Vsevolod Yemilyevich Meyerhold,Meyerhold also spelled Meyerkhold, (born Jan. 28 [Feb. 9, New Style], 1874, Penza, Russia—died Feb. 2, 1940, Moscow, Russia), Russian theatrical producer, director, and actor whose provocative experiments in nonrealistic theatre made him one of the seminal forces in modern theatre.
Meyerhold became a student in 1896 at the Moscow Philharmonic Dramatic School under the guidance of Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, cofounder of the Moscow Art Theatre. Two years later, Meyerhold joined the Moscow Art Theatre and there began to formulate his avant-garde theories of symbolic, or “conditional,” theatre. In 1906 he became chief producer at the theatre of Vera Komissarzhevskaya, a distinguished actress of the time, and staged a number of Symbolist plays that employed his radical ideas of nonrepresentational theatre. For his presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in 1906, Meyerhold rebelled against the stylized naturalism popularized by Konstantin Stanislavsky’s art theatre and instead directed his actors to behave in puppetlike, mechanistic ways. This production marked the beginning of an innovative theatre in Russia that became known as biomechanics. Meyerhold’s unorthodox approach to the theatre led him to break with Komissarzhevskaya in 1908. Thereafter, drawing upon the conventions of commedia dell’arte and Asian theatre, he went on to stage productions in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). During 1920–35 Meyerhold achieved his greatest artistic success as a director, beginning with Fernand Crommelynck’s Le Cocu magnifique (1920; The Magnificent Cuckold) and ending with his controversial production in 1935 of Aleksandr Pushkin’s story “Pikovaya Dama” (“The Queen of Spades”).
Although he embraced the Russian Revolution of 1917, his fiercely individualistic temperament and artistic eccentricity brought reproach and condemnation from Soviet critics. He was accused of mysticism and neglect of Socialist Realism. Meyerhold refused to submit to the constraints of artistic uniformity and defended the artist’s right to experiment. In 1939 he was arrested and imprisoned. Weeks later, his actress-wife, Zinaida Raikh, was found brutally murdered in their apartment. Nothing more was heard of Meyerhold in the West until 1958, when his death in 1942 was announced in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia; in a later edition the date was changed to 1940.
Vsevolod Yemilyevich Meyerhold 2017. Britannica School.
Meyerhold, Vsevolod Yemilyevich [Image]. Encyclopædia Britannica.
Biomechanics, antirealistic system of dramatic production developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s by the avant-garde director Vsevolod Meyerhold. Meyerhold drew on the traditions of the commedia dell’arte and kabuki and on the writings of Edward Gordon Craig for his system, in which the actor’s own personality was eliminated and he was entirely subordinated to the director’s will. Coached as gymnasts and acrobats and emphasizing pantomime rather than words, the actors threw themselves about in puppetlike attitudes at the director’s discretion. For these productions the stage was exposed to the back wall and was then furnished with harshly lit, bare sets consisting of scaffoldings, ladders, and ramps that the actors used. Biomechanics had lost its appeal by the late 1920s, though Meyerhold’s emphasis on external action did become an element in Soviet actor-training techniques.Brecht's style of theatre is referred to as epic theatre.
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.