Russian Delsartism and Michael Chekhov

The search for the eternal type

Authored by: Rose Whyman

The Routledge Companion to Michael Chekhov

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415710183
eBook ISBN: 9781315716398
Adobe ISBN: 9781317506867


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Michael Chekhov’s concept of the emotional and spiritual significance of gesture in theatrical expression evolved in the context of interest in the work of François Delsarte (1811–71) in early twentieth-century Russia. There are a number of striking similarities between Chekhov’s discussions of gesture and Delsarte’s. These distinguish Chekhov’s method from Stanislavsky’s System, as I will discuss. Though Chekhov’s actor training method is used today, as it was in his time, without reference to its philosophical underpinnings in examining how and why the method is considered to work, it is important to explore the range of relevant contexts as fully as possible. In this chapter, I aim to draw some comparisons between Chekhov and Delsarte in order to extend this exploration.

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