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Evreinov and Pirandello: Two Theatricalists in Search of The Chief Thing

  • Tony Pearson (a1)


The name Evreinov appears in the footnotes to a number of monographs on the better known Pirandello. Indeed, the artistic parallels between these two contemporaries have been frequently, if superficially, recognized in separate studies of both. I have sought elsewhere to develop the framework for a comparative analysis, focusing upon a common instinct for ‘theatricality’ and a snared obsession for putting theory into practice. This second and concluding study examines in closer detail the aesthetic and philosophical affinities between Evreinov and Pirandello in the context of their ‘theatre-in-thetheatre’ trilogies; it begins by identifying the formal properties of Evreinov's plays and goes on to consider the parallels and convergences with Pirandello's ideas.



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1. Pearson, Tony, ‘Evreinov and Pirandello: Twin Apostles of Theatricality’, Theatre Research International, Vol 12, No 2, (Summer 1987), pp. 147–67.

2. For more information on Evreinov's involvement see Deák, František, ‘Russian Mass Spectacles’, The Drama Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (T-66), 06 1975, pp. 722; Golub, Spencer, Evreinov: The Theatre of Paradox and Transformation, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1984, pp. 191202; Annenkov, Yu., Dnevnik Moikh Vstrech (Diary of My Encounters), New York, 1966, vol. 2, pp. 118–28. Evreinov himself contributed a couple of brief articles on his participation to the Petrograd journal Zhizn' Iskusstva (Life of Art) including ‘Vzyatie Zimnego Dvortsa: Vospominanie ob instsenirovke v oznamenovanie tretei godovshchiny Oktyabr'skoi Revolutsii’ (The Storming of the Winter Palace: A Recollection of the Spectacle which marked the Third Anniversary of the October Revolution), Zhizn' Iskusstva, 1924, No. 45, pp. 7–9.

3. Pearson, , p. 154 & 164–5.

4. Golub, , p. 202.

5. ibid., p. 191.

6. Evreinov, , Samoe Glavnoe (The Chief Thing), Petrograd, 1921. Another 1921 edition was published in Revel', Estonia. The original Petrograd edition was reprinted as a facsimile by Ardis Publishers, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982(?).

7. Collins, Christopher (trans. & ed.), Life as Theatre: Five Modern Plays by Nikolai Evreinov, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1973, p. xix. This volume contains translations of: Veselaya Smert' (A Merry Death), V Kulisakh Dushi (The Theatre of the Soul), Samoe Glavnoe (The Main Thing), Korabl' Pravednykh (The Ship of the Righteous) and Teatr Vechnoi Voiny (The Unmasked Ball: The Theatre of Eternal War), along with the article ‘Nikolai Evreinov as a Playwright’ which was also published in Russian Literature Triquarterly, 2, 1972, pp. 373–98.

8. Golub, , p. 67.

9. The real-life prototype for Doctor Fregoli is discussed by Abensour, Gérard, ‘La Comédie du bonheur’, Revue des Etudes Slaves (special issue: ‘Evreinov, L'Apótre russe de la théâtralité’), Vol. 53, No. 1, Paris, 1981, p. 118 and by Golub, , p. 225, Leopold Fregoli (1867–1936) was an Italian quick-change artist and specialist in transformation.

10. Evreinov, , Samoe Glavnoe, op. cit., p. 138.

11. Golub, , p. 73.

12. ibid., p. 77.

13. Wiener, Leo, The Comtemporary Drama of Russia, Boston, 1924, p. 161. This book, which contains the most blistering attack in English on Evreinov's alleged dilletantism, outrageously claims to be the first ‘objective’ account of the Soviet theatre of the early 1920s. Elsewhere Wiener refers to Evreinov as ‘the jumping jack of the modern Russian drama’, p. 163. There are also a number of hostile Russian sources, notably Kryzhitskii, G., Rezhisserskie Portrety (Portraits of Directors), Moscow-Leningrad, 1928, pp. 3647. Page 39 of this slim volume contains an extremely uncomplimentary ‘portrait’ of Evreinov.

14. The publication history of this play is too complex to examine here as it would entail an extended commentary. An English translation is in Collins (see note 7).

15. Evreinov, , The Ship of the Righteous, in: Collins, , p. 163.

16. Collins, , p. xxii.

17. See Dana, H. W. L., ‘Yevreinov’ in: Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature, Horatio Smith (ed.), 1947, p. 881.

18. Evreinov, , Teatr Vechnoi Voiny (The Theatre of Eternal War), Paris, 1928. For some reason–possibly as an anti-Soviet gesture–Evreinov composed this play in the oldstyle Cyrillic commonly used prior to the 1917 orthographic reforms. A translation is in Collins, under the title The Unmasked Ball: The Theatre of Eternal War.

19. Collins, , pp, xxvii–iii.

20. Largely unpublished, untranslated and unperformed, these are: Radio Potselui (The Radio Kiss), otherwise known as ‘Robot Lyubvi’ (The Robot of Love) wr. 1925, unpub.; Lyubov' pod Mikroskopom (Love under the Microscope), originally ‘Bog pod Mikroskopom’ (God under the Microscope), wr. 1931, unpub.; Muzh, Zhena i tak dalee (A Man, a Woman and so forth), also known as ‘Muzh, Zhena i Lyubovnik’ (A Man, a Woman and the Lover), or alternatively as ‘Bessmertnyi Treugol'nik’ (The Immortal Triangle), wr. 1934, pub. 1975 as ‘Le Triangle Immortel’ (French trans, Gennia Carnac in L'Avant-Scène Théâtre, No. 566, 1975); Chemu net Imeni (That Which Has No Name), wr. 1935–7, pub. 1964 & 1965; Shagi Nemezidi (The Footsteps of Nemesis), wr. 1939, pub. 1955 & 1956; Ogonek v Okoshke (The Little Flame in the Window), wr. 1950, unpub.; Grazhdane Vtorogo Sorta (A Second Class Citizen), wr. 1950, unpub.

21. Evreinov, , ‘Dvoinoi Teatr: Predislovie’ (The Dual Theatre: an Introduction), introduction to Russian text of Teatr Vechnoi Voiny, Paris, 1928, p. 5.

22. Collins, , see note 7.

23. See note 21 and Pearson, , p. 152.

24. Brustein, Robert, The Theatre of Revolt, Boston, 1964 & London, 1965, p. 309.

25. Nelson, Robert J., Play within a Play, the Dramatist's Conception of his Art: Shakespeare to Anouilh, New York, 1971, pp. 124–31.

26. ibid., pp. 126–7.

27. ibid., p. 127.

28. ibid., p. 130.

29. ibid., p. 131.

30. Bassnett-McGuire, Susan, Luigi Pirandello, London, 1983, p. 47.

31. Boring, Phyllis Zatlin, ‘Alejandro Casona and Nikolai Evreinov: Life as Theatre’, Modern Drama, Vol, xxii, No. 1 (03, 1979), p. 81.

32. See note 16.

33. Bassnett-McGuire, Susan, ‘Art and life in Luigi Pirandello's Questa sera si recita a soggetto!’ in: Drama and Mimesis: Themes in Drama, ed. Redmond, James, No. 2, Cambridge, 1980, p. 101.

34. Nelson, , p. 122.

35. Brustein, , p. 316.

36. Williams, Raymond, Modern Tragedy, London, 1966, p. 154.

37. Sogliuzzo, A Richard, Luigi Pirandello, Director: The Playwright in the Theatre, Metuchen, New Jersey & London, 1982, p. 10.

38. Bassnett-McGuire, Susan, (1983), p. 27.

39. ibid., p. 33.

40. Brustein, , pp. 307–8.

41. See Pearson, , pp. 156–9.

42. Pirandello, , L'Umorismo (On Humour) (wr. 1908, revised 1920). A translated extract appears in Tulane Drama Review, 10, No. 3 (Spring, 1966), pp. 46–59. For discussions of L'Umorismo in relation to the theatre, see Sogliuzzo, , op. cit., pp. 316 & 22 and Oliver, Roger W., Dreams of Passion: The Theatre of Luigi Pirandello, New York, 1979, pp. 121.

43. Bergson, Henri, ‘Laughter’ (1900) in: Comedy, (ed.) Sypher, Wylie, New York, 1956.

44. Brustein, , p. 286.

45. Golub, , pp. 175–6 & 179–81.

Evreinov and Pirandello: Two Theatricalists in Search of The Chief Thing

  • Tony Pearson (a1)


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