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Meyerhold's Castings of Actresses for Male Parts

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In this article I examine Meyerhold’s occasional castings of actresses for male parts in a small, but significant, number of instances from his long career as a stage director. Meyerhold cast a woman for a male part six times, five of them in tragedies. However, he did so intermittently and for different purposes, to suit highly heterogenous contexts. Three cases have particularly interesting perspectives: his 1915 production at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg of Calderon de la Barca’s Spanish Baroque tragedy The Constant Prince; his 1926 co-production at the Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow of Tretyakov’s activist melodrama Roar, China!; and his 1931 production at the Meyerhold Theatre of Yury Olesha’s contemporary tragedy A List of Benefits. The three cases are not connected but are – each in its own way – artistic reactions to the three consecutive, dissimilar systems of government, under which Meyerhold
lived and worked: the Tsarist regime, the formative first decade of the Soviet Union, and finally Stalinism. On a more basic personal level, they reflect Meyerhold’s habitual preference for tragedy as a means of expression to reveal the social mechanisms exploited by oppression or released against it. In each case, casting an actress in a male part poses a maximum contrast to the oppressive system inquired into by way of metonymy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRussian Literature
Pages (from-to)239-272
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
EventVsevolod Meyerhold's Theatre Practice: International Conference - The Grotowski Institute, Wroclaw, Poland
Duration: 3 Oct 20135 Oct 2013


ConferenceVsevolod Meyerhold's Theatre Practice
LocationThe Grotowski Institute

Bibliographical note

The article is my contribution to Russian Literature's special issue on "Russian Theatre from Modernism to the Avant-Garde", edited by Olga Kuptsova and Anna Sergeeva-Klyatis

    Research areas

  • Gender; Travesty; Cross-dressing; Vsevolod Meyerhold; Nina Kovalenskaya; Varvara Yanova; Maria Babanova; Zinaida Raikh

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