Moscow Art Theatre

Established by K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko in 1898 under the name Moscow Art Theatre (MXT). The Theatre received the status of “Academic Theater” in 1919 (MXAT).

It was opened on October 14(1898) with the play “Tsar Fedor Ioanovich” in the “Hermitage” theatre building (Karetny ryad, 3). Since 1902 it is has been located on Kamergersky pereulok in the building of the former Lionozov theatre, reconstructed the same year by architect F. O. Shekhtel.

The Art Theatre’s existence began from a meeting of Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko at the “Slaviansky bazaar” restaurant on June 19th, 1897. The Theatre carried the name of “Art-Public” not for a long time: in 1901 the word “Public’ was removed, but the orientation to the democratic spectator remained one of MXT’s principles.

The core of the company (O. Knipper, I. Moskvin, V. Meierhold, M. Savitskaya, M. Germanova, M. Roksanova, N. Litovtseva) was formed from students of the drama branch of the Musical-Drama School of the Moscow philharmonic society where Vl. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko taught acting and by the performance participants of the Art and Literature Amateurs Society of Stanislavsky (M. Lilina, M. Andreeva, V. Lyjskii, A. Atrem). A. Vishnevsky was invited from a province. In 1900, the troupe accepted V. Kachalov and in 1903 — L. Leonidov.

The real birth of MXT is bound up with Anton Chekhov’s drama (“The Seagull”, 1898; “Uncle Vanya”, 1899; “Three Sisters”, 1901; “The Cherry Orchard”, 1904) and with Maxim Gorky (“The Petty Bourgeoisie” and “Lower Depths”, 1902). During the work on these performances a new type of actor was formed, delicately communicating the qualities of the psychology of the hero, the principles of direction were formed, an actor’s ensemble was created, as well as a common atmosphere for action. The Moscow Art Theatre is the first theatre in Russia, who put into practice the reform of repertoire, created its own circle, and which lived with their consecutive development from performance to performance. Among the best performances of MXT also were “Woe from Wit” by A. S. Griboedov (1906), “Blue Bird” by M. Meretlink (1908), “A Month in the Country” by I. S. Turgenev (1909), “Hamlet” by W. Shakespeare (1911), “The Imaginary patient” (“Le Malade imaginaire”) by J. B. Moliere (1913) and others. From 1912, studios for the preparation of actors were created under MXT. In 1924 this studio graduated and joined MXT’s troupe A. K. Tarasova, M. I. Prudkin, O. N. Androvskaya, K. N. Elanskaya, A. O. Stepanova, N. P. Khmelev, B. N. Livanov, M. M. Yanshin, A. N. Gribov, A. P. Zyeva, N. P. Batalov, M. N. Kedrov, V. Ya. Stanitsin and others, who along with B. G. Dobronravov, M. M. Tarkhanov, V. O. Toporkov, M. P. Bolduman, A. P. Georgievskaya, A. P. Ktorov, P. V. Massalsky became a great scene masters. Young directors N. M. Gorchakov, I. Ya. Sudakov, B. I. Vershilov also graduated from these studios.

Together with these young actors the Theatre started to create modern repertory (“Pugachevshchina” by K. A. Trenev, 1925; “The White Guard” by M. A. Bulgakov, 1926; the plays of V. P. Kataev, L. M. Leonov; “Armored train 14-69” by Vs. Ivanov (1927)). Stagings of the classics received wide success: “The Hot heart” by A. N. Ostrovsky (1926), “The marriage of Figaro” (“La Folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro”) by P. Beaumarchais (1927), “The Dead Souls” by N. V. Gogol (1932), “Enemies” by M. Gorky (1935), “Resurrection” and “ Anna Karenina” by L. Tolstoy (1937), “Tartuffe” by Moliere (1939), “Three sisters” by Chekhov (1940), “The School for Scandal” by R. Sheridan (1940).

“Front” by A. E. Korneichuk, “Russian people” by K. M. Simonov, and “The Marine officer” by A. A. Kron were put on the stage during the years of World War II. Among the posterior plays were “The Last Victim” by Ostrovsky (1940), “The Fruits of Enlightenment” by L. N. Tolstoy (1951), “Maria Stuart” by F. Schiller (1957), “The Golden Carriage” by L. M. Leonov (1958), “Dear Liar” by J. Kilty.

But in spite of individual successes, the theatre was in a crisis at the end of 60-ies. Plays in the “flavour of the day” were included in the repertory with increasing frequency, and the succession of the new generation was passing painfully. The situation was aggravated because critics were not allowed to the theater. The desire for the elder MXAT actors to get out the crisis induced them to invite the alumnus of the MXAT Studio School Oleg Efremov as a main director, who breathed new life into the theatre in the 70’s. He staged “The Final Ones” by M. Gorky (1971), “Solo for a Clock with a Bell” by O. Zahradnik (together with A. A. Vasiliev, 1973), “Ivanov” (1976), “The Seagull” (1980), “Uncle Vanya” (1985) by A. P. Chekhov. There was deep elaboration of modern themes at the same time. A. I. Gelman (“The party Committee’s Meeting”, 1975; “We, the undersigned”, 1979; “The bench”, 1984, etc.) and M. M. Roshchin (“Valentine and Valentina”, 1972; “Echelon”, 1975; “The Nacreous Zinaida”, 1987, etc), and also M. B. Shatrov, and A. N. Misharin became constant authors. I. Smoktynovsky, A. Kalyagin, T. Doronina, A. Popov, A. Myagkov, T. Lavrova, E. Evstegneev, E. Vasilieva, O. Tabakov became a part of the troupe; D. Borovskii, V. Levental and others worked as a set designers. But it was very difficult to unite the fast growing troupe. Necessity to give a job to actors led to compromises in play selection and in appointment of directors, which led to occurrence of many works with a feel of obviously “Just passing through”. Great directors put on the stage many big performances at the end of 80-ies — “Tartuffe” (J. B. Moliere) by A. Efros (1981), “The meek”(M. Dostoevsky) by L. Dodin (1985), “Amadeus” (P. Shaffer) by M. Rozovsky (1983), “The Master of Ceremonies” (A. Galin) by K. Ginkas (1986) and etc., but the theatre didn’t have a common creative program. Dissonance at the theatre led to conflict. In 1987 the collective divided into two independent groups: one began its existence under Oleg Efremov directing (from 1989 Moscow Art Academic Theatre named after A. P. Chekhov, Kamergersky per., 3) and the other under Tatiana Doronina (Moscow Art Academic Theatre named after M. Gorky, Tverskoy bulvar, 22).

After O. Efremov death in 2000, Oleg Tabakov became an Artistic Director of Chekhov’s MXAT, taking a course towards renewing the repertory (with stagings of classic world literature, including “Hamlet”, “The Cherry Orchard”, “The Golovev’s”, “The White Guard”, “King Lear”, and “Tartuffe” as well as modern patriotic and world literature). O. Yakovleva, A. Leontiev, A. Pokrovskaya, V, Khlevinsky, K. Khabensky, M. Porechenkov, V. Krasnov and others were invited in the troupe. The best forces of the modern directing are drawn to direct the shows — Y. Butusov, S. Zhenovach, M. Karbayskis, K. Serebrennikov, A. Shapiro, T. Chkheidze. In 2001 a third, New, stage was opened especially for experimental performances.

In 2004 the theatre returned to its original name — Moscow Art Theatre (MXT), excluding the word Academic.

In the spring of 2018, after the death of O. Tabakov, the Art Theater was headed by Sergey Zhenovach.

On October 28, 2021, Konstantin Khabensky assumed the post of artistic director of the Moscow Art Theater.

The Moscow Art Theatre’s Museum

The museum has existed since 1923. The base of its collection was founded by the theatrical historical documents fund together with Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko and other great theatre artist’s personal reserves. At first the museum was situated in the theatre’s building, but moved in 1939 — to Kamergersky per, 3-a. Until 1969 the museum was under the theatre’s direction. In 1923—1952 N. D. Teleshov was the head of the museum, in 1952—1968 — F. N. Mikhalsky (the prototype of the administrator Filya from M. Bulgakov’s “The Theatre Novel”). In 1969 the museum outgrew the departmental limits, was removed from the direction of the theater and became a Union museum. Besides the historical documents, there are works of set design and memorial items, connected with history and the modern activity of the Art Theatre.

In the structure of the museum are: a department of manuscripts and book collections, a department of decorative funds and historical-memorial collections, an excursion and lecture department; affiliates are — K. S. Stanislavsky house-museum (Leontievsky per, 6) and apartment-museum of Vl. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko (Glinishchevsky per, 5/7). A library is attached to a museum and contains approx. 13  000 preserved objects.

School-Studio of Moscow Art Theatre

In 1943, based at the Art Theatre, the Moscow Art Theater institute of higher education School-Studio named after Vl. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko was established.