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Modern Theatre in Russia: Tradition Building and Transmission Processes (Bloomsbury, 2020)

What did modern theatre in Russia look like and how did it foreground tradition building and transmission processes? 


The book challenges conventional historiographical approaches by weaving contemporary theories on cultural transmission into its historical narrative.  It argues that processes of transmission – training spaces, acting manuals, photographic evidence, newspaper reports, international networking, informal encounters, cultural memories – contribute to the formation and consolidation of theatre traditions. 


Through English translations of rare Russian sources, the book expounds on:

  • side-lined material on Stanislavsky, including his relationship with German actor Ludwig Barnay, use of improvisation at the First Studio, and rehearsal practices for Artists and Admirers (1933);

  • Valentin Smyshlaev’s acting manual The Technique to Process Stage Performance and the creation of hybrid practices;

  • proletarian theatre as an amateur-professional combination and force in the transformation of everyday life, as seen in the Proletkult’s volume Art at the Workers’ Clubs; 

  • Meyerhold’s Borodin Studio as an early example of Practice as Research, his European tour of 1930, and international persona as depicted in newspapers published in the West;

  • Asja Lācis’s work with children, which contributes to current efforts to readdress the gender imbalance that is often characteristic of modernism.


This historical-theoretical investigation is allied to practical exercises that provide a more experiential understanding of the modern performance realities involved. In this way, the book will not only speak to theatre scholars and historians but also to students and practitioners engaged in practical work.

More information about the book can be found here.

Jonathan Chambers, of Bowling Green State University, USA, described the book as follows:


“In Modern Theatre in Russia: Tradition Building and Transmission Processes, Stefan Aquilina offers a methodologically savvy and historiographically sophisticated consideration of modern Russian theatre, drawing into his consideration events and figures both well-known and heretofore neglected. His findings enrich not only our understanding of 20th century modern Russian theatre, but also expose the complexity of modernism and its complicated relation to tradition.” 

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