Anatoli Vassiliev must be ranked with the most prominent of the internationally acclaimed directors of the late twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first; and history will surely place him among the great director-researcher-pedagogues of the Russian and world theatre, starting with Stanislavsky and including Meyerhold and Vakhtangov. In this conversation, Vassiliev discusses the unique situation of theatre activity in Russia in the early decades of the twentieth century, where the studio, or laboratory, was integral to the very life of the theatre as a specific, collaborative, and ensemble practice and a comprehensive artistic institution. He situates the School of Dramatic Art, which he founded in 1987, in this context, extending the latter's reach to Maria Knebel and Andrey Popov, who were his teachers on the directing course at GITIS in Moscow (State Institute of Theatre Art, now known as the Russian Academy of Theatre Art). He graduated from GITIS in 1973. Vassa Zheleznova, referred to in this interview, was the acme of Vassiliev's explorations of psychological realism, after which he developed forms of what he calls ‘play structures’ (or ‘ludic structures’). Actors working in these structures project externally in clearly articulated ways rather than go inwards, towards and within emotional states of being, as is typical of psychological-realist performance in the Russian tradition. Vassiliev's reversal of established performance modes led to his current preoccupation with ‘verbal structures’, which are underpinned by his understanding of words as ideas oriented to symbolic and metaphysical sense rather than to psycho-emotional interpretation. The spatial and luminary dimensions of play, together with movement, music, and song that is formal, operatic, rather than in any other kind of vein, defines such later works as Mozart and Salieri (2000) and Onegin's Journey (2003). They have won him great acclaim in Russia and abroad for their innovative approach outside the parameters not only of realism but also of a range of other familiar aesthetic configurations. Vassiliev has directed productions in various countries in Europe, and has also conducted prolonged research workshops as well as working demonstrations there. In this conversation, which took place in June 2009, Vassiliev refers to several underlying principles of his work and reflects upon the importance to him of Grotowski, his last mentor.