Yevgeny Vakhtangov

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Yevgeny Vakhtangov
Born Yevgeny Bagrationovich Vakhtangov
(1883-02-01)1 February 1883
Vladikavkaz, Terek Oblast, Russian Empire
Died 29 May 1922(1922-05-29) (aged 39)
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Occupation Actor
Theatre director
Years active 1911-1922

Yevgeny Bagrationovich Vakhtangov (also spelled Evgeny or Eugene; Russian: Евге́ний Багратио́нович Вахта́нгов; 13 February 1883 – 29 May 1922) was a Russian actor and theatre director who founded the Vakhtangov Theatre. He was a friend and mentor of Michael Chekhov.[1]

Vakhtangov was born to an Armenian father and a Russian mother in Vladikavkaz, Northern Ossetia.[2] He was educated at Moscow State University for a short time and then joined the Moscow Art Theatre in 1911 and rose in the ranks, so that by 1920 he was in charge of his own theatre studio. Four years after his death, the studio was named Vakhtangov Theatre in his honor.

Vakhtangov was greatly influenced both by the theatrical experiments of Vsevolod Meyerhold and the more psychological techniques of his teachers, Konstantin Stanislavski and Leopold Sulerzhitsky, and the co-founder of the MAT Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. His productions incorporated masks, music, dance, abstract costume, avant-garde sets as well as a detailed analysis of the texts of plays and the psychological motivations of its characters. His most notable production was Turandot by Carlo Gozzi, which has played at the Vakhtangov Theatre ever since 1922 (the year of his death). Another famous production directed by Vakhtangov in the same year was S. Ansky's "The Dybbuk" with the Habimah theater troupe.

On the Actors Studio webpage, Lee Strasberg is quoted as saying: "If you examine the work of the Stanislavski System as made use of by Stanislavski, you see one result. If you examine it in the work of one of his great pupils, Vakhtangov — who influenced our thinking and activity — you will see a completely different result. Vakhtangov's work was skillfully done, his use of the Method even more brilliant and more imaginative than Stanislavski’s, and yet Vakhtangov achieved totally different results."

The German theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht argued that Vakhtangov's approach was "the Stanislavski-Meyerhold complex before the split rather than its reconciliation". Brecht outlined the main aspects of Vakhtangov's work as:

  1. Theatre is theatre.
  2. The how, not the what.
  3. More composition.
  4. Greater inventiveness and imagination.
File:Princess Turandot - 1922.jpg
Carlo Gozzi´s Princess Turandot, performance by Yevgeny Vakhtangov (1922)

He identifies a commonality with his own 'demonstrating' element in acting, but argues that Vakhtangov's method lacks the social insight and pedagogical function of Brecht's own Gestic form: "when Vakhtangov's actor says 'I'm not laughing, I'm demonstrating laughter', one still doesn't learn anything from his demonstration".[3]

Vakhtangov died of cancer. The later part of his career took place at a high point of Russian theatre, amidst the Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War.


  1. Martin Banham. The Cambridge guide to theatre, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 1157:"Armenian born, Vakhtangov studied law at Moscow University before enrolling at A. I. Adashev’s drama school, were he was taught by, among others, Leopold Sulerzhitsky."
  2. Malaev-Babel, Andrei (2013). Yevgeny Vakhtangov: A Critical Portrait. Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 9781136979552.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. From a note probably written in the 1930s. See Brecht (1964, 237-238).


  • Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and trans. John Willett. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-38800-X. USA edition. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-3100-0.
  • Carnicke, Sharon M. 1998. Stanislavsky in Focus. Russian Theatre Archive Ser. London: Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-5755-070-9.
  • Malaev-Babel, Andrei. 2011. The Vaktangov Sourcebook. Ed., trans. and with an Introduction by Malaev-Babel, Andrei. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-47268-5.
  • Farber, Vreneli, 2008. Stanislavsky in Practice: Actor Training in Post-Soviet Russia (Artists & Issues in the Theatre, Vol. 16. New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-1-4331-0315-5) (summary of Vakhtangov's ideas and their application in post-Soviet actor training) ISBN 978-1-4331-0315-5

External links