Vsevolod Emilievich Meyerhold left a huge mark on the theatrical art of tsarist and then Soviet Russia. His innovative methods in avant-garde productions have met with mixed reactions from the public. Some condemned the director for excessive grotesque, while others supported the desire to "break" the old system. Nobody remained indifferent to his experimental work. During the revolutionary period, Meyerhold was treated kindly by the Bolshevik authorities, but when the director ceased to fit into the Soviet ideology, he, like many other talented personalities, was shot.
The future innovative director was born in Penza and was named by Karl Kazimir Theodor Mayergold. My father was a German winemaker, and my mother loved to arrange to gather the local aristocracy at home, so the children often got small roles in home performances.
As for diligence in teaching, the future director did not burden himself with the study of sciences, which is why he was left to study in the same class at the gymnasium for three years in a row. Finally, the parents sighed calmly, since Karl went to Moscow to study law. When Meyerhold turned 21, he was baptized and took the name of Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin, a writer he loved since childhood.
Everything changed in Meyerhold's life when he attended the performance "Othello", staged by Konstantin Stanislavsky. The performance made such a strong impression on Meyerhold that he, without a shadow of a doubt, gave up jurisprudence and entered the theater department.
In his student years, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko became the mentor of Vsevolod Emilievich, who after some time invited the graduates to his new theater. There Meyerhold worked for four seasons. Vsevolod Ivanovich can be called a universal actor. He did not consider it an insult to play a minor role in vaudeville after Hamlet.
After leaving Nemirovich-Danchenko, Vsevolod Meyerhold tried to create a theater in the provinces. At first, he partially copied the repertoire of the Moscow theater, but even then the young director began to form his own views on the manner of performance of the actors. Unlike Stanislavsky, who paid attention to emotional experiences on stage, Meyerhold focused on visualization. He believed that it is more correct to convey the meaning of what is happening through clearly honed movements. Later, his creative handwriting was called "biomechanics". The experimental director made the actors stand in front of the mirror for hours, bringing facial expressions and gestures to automatism.
Stanislavsky described the director's innovative style as follows:.
Such a radical vision of theatrical performance fits perfectly into the realities of the "new" Russia, which was shaking from the revolution. Then everything that did not fit into the framework of the old bourgeois morality was welcomed. Periodically, Meyerhold, together with Mayakovsky, staged propaganda performances.
When the revolutionary fervor began to fade, Meyerhold's grotesque no longer fit into socialist realism. The innovative director's performances began to irritate the new government. Moreover, Vsevolod Emilievich "added fuel to the fire", either by going on long tours abroad, or by using the music of Shostakovich in his productions.
In 1937, Vsevolod Meyerhold worked on the production of the play "One Life" based on the novel by Nikolai Ostrovsky "How the Steel Was Tempered". He wanted to time its premiere on the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution. The show took place in November 1937. Soviet officials were very cold about the revolutionary romanticism embodied on the stage. The ordinary viewer never saw the production. A real persecution began on Meyerhold, which ultimately led to the closure of his theater.
Many turned away from the disgraced director, and only Stanislavsky was not afraid to help his longtime rival. He made sure that Meyerhold was accepted into his theater. A couple of months later, Konstantin Sergeevich died, but before he died, he did everything for Meyerhold to take his place.
The last project of Vsevolod Emilievich was the preparation of students' performances at the Leningrad parade of athletes in May-June 1939. It was an undoubted success, colleagues congratulated Meyerhold on his "return", but on June 20, 1939, the director was arrested.
The guilty verdict read:. On February 2, 1940, after painful torture, Vsevolod Meyerhold was shot in one of the gloomy casemates on the Lubyanka.
The fate of Meyerhold's wife Zinaida Reich also turned out to be unenviable. She had the imprudence to write to Stalin that he did not understand art. After that Zinaida Reich was found murdered under mysterious circumstances.