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Title: The Actor's Consciousness in Russian Modernist Philosophy of Theater
Authors: Ballard, Alisa Crouch
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: Modernism
Phenomenology of theater
Russian philosophy
Russian theater
Subjects: Theater history
Slavic literature
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: As the 19th century drew to an end, the revolutionary work of Konstantin Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theater challenged artists and intellectuals to re-think the theater’s representational objectives. How did both actor and audience experience the theater’s multiple planes of reality and representation? This dissertation investigates new concepts of the physical, psychological, and philosophical relationships between actor and audience and between actor and role that emerged in Russia in the 1900s through 1930s. I show that a set of directors, dramaturges, and philosophers of theater developed phenomenological understandings of the actor’s experience onstage. Their writings on theater emphasize the individuality and humanness of the actor, the actor’s creative agency, and the mental and physical experience of the performance by actor and spectator. They oppose Formalist and semiotic director-centered paradigms, such as those formulated by Vsevolod Meyerhold. The argument revolves around five thinkers: director-theorists Konstantin Stanislavsky, Nikolai Evreinov, and Alexander Tairov; philosopher Gustav Shpet; and modernist prose writer and playwright Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Chapter 1 considers the work of Shpet—Russia’s foremost phenomenologist, affiliated at different points in his career with the theaters of Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, and Tairov—to establish a framework for analyzing phenomenological aspects of Russian theater. Chapter 2 examines Stanislavsky and Edward Gordon Craig’s jointly directed Hamlet at the Moscow Art Theater (1912) as a case study in the limits of Stanislavsky’s understanding of the collaboration between actor and stage design to communicate the interiority of a role. Chapter 3 introduces Evreinov’s theories of theater in everyday life, which begin by assuming that performance is possible only through its subjective perception by an actor or spectator. Chapter 4 argues that Krzhizhanovsky saw in theater a philosophical argument about selfhood and separation: the structure of theater’s representations implies the interactivity of the world and the presence of others outside of the subject. Chapter 5 analyzes the Moscow Kamerny Theater’s production of The Man Who Was Thursday (1923), adapted by Krzhizhanovsky and directed by Tairov, to show how the text and staging qualify the simultaneous freedom and entrapment of an actor vis-à-vis the audience and the role.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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