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The Accidental Evolution of the Moscow Art Theatre Prague Group

  • Laurence Senelick

Abstract

During the period of confusion and divided loyalties that followed the 1917 Revolution in Russia, the resources of the Moscow Art Theatre were severely depleted, and its artists and staff found themselves giving barebones performances for the enlightenment of often mystified working-class audiences. By 1919 the decision was taken to split the company, with a contingent sent out on tour with the intention of rejoining the parent group for the new season. In the event, with civil war raging between the forces of the Red Army and the White Guard, this did not happen, and groups of former members of the Art Theatre worked independently in the provinces and eventually abroad. While some returned to Moscow in 1922, the ‘Prague Group of the Moscow Art Theatre’ continued to lead an independent existence, and in this article Laurence Senelick traces the events leading up to and following its creation – which caused much annoyance to Stanislavsky and confusion in the West. A frequent contributor to New Theatre Quarterly, Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor of Drama and Oratory at Tufts University and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a recipient of the St George medal of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for services to Russian art and scholarship. His latest books are Stanislavsky: a Life in Letters (Routledge) and the forthcoming Soviet Theatre: a Documentary History (Yale University Press).

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