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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: April 2013

Chapter 6 - Directors of ensemble theatre


The directors who feature in this chapter have the goal of ensemble theatre, as first envisaged by Stanislavsky, even if all follow their own path to advance the possibilities of directing. This influence has been world-wide. Some, like Harley Granville Barker in Britain in the 1910s, furthered Stanislavsky’s principles, not least the principle of ensemble acting, without fully realizing them. Joan Littlewood too promoted ensemble practices in the Theatre Workshop (thus renamed in 1945), drawing on the examples of both Stanislavsky and Brecht that led to productions such as her seminal Oh What a Lovely War in 1963; and Peter Hall was inspired by the idea of a creative ensemble when he founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961. Then, too, there are directors who, like Elia Kazan in the United States, have come out of Method Acting, Lee Strasberg’s particular take on Stanislavsky’s ‘system’.

However, ensemble theatre has a particularly firm tradition in Eastern Europe that has continued unbroken to the present in, for instance, the meticulously crafted productions of Krystian Lupa in Poland, where Stanislavsky’s legacy as regards ensemble work came via Juliusz Osterwa. Osterwa had come into contact with the Moscow Art Theatre when, in the mid 1910s, he directed in Moscow. The younger generation of Polish directors exemplified by Krzysztof Warlikowski and Grzegorz Jarzyna, both of whom were assistant directors to Lupa before taking off on independent careers, rely on finely tuned ensemble playing for the impact of their productions.

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Further reading
Brook, Peter. The Empty Space, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1973
Dodin, Lev. Journey without End, trans. Karabinska, Anna, and Mamyrin, Oksana, London: Tantalus Books, 2006
Donnellan, Declan. The Actor and the Target, London: Nick Hern Books, 2nd edition 2005
Hirst, David L. Giorgio Strehler, Cambridge University Press, 1993
Mitchell, Katie. The Director’s Craft: A Handbook for the Theatre, London and New York: Routledge, 2009
Patterson, Michael. Peter Stein: Germany’s Leading Director, Cambridge University Press, 1981
Shevtsova, Maria. Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre: Process to Performance, London: Routledge, 2004