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Chekhov for the 21st Century. Carol Apollonio and Angela Brintlinger, eds. Bloomington, IN: Slavica Publishers, 2012, 149–66.       Reading Chekhov Through Meyerhold’s Eyes* Galina Rylkova What   should   students   of   literature   make   of   the   books   a   performing   artist   reads  and  the  roles  he  plays?  How  should  one  account  for  the  intricate  rela-­‐‑ tionship  between  a  character  in  a  novel  or  play  and  the  real  person,  the  sub-­‐‑ ject  matter  of  one’s  research?  The  famous  actor  and  director  Vsevolod  Meyer-­‐‑ hold  (1874–1940)  presents  an  interesting  case  study.  One  could  argue  that  the   trajectory  of  his  life  was  delineated  by  his  role  of  Treplev  in  the  Moscow  Art   Theater  production  of  The  Seagull  (Chaika)  in  1898.  Of  course,  when  Chekhov   was  writing  The  Seagull  in  1895–96,  he  was  unaware  of  Meyerhold’s  existence.   He  was  using  the  play  as  a  testing  ground  both  for  his  ambitions  as  a  play-­‐‑ wright   and   for   acting   out   his   personal   relationships.   But   once   finished,   the   play  seemed  to  take  on  a  life  of  its  own,  entrapping  human  beings  like  a  spi-­‐‑ derweb.  It  is  as  if  the  people  involved  in  the  play’s  productions  reproduced   its  intricate  entanglements  in  their  own  lives.  As  for  Meyerhold,  nobody  has   been   compared   to   Treplev   as   frequently   and   consistently   as   Meyerhold.1   Nearly  every  Meyerhold  scholar  has  tried  to  establish  a  parallel  between  his   tragic  death  and  that  of  his  character.  And  there  are  grounds  for  this,  because   in  the  late  1890s  and  early  1900s,  Meyerhold  openly  identified  himself  with   Treplev,   repeatedly   talking   about   committing   suicide—as   can   be   seen   from   his  letter  to  Chekhov  (for  example).2  Indeed,  his  friends  feared  that  one  day                                                                                                                             I  would  like  to  thank  Alexander  Burak,  Radislav  Lapushin,  and  Anna  Muza  for  their   generous  comments  on  various  drafts  of  this  article.  I  am  also  grateful  to  the  Editors   for  stylistic  improvements.   1  Nikolai   Volkov   was   the   first   to   highlight   the   significance   of   the   role   of   Treplev   in   shaping   Meyerhold’s   life   in   Meierkhol’d   (Moscow:   Academia,   1929),   vol.   1,   passim.   Later  he  reiterated  this  point  in  his  Teatral’nye  vechera  (Moscow:  Iskusstvo,  1966),  281.   In   his   1952   recollections   of   his   first   encounter   with   Meyerhold   in   the   early   1900s,   Alexei  Remizov  deliberately  merges  Meyerhold  with  Treplev:  “Now  Treplev  will  go  to   my  room  and  will  shoot  himself.”  Remizov,  Iveren’,  in  Sobranie  sochinenii,  vol.  8  (Mos-­‐‑ cow:  Russkaia  kniga,  2000),  350.  All  translations  mine  unless  otherwise  noted.—G.R.   2  (Moscow,  18  April  1901)  “I  didn’t  write  to  you  and  so  didn’t  provide  concrete  proof   of  my  constant  thoughts  about  you  for  the  sole  reason  that  I’m  acutely  aware  of  my   uselessness  in  life  and  of  the  fact  that  nobody  is  interested  in  my  soul-­‐‑searching.  I’m   irritable,   carping,   and   distrustful,   and   everybody   thinks   I’m   an   unpleasant   person.   And  I’m  suffering  and  thinking  of  suicide.  Let  everybody  despise  me”  (442–43).  All   150 GALINA RYLKOVA he  would  take  his  own  life  for  real  during  the  concluding  scene  of  The  Sea-­‐‑ gull.3  According  to  Shcherbakov,  “Meyerhold  remained  a  Treplev  for  the  rest   of  his  life.  No  wonder  Chekhov  liked  him  so  much  in  this  particular  role.”4     By   1905   Meyerhold   was   no   longer   playing   the   role   of   Treplev,   but   this   clearly   did   not   stop   him   from   seeing   life   through   the   prism   of   a   Treplev-­‐‑ Trigorin  relationship.  Thus,  in  the  1930s,  Meyerhold  remarked  to  Alexander   Gladkov  that  the  founders  of  the  Moscow  Art  Theater  chose  to  follow  not  in   Treplev’s  but  in  Trigorin’s  footsteps  by  faithfully  reproducing  the  notorious   “neck  of  a  broken  bottle  glittering  on  a  dam”  in  their  early  productions.5  In   his  play  The  Death  of  Meyerhold  (2003),  the  writer  and  director  Mark  Jackson   opens  Act  I  with  a  rehearsal  of  The  Seagull  at  the  Moscow  Art  Theater  in  1898.   The   play   brilliantly   exposes   and   exploits   the   dramatic   possibilities   of   the   Chekhov-­‐‑Stanislavsky-­‐‑Meyerhold  triangle.  “Chekhov  took  Meyerhold  under   his  wing,  in  a  way,  defending  him  to  Stanislavsky.  It  seems  as  if  certain  seg-­‐‑ ments  in  The  Seagull  were  practically  written  with  the  two  of  them  [Stanislav-­‐‑ sky   and   Meyerhold]   in   mind!   Though   we   know   this   isn’t   really   the   case,   it   doesn’t  seem  too  far-­‐‑fetched  when  one  compares  the  roles  with  the  men  who   played  them.”6  Jackson  sees  Stanislavsky  and,  to  a  lesser  extent,  Nemirovich-­‐‑ Danchenko   as   Meyerhold’s   major   opponents.   At   the   same   time,   in   his   play   Chekhov  is  presented  as  a  kind  of  guardian  angel  while  Meyerhold...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578923
Related ISBN
9780893573928
MARC Record
OCLC
859687104
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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