WARNING: The opinions expressed below are DEFINITELY those of The CoLab Theatre Company! Learn more at www.colabtheatre.org!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Other Chekhov

It’s common knowledge amongst my friends and collaborators that I’m something of a nerd for theatre history, theory and technique. If I haven’t practiced it, I want to read about it, and if I haven’t read about it, I want you to tell me about it. From Meisner to Meyerhold, from Artaud to Strasberg, I believe that it is an actor/director/playwright’s duty to develop a wide palette from which to paint from. For today’s post, I want to discuss my experience with Michael Chekhov.

Click Image for Wikipedia Article

For those of you unfamiliar with the technique, Michael was a nephew of Anton Chekhov and one of the most important actors of the Moscow Art Theatre and MAT Studios. He developed an approach to acting adapted from the Stanislavski “system” that included an added emphasis on imagination and physical specificity. While many other techniques focus on the psychological, and others focus on the physical, I’ve found that Chekhov links the two together via the use of one’s imagination and encouraging personal creativity. This is, of course, my own understanding, and others might explain Chekhov differently.

This past Saturday, I attended a three-hour introductory workshop on Michael Chekhov, led by Scott Fielding. I first studied Chekhov during my senior year at Brandeis, where it formed the basis of my final year of acting classes. Now, some of you might be a few years out of school and remember the days of “acting class.” We learn so much from acting classes, and yet we rarely get the opportunity to refresh our memory, flex the muscles and stretch our chops once we’ve left school. Some directors like to play, but I’m sure you’ve all encountered rehearsal processes where you feel creatively stifled and bored. While many criticize acting classes as “impractical”, I do find that it is important to periodically reenter that world of wonder and curiosity.

I felt this during my experience this past weekend. I enjoy being in a judgment free environment, free from the pressure of opening night or meeting ticket sales goals. Scott’s approach to the art of acting is right up my alley. One of the key points he made is that the actor is an artist, and needs to be creative. He briefly discussed how some prefer to refer to acting as a craft, and though he accepts that as subjective judgment he believes acting to be an art. And for those of you who worry about the tendency of some acting to impose dogma in their students, from the very beginning Scott explained that what matters most isn’t what we believe should work, but rather what does work. If I remember correctly, his exact words were “It’s not the same for everyone. Whatever works, works.”

Scott recently moved to Boston where he is offering a series of classes and workshops on Chekhov. If you have the time, I recommend you give it a try. I don’t believe there are many Chekhov teachers in the Boston area, so if you’ve never worked with Chekhov or have but would like a refresher, take a gander at Scott’s website. If you do, please let me know what you think! I love discussing this stuff.


  1. I love this post, but eeeshk Michael Chekhov is one scary looking dude

  2. Thanks for the post which I came across when googling for photos of Chekhov as Erik XIV. So I just wanted to add that the pic isn't just a pic of Chekhov it is Chekhov as Erik XIV in Stringberg's play.