The Moscow Kamerny Theatre: An Artistic History, 1914-1950


ACLS Fellowship Program




In 1914, Alexander Tairov and Alisa Koonen founded the Moscow Kamerny Theatre to revolutionize the theater of their day. The Kamerny became world-renowned for its collaborations with cubist artists who redefined theatrical space in conjunction with virtuosic actors and a powerful female lead. Although the theatre initially pursued aesthetic innovation over political content, its later Soviet productions came to define socialist realism in the theatre. After surviving most of the Stalinist period, the Kamerny was liquidated in 1950, an erasure that was justified by politically motivated accusations of irrelevance and artistic inferiority that still linger today. Drawing from the massive Kamerny archives, this project reveals the significance of the Kamerny and its artists in the context of the productions they staged, the cultures they bridged, and the tumultuous political times in which they lived and worked. How, this study asks, can theatrical innovation simultaneously serve and resist a totalitarian state?