Edited by Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu and Yana Meerzon
433 pp. London: Routledge
Everything you ever wanted to know (and probably quite a lot more) about Russian actor-director-teacher Michael Chekhov is now to be found in this quite extraordinary volume put together for Routledge by two of the world’s leading Michael Chekhov scholars, Marie-Christine Autant-Mathieu, from France, and Russian-born Yana Meerzon, who now lives in Canada. Without doubt, this volume will become the go-to source for everything about this Russian-born artist.
And not just questions related to his acting theories or his approaches to text. Who knew for instance that Michael, the son of Anton Chekhov’s brother Alexander, was also married to Olga Knipper? Well, not the same Olga Knipper that Uncle Anton was married to but the real Olga’s seventeen-year old niece of the same name. Apparently, that marriage was kept a secret for a time even to the widowed Aunt Olga. And who knew about Michael Chekhov’s deep fascination with the ideas connected to anthroposophy and his work on the spiritual side of things inspired by German educator Rudolf Steiner?
Composed of twenty-five well-edited essays divided into sections that contextualize Chekhov’s theory, practice and pedagogy, explore his collaborative work with individual artists and companies around the world, look at his influence on interdisciplinary practice and articulate his pedagogy of acting today, the book also includes a wonderfully detailed chronology of Chekhov’s life and many truly rare photos from private collections around the world.
The writers—led by the two editors and Liisa Byckling from Finland—come from a wide range of countries including Canada, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the United States, the U.K. and, of course, Russia. The material ranges from methodology to meditation, from psychology to the cult of the Russian studio, from the place of Shakespeare on the Russian stage to Chekhov’s work in Britain and the U.S., from his work in German film to his private acting classes with film stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Jack Palance, Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper.
*Don Rubin is editor of the six-volume World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre. He is a Professor Emeritus of Theatre at York University in Toronto and Founding Director and Former Chair of both York’s Department of Theatre and its Graduate Program in Theatre Studies.