chapter  32
7 Pages

First Studio of the MAT Letters

I left my family; I left the university when I was only one exam short of graduation; I resolved to subject myself to a semi-starving existence (as it was at the start of the year). This is enough evidence that in my soul I treat the object of my sacrices as sacred. Is it possible to be improper

toward what you love so much and with such joy? I have not insulted Konstantin Sergeyevich in word, thought, or deed. Not in his presence, not behind his back. If not for his presence at the theatre I would not have entered it to begin with, and, secondly, I would have left it the moment I felt that the theatre lost its link with its great creator and follows some path of its own, which is not to my liking. People cannot and don’t know how to be improper toward what

they worship. And I cannot be an exception, as this would be against my very nature. So, what are the signs of my year-long impropriety? I am lost, my

dear, kind man. I understand nothing. Do help me gure it out. Now, about my work. I worked with the youth for a little more than four months. And

here is what I did: Prepared the youth so far that Konstantin Sergeyevich’s language is

no longer foreign to them. Submitted my work to you, as it was required by Konstantin

Sergeyevich’s instructions. This is it. What else could I have done? It is true that, after a ve-month break, I refuse, decidedly refuse,

to demonstrate before Konstantin Sergeyevich my students’ abilities to use his system’s methods. This is because I rmly believe and know that the results of the exercises are only perceptible when they are conducted frequently. In two months’ time (this is, on average, how long I trained each of the groups) one cannot master his creative self. And after a six-month break, one can no longer demonstrate even what was still fresh immediately after classes. I don’t know how one can ask more of me. I fullled everything that

was required, as far as the time allowed me. I submitted my work to you. For ve months I have not met with any of the students as far as training is concerned. They have been doing something-performed somewhere, learned something-so how can I show Konstantin Sergeyevich the ballast they perceived during these ve months? How can I be so naive as to think that two months’ work took such deep root that my students spent the following ve months in daily exercises and assimilated what they just more or less began understanding and feeling? When I, having just entered the theatre, began working with the

people who have been at this theatre long before myself, I saw how wrongly they understand everything, or understand nothing at all, and how they laugh at everything that is dear to you and Konstantin Sergeyevich. At that time I understood that my predecessors had failed

to cultivate love for the system in these people. This is why yesterday I took upon myself the courage to declare that Mister Mardzhanov’s2 classes brought the youth less good than mine. One can only cultivate love when he himself loves. I am not being improper if I maintain the fact that Mardzhanov’s classes did less than mine. If I state the fact that at the theatre I found people who understood absolutely nothing prior to my classes, who now feel something, are excited, and do not mock [the system] (with few exceptions). I am speaking of the associates, a fraction of the school, and a fraction of the afliate group. What else can I do but point to that fact at the moment when such

a heavy, signicant reproach is cast upon me? If I deserve this reproach, I will suffer an appropriate punishment. I

am asking to be freed from all classes. If I did not deserve it, it is a great sin: repaying me with a reproach of

impropriety for my love, ardor, youth, faith, and boundless devotion. As for the money, I wanted to have 1,200 [rubles per year] based on

some comparative data, and this question is more a question of pride than of self-interest: I am ashamed to receive less than such and such for the work that is not a single bit easier. I don’t like money, and it is nally of no difference to me how much I will get: what I need I will earn on the side. The conversation that took place yesterday affected me so greatly

that I was unable to come to work today; for that I apologize before you, and I ask you to convey it to Konstantin Sergeyevich. I will digest everything, calm down, and come back tomorrow. I am writing so that you won’t think badly of me. Loving you, Ye. Vakhtangov

From Vendrovskaya and Kaptereva 1984

August 3, 1917

… At the Studio they are rushing with the sets for The Twelfth Night. Stanislavsky concocted something awful. It will be beautiful, rich, unnecessary, and expensive. Up till this point it already cost 6,000. There goes the principle of simplicity! “Nothing super‚uous, so that the audience does not demand expensive and visually striking productions …”

What a strange man Stanislavsky is! Why he needs this exterior-I fail to understand this. Acting in this setting will be difcult. I believe that this production will be very interesting externally, and that it will have success, but it will produce no step forward in the internal aspect. And the system will not win from it. And the creative individuality of the Studio will be polluted. Not transformed, mind you, but polluted. All of my hopes lie with you, my Rosmersholmers,3 my brothers and sisters. We must bring to this work our pure, unembellished, true souls and a genuine awareness of each other. We must bring our fully preserved and untouched individualities, an almost spiritual, not theatrical, passion; an art of the nest embroidery of the delicate curves of the human soul, and a complete unity with the author’s feelings. Through these means we must all unite with the atmosphere of the “white horses” and convince others that this kind of art, however complex, is the most precious, most exciting, and top-notch art. This is a step toward mystery plays. External characterization is an

amusing art, but on our way toward mystery plays we must step over its “attractive” corpse. Perhaps the very reason I like the way you play the doctor in The Incurable4 is that you keep your own voice and your own intonations. One must approach character while proceeding from oneself, by asserting oneself. Our actors often proceed from their own individuality, taking the word “proceed” literally-they proceed away from their individuality [into their character]. I love theatre in all its incarnations, but I am mostly drawn to such

moments in theatre that don’t merely depict everyday life (although I love them too, if they hide humor or tragedy in a humorous mask), but to moments when human spirit is at its liveliest. Reconciliation and quarrel by the Christmas tree-in The Festival of

Peace. Scenes from the second act of The Deluge. The moment of silent panic from The Deluge. All of Rosmersholm. The second part of the fourth act of The Cricket. The scene with Toby at the bell tower from The Chimes and Wandering Minstrels. I nd nothing of this nature in The Wreck of Hope. And since most of The Twelfth Night is nothing but magnicent buffoonery (not my kind of humor!), I don’t see any possibility of stepping into the spiritual realm of theatre (vs. the realm of artistic spectacle) in The Twelfth Night.