Vakhatangov’s thoughts on acting and actors
Boris Zakhava, a disciple of Vakhatangov performed as a Timur in Carlo Gozzi’s Turandot, gives a very good account of Vakhatangov’s attitude to acting and his actors;
“Vakhtangov could formulate clearly and definitively what was living in the collective as yet only vaugely and undefined.
When Vakhtangov demonstrated some quality (a gesture or intonation) to an actor they felt as if this was the very quality which had alluded them in order that they might express themselves fully. Vakhatangov prompted in the actor that which their own creative individual subconscious required. Every play would be staged by Vakhatangov differently with a different company. He demanded different things form different actors in the same role. Therefore each actor, each member of the collective felt that Vakhtangov was on their side whilst at the same time fullfilling the needs of the whole comapany. Vakhtangov was able to guess the collective will, he could organise this will and help each individual member express this will in their own creative work”.
In this sense Vakhtangov allowed each actor to express their own artistic individuality with out it being dissolved, lost or smothered in the collective will.
The point is reiterated by Michael Chekov in his book “The Path of the Actor”. Chekhov states that Vakhatangov was able to speak to each individual actor in the language of their own soul. This way of working resolved the eternal theatrical problem of creative authorship.
Vakhtangov so to speak invisably put himself next to the actor and led him by the hand. The actor never felt any coercion from Vakhatangov but neither could they get away from the concept that the director had created. By implimenting Vakhtangov’s instructions and concepts the actor felt as if they were their own.