"A seagull flew to us from Yalta": Stanislavsky's life in Chekhov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Anton Chekhov's influence on the early success of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) and Stanislavsky's professional career is well established and has long been memorialized. A large statue of the playwright overlooking the theatre, erected in 1998 to commemorate 100 years of the Moscow Art Theatre, synthesizes the life of the author and the famed theatre. The Moscow Art Theatre on Kamergersky Lane bears Chekhov's name, to set it apart from the nearby Moscow Art Theatre named after Maksim Gorky. Theatre historians, biographers, and museum curators recognize the indelible impact Chekhov made on the path of the upstart theatre and its founders, Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. Chekhov's plays challenged the capabilities of the artists and, at times, threatened the relationship of the two leaders. Thus, his plays required new artistic approaches, inspired experimentation, and symbolized the idea of creative inspiration the company leaders wished to embody. However, while the plays brought the company international critical acclaim, they also cemented an image of the Theatre that did not always accurately reflect the aims and work of Stanislavsky. Although Chekhov had an enormous impact on Stanislavsky, and Stanislavsky on Chekhov, it is important to remember the limits of this relationship and the important planes of divergence. This chapter tracks the ways in which the relationship between Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theatre has been documented, historicized, and memorialized. At the same time, it points to areas in which the traditional narratives of the relationship might be productively disrupted. Three popular narrative threads underlie the historical views of the relationship between Stanislavsky and Chekhov, which I'll refer to as the “Birth,” “Anti-intellectualism,” and “Excess, or the Nose.” While they contain historical truths, these notions, when taken to extremes, distort the historical record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky
EditorsR. Andrew White
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780203112304
ISBN (Print)9780415535649, 9780815357148
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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