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A scene from the play “Princess Turandot” of the Yevgeny Vakhtangov State Academic Theater. 1964 year. Main Archive of Moscow

13 February marked the 138th anniversary of the birth of Evgeny Vakhtangov.

The Main Archive presented materials for the 138th anniversary of the birth of Yevgeny Vakhtangov. The letters that the director and actor sent to Anatoly Gunst about working in a joint drama studio became available to users. He continued to write to students about performing arts even during bouts of illness.

Vakhtangov’s plan

The Glavarchiv holds the personal fund of the Gunst dynasty. Its representatives have shown themselves in architecture, painting, music and literature. Also among the numerous materials of the fund are documents of the artist and actor Anatoly Gunst.

In 1917, he founded a studio of dramatic art, and a year later he invited Vakhtangov to lead it. By this time, Evgeny Vakhtangov had already gained fame as a director and was considered the best teacher working according to the Stanislavsky system. His letter is kept in the Glavarchiv, where he prescribed the conditions of his work. The director was going to organize the studio for two years and made a plan for this, which had to be strictly followed.

For example, only Vakhtangov could invite teachers of internal stage technology, they had to study according to the program he developed. All students – applicants and those already studying – were enrolled in one group. Inspection of works on internal stage technique took place before Christmas and spring. Vakhtangov stressed that if these conditions are not met, he will not be able to organize the work of the studio.

In the name of art

While working at the Gunst Studio, Vakhtangov was seriously ill. He was subsequently diagnosed with stomach cancer. Despite constant treatment and several operations, the director was never saved – he died in the spring of 1922.

One of the letters from 1918 that Vakhtangov sent to the Gunst Studio when he was undergoing treatment can also be read in the Gunst dynasty fund. In it, he tells how important it is for an actor to do plastic.

“I lying; I cannot come to you; I will not see you for a long time, but I need to tell you how important it is to do plastic and how important it is to be able to do it in order to understand the essence of “plasticity” as an essential property of an actor. One must learn to feel the modeling, sculpture of a role, scene, play, and without such a feeling it cannot be done. It is practically impossible to acquire this property without skillful plastics, ”writes Vakhtangov.

Evgeny Vakhtangov also taught in other theatrical associations, among which were the First and Second Studios of the Moscow Art Theater, the People’s Theater, the Habima Theater-Studio and the studio bearing his name. In 1920, the Vakhtangov Studio was renamed the Third Studio of the Moscow Art Theater, and six years later it became the Evgeny Vakhtangov Theater.

One of the letters, which concerns the Vakhtangov Studio, is also kept in the fund of the Gunst dynasty. In 1919, 12 students left the studio due to a conflict with the director. In the same year, Anatoly Gunst decided to expel two students from his studio, since they took part in the work of a group of students who left Vakhtangov. Vakhtangov was against such a decision.

“You are a kind person. You, a person who knows life, must understand these two young and essentially good people. If they are wrong, you need to make them understand their mistake. Don’t look at them as criminals. We are not creating an educational institution, but a union of human souls for the sake of the perception of art, ”he wrote on September 1, 1919 to Anatoly Gunst.

Vakhtangov and Gunst headed the Studio of Dramatic Art until November 1919, until the time when Anatoly Gunst passed away.

Documents from the Gunst dynasty fund can be found in the reading room of the Moscow Main Archive at 82 Profsoyuznaya Street, Building 1. It is open on Mondays from 09:30 to 16:30, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 to 20: 00, on Fridays from 09:30 to 15:00.

In the reading room, the necessary sanitary requirements are observed: tables are located at a great distance from each other, disinfection is regularly carried out in the room. Visitors are required to bring a mask and gloves.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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