Meyerhold, Eisenstein and Biomechanics

Actor Training in Revolutionary Russia


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About the Book

Russian theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold designed Biomechanics—a system of actor training—shortly after the Russian Revolution. Although not always understood, it received wide attention as a result of Meyerhold’s unique position as the foremost Soviet avant-garde director. Meyerhold had students that both perfected and challenged his theories in actor training—including the film director Sergei Eisenstein.
Gathered from private Moscow archives, this is the first book-length study of Meyerhold’s stylized training method in practical detail, as well as Eisenstein’s theoretical analysis of Biomechanics. The book traces the history and theoretical foundations of Biomechanics and Expressive Movement, with descriptions of the basic biomechanical exercises and etudes. It also includes a glossary of biomechanical terminology and bibliographical information.

About the Author(s)

The late Alma Law was coeditor of Slavic and East European Theater.
The late Mel Gordon was a former professor of dramatic art at the University of California at Berkeley.

Bibliographic Details

Alma Law and Mel Gordon
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 294
Bibliographic Info: 40 photos, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012 [1996]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6750-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3264-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Introduction      1

Part I. Meyerhold and Eisenstein
1. Meyerhold: From Actor to Revolutionary Director      13
2. Meyerhold: From Biomechanics to the Triumph of Socialist Realism      33
3. Eisenstein: From Engineer to Revolutionary Filmmaker      74

Part II. Biomechanics
4. Introduction      95
5. Biomechanical Exercises      99
6. Description of the Exercises      106
7. Program of Studies      124

Part III. Documents
8. Meyerhold on Biomechanics      131
Biomechanics of Vsevolod Meyerhold by M. Korenev      133
The Biomechanical Laboratory by M. Korenev      134
Principles of Biomechanics by M. Korenev      135
Meyerhold Demonstrates a Biomechanical Exercise by Erast Garin      139
The Actor of the Future and Biomechanicr by V.-Es.      141
Biomechanics According to Meyerhold by Ippolit Sokolov      144
Taylorism on the Stage by Arkady Pozdnev      148
Project: Profile of the Actor Graduating from the Meyerhold State Theatre School      151
Promptbook for “The Magnanimous Cuckhold”      160

9. Eisenstein on Biomechanics and Expressive Movement      163
Notes on Biomechanics by Sergei Eisenstein      167
Principles of Movement in Our Theatre by Sergei Eisenstein      167
What Is a “Raccourci” and What Is a Pose? by Sergei Eisenstein      168
At Rehearsals of “The Wiseman” by Aleksandr Levshin      170
Expressive Movement by Sergei Eisenstein and Sergei Tretyakov      173
On Recoil Movement by Sergei Eisenstein      192
Lecture on Biomechanics, March 29, 1935, by Sergei Eisenstein      204

10. International Accounts of Biomechanics      224
An Interview with Meyerhold at the Theatre of the Revolution by Lancelot Lawton      225
How Meyerhold Trains his Actors by John Martin      228
Biomechanics in Meyerhold’s Theatre by André Van Gyseghem      233
Notes on Biomechanics by Lee Strasberg      236
Notes on Eisenstein’s Lectures, 1934, by Marie Seton      238
A Biomechanical Session by Harold Clurman      252

Part IV. Appendices

Glossary of Biomechanical Terminology      257
Notes      259
Selected Bibliography      273
Index      275

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Useful…a helpful sourcebook”—Choice
  • “The subject of this book is of enormous importance to an understanding of twentieth century Russian and Soviet art, culture and especially theatre…the book will be welcomed by both theatre scholars and practitioners, and especially by those who wish to go beyond the usual actor training syllabus, and engage with something which will challenge and stimulate in equal measure”—Revolutionary Russia
  • “This is a sourcebook which gathers a wide range of previously unavailable material…Law and Gordon’s analysis will make a significant contribution to the ongoing process of re-evaluating the role of Biomechanics in the past as well as in the future”—Theatre Research International
  • “This panorama illustrates the lasting relationship between Eisenstein and Meyerhold”—International Theatre Informations