Stanislavsky: A Life in Letters
Edited by Laurence Senelick
Routledge – 2014 – 656 pages
Konstantin Stanislavsky transformed theatre in the West and was indisputably one of the twentieth century’s greatest innovators. His life and work mark some of the most significant artistic and political milestones of that tumultuous century, from the emancipation of the serfs to the Russian Revolution. Little wonder, then, that his correspondence contains gripping exchanges with the famous and infamous of his day: men such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, Trotsky and Stalin, among others.
Laurence Senelick, one of the world’s foremost scholars of Russian literature, mines the Moscow archives and the definitive Russian edition of Stanislavsky’s letters, to produce the fullest collection of the letters in any language other than Russian. He sheds new light on this fascinating field. Senelick takes us from the earliest extant letter of an eleven-year-old Konstantin in 1874, through his work as actor, director and actor trainer with the Moscow Art Theatre, to messages written just before his death in 1938 at the age of seventy-five.
We discover Stanislavsky as son, brother and father, as lover and husband, as businessman and "internal emigre." He is seen as a wealthy tourist and an impoverished touring actor, a privileged subject of the Tsar and a harried victim of the Bolsheviks.
Senelick shares key insights into Stanislavsky's work on such important productions as The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, Hamlet, Othello, and The Marriage of Figaro. The letters also reveal the steps that led up to the publication of his writings My Life in Art and An Actor’s Work on Himself. This handsome edition is also comprehensively annotated and fully illustrated.
An incomparably rich and faceted picture of Stanislavsky as man, actor, and public figure… Expertly translated, annotated and illustrated, this is not only the best and fullest collection of Stanislavsky's letters in any language outside Russian, it is in all respects a model of what such a book can and should be.
Donald Fanger, Harvard University
Through this remarkable collection, Laurence Senelick profoundly deepens an actor’s love affair with Stanislavsky. The combination of Stanislavsky and Senelick provides theatre practitioners and historians with a precious treasure-trove of knowledge.
Bella Merlin, University of California, Davis
Senelick’s brilliant selection, translated by him with rare perspicacity, fully opens Stanislavsky’s extraordinarily multi-layered and dramatic life to view. Never before in any English-language collection of his letters, or, indeed, in any account of his pioneering artistic achievements, have the turbulences of Stanislavsky’s life in art and history been so sharply brought into focus. Senelick’s is a magisterial work, worthy of his colossal subject and his status as a scholar of Russian literature and theatre.
Maria Shevtsova, Goldsmiths, University of London
Anyone who cares about the theatre will find Laurence Senelick's edition of Stanislavski's letters to be invaluable. Stanislavski's unique intelligence, charisma, and idealism are revealed on every page. His worries - cash, clashing egos, playwrights missing deadlines - will be familiar to anyone who's ever worked on a play. Because much plays out in a time of great turmoil, the collected letters read like an adventure story - sometimes Quixotic, often surprising, always inspiring.
Gregory Mosher, Director and Producer
List of Illustrations
Abbreviations and Acronyms
1. A Gilded Youth 1863-1886
2. The Society for Art and Literature 1888-1897
3. The Moscow Art Theatre Emerges 1897-1900
4. Chekhov and Gorky 1901-1904
5. Flirting with Symbolism 1904-1908
6. Experiments in All Directions 1909-1911
7. The Studio and Stepanchikovo 1912-1916
8. The Revolution and the Civil War 1917-1921
9. Innocents Abroad 1922-1924
10. Adjusting to a Soviet World 1924-1928
11. An Internal Émigré 1929-1932
12. Becoming a Monument 1933-1938
Laurence Senelick is Fletcher Professor of Drama at Tufts University and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His many books include Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists; Gordon Craig’s Moscow Hamlet; The Chekhov Theatre: A Century of the Plays in Performance; and A Historical Dictionary of Russian Theatre. He has been awarded the St George medal of the Russian Ministry of Culture for contributions to Russian art and scholarship.