Stanislavsky as Amateur

The Alekseev Circle and the Society of Art and Literature

Authored by: Maria Ignatieva

The Routledge Companion to Stanislavsky

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415535649
eBook ISBN: 9780203112304
Adobe ISBN: 9781136281853


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In the first chapter of My Life in Art Konstantin Sergeevich Alekseev (Stanislavsky) proudly informed readers about his genetic predisposition toward theatre: his maternal grandmother was the French actress Marie Varley, who came to Russia on a tour with a French theatre troupe. In St. Petersburg, Varley met Vasily Yakovlev, a very well-to-do merchant, and became his common-law wife. Later Yakovlev married another woman and legally adopted his two daughters with Varley; one of them was Stanislavsky's mother. Stanislavsky inherited from his mother her love of theatre and music, and her sensitivity to language (he spoke perfect French). Exactly like his mother (and unlike his father), he was prone, since his early years, to sudden emotional outbursts (some of which he described in My Life in Art). Although he was emotional by nature, his upbringing was balanced by the traditions of his father's solidly Russian family, which highly valued the strict observation of professional duties, social responsibilities, and self-restraint. The Alekseevs were descendants of noble merchants who were, in turn, descendants of hard-working serfs who had bought their freedom. The strong influence of his merchant forebears' cultural traditions, combined with the exquisite education in arts and literature, gymnastics, horse riding and social dance — previously available to the aristocracy only — shaped Stanislavsky's personality.

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