Russian actor and director Konstantin Stanislavsky, who was born 150 years ago today, toured the United States with his actors in 1923 to great acclaim. Stanislavsky and his students trained Americans, like Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler, who would go on and teach their interpretation of “the method” to generations of American actors.
Stanislavsky was encouraged to write his autobiography, which was swiftly translated, rather roughly, into English. The dedication to his book “My Life in Art” (1924) reads: “I dedicate this book in gratitude to hospitable America as a token and a remembrance from the Moscow Art Theatre which took so kindly to her heart.”
The early 1920s were a difficult time for Stanislavsky. His son was suffering from tuberculosis and while Stanislavsky was a giant on the stage, he still badly needed foreign currency to treat his son in a European sanitarium, according to historians. The U.S. trip assisted him in that effort.
Actors all over the world, and especially in the United States, are still inspired and nourished by the great theatrical pioneer, one of the most internationally influential figures ever to have lived in Moscow.
His handbook “An Actor Prepares”, published in 1936 two years before he died, is still a standard text for drama students around the world. His famous “method”, promoting the naturalistic style of acting that we take for granted today, broke away from the stilted traditions of 19th-century theatre. Moscow was Stanislavsky’s birthplace, lifelong home and final resting place. It was also the venue for his far-reaching discussions and experiments.
On June 22, 1897, Stanislavsky had an all-night meeting with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, which led to the founding of the Moscow Art Theatre. The old Slavyansky Bazaar restaurant on Nikolskaya Ulitsa, where they met at 2 p.m., no longer exists; but the theater that eventually grew out of that famous dinner is still going strong a few streets away on Kamergersky Pereulok.
A year later, on June 14, 1898, the company met for their first rehearsal in the nearby town of Pushkino. Stanislavsky’s opening speech urged the new team to dedicate their lives to creating “the first rational, moral and accessible theater.” Here are some of the other Moscow sights associated with the great director and his work.