews with leading actors and directors from all over the world, edited by†Dr.†Smeliansky and Olga Egoshina. If†you would like to†purchase Moscow Art Theater: One Hundred Years, please drop an†e-mail to the following address: sector@mxat.ru

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