MA R I A O S I P OV N A K N E B E L ( 1 8 9 8 – 1 9 8 5 ) is arguably the mostimportant theatrical voice of Russia’s Soviet era. She studied acting and directing with three major figures from the Moscow Art Theatre – its founders (Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko), and the brilliant actor Michael Chekhov. By synthesising their work, she became a prism for all that was best in the famed company’s tradition. As a director and teacher, Knebel jump-started the careers of prominent actors like Oleg Efremov (who founded the innovative Contemporary Theatre in 1957), bold new playwrights like Victor Rozov (who reinvigorated Russian drama in the 1960s), and imaginative directors like Anatoly Vasiliev (Russia’s most internationally known contemporary director). Without a doubt, theatrical art would be the poorer without her. At the centenary of the Moscow Art Theatre, Vasiliev placed her legacy next to those left by Jerzy Grotowski and Yury Liubimov (Smeliansky 1999: 215).