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Vsevolod Meyerhold

Vsevolod Meyerhold

Russian theatre director

Vsevolod Emilyevich Meyerhold was a Russian and Soviet theatre director, actor and theatrical producer. His provocative experiments dealing with physical being and symbolism in an unconventional theatre setting made him one of the seminal forces in modern international theatre.

Early life

Karl Casimir Theodor Mayergold was the eighth child in the Lutheran family of the Jewish winegrower Emil Fyodorovich Mayergold and his wife, the Baltic German Alvina Danilovna.

In 1895 he graduated from Penza 2nd men's gymnasium (gymnasium building on Volodarskogo street, 5 has survived, now in a monument of history and culture of federal importance is located the Department of Education of Penza). After graduating from high school, he entered the Faculty of Law at Moscow University. In the same year, on reaching the age of majority (21), Meyerhold converted to Orthodoxy and changed his name to Vsevolod, in honor of his favorite writer Vsevolod Garshin.

In 1896 he transferred to the second course of the Moscow Philharmonic Society Theater and Music School in the class of Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko.

Early career

Meyerhold began acting in 1896 as a student at the Moscow Philharmonic Drama School under Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, co-founder of the Moscow Art Theater along with Konstantin Stanislavsky. At the Moscow Art Theatre, Meyerhold played 18 roles, such as Vasily Shuisky in Tsar Feodor Ioannovich and Ivan the Terrible in The Death of Ivan the Terrible (both plays by Alexei Tolstoy). In 1898, in the first successful production of Chekhov's first play, The Seagull, Meyerhold played the lead male role, opposite Chekhov's future wife, Olga Knipper.

After leaving the Moscow Art Theatre in 1902, wanting to free himself from the extremely naturalistic productions of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko with "no fourth wall," Meyerhold was involved in a number of theatrical projects both as a director and as an actor. Each project was an arena for experimentation and creation of new staging methods. Meyerhold was one of the most ardent supporters of symbolism in the theater, especially when he worked as chief director of the Vera Komissarzhevskaya Theater in 1906-1907. It was around this time that he was invited back to the Moscow Art Theatre to pursue his experimental ideas.

Meyerhold continued his theatrical innovations during the decade 1907-1917, working with the imperial theaters in St. Petersburg. He presented classical plays in an innovative manner and staged works by such controversial contemporary authors as Fyodor Sologub, Zinaida Hippius and Alexander Blok. In these productions Meyerhold tried to bring back the acting traditions of the Commedia dell'arte, reinterpreting them for contemporary theatrical reality. His theoretical concepts of the "conditional theater" were developed in his 1913 book On Theater.

Career under communism

On the day when the February Revolution broke out – on 25 February, under the old style calendar then used in Russia – Meyerhold's production of Masquerade by Mikhail Lermontov had a dress rehearsal at the Alexandrinsky Theatre, in front of an audience that included the poet Anna Akhmatova. That evening has been described as "the last act of the tragedy of the old regime, when the Petersburg elite went to enjoy themselves at this splendidly luxurious production in the midst of the chaos and confusion.". Sergei Eisenstein, who was then a teenager but would later be a world-renowned film director, desperately wanted to see the production, having heard that it featured clowns, but having made his way across the city that was in the throes of a revolution was disappointed to discover that the Alexandrinsky was closed.


January 28, 1874
Vsevolod Meyerhold was born in Penza.


Further reading


1915 The Picture of Dorian Gray

Lord Henry


March 4, 2021

Белый орёл 1928 / The White Eagle (The Lash of the Czar)


January 24, 2018

Documentaries, videos and podcasts


Vsevolod Meyerhold

October 20, 2013

Дело N. Всеволод Мейерхольд: трагическая развязка

June 26, 2019


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