Serafima Birman and The Path of the Actress: from the Moscow Art Theatre to People’s Artist of the USSR

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


Serafima Birman was an actress of the Moscow Art Theatre who worked in the First Studio and Second Moscow Art theatre throughout the revolutionary and civil war period (1910s–1920s) and went on to have a distinguished career as a performer, teacher, and director in Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR (1920s–1970s). The article is an investigation of her artistic and cultural contribution in the development of the Stanislavsky System and of her approach to acting, working alongside Vakhtangov, Michael Chekhov, and influenced by Meyerhold and other artists of the avant-garde. She was the first female director at the theatre, continued to act and direct in Soviet theatres and worked in film, notably with Eisenstein on Ivan the Terrible. The development of her career required great determination and necessitated making theatrical and political choices in order to survive and maintain the artistic principles on which her work was based. The article makes a significant contribution to Stanislavsky Studies and Gender Studies and Theatre.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-356
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • directing, Michael Chekhov, Vakhtangov, Meyerhold, Eisenstein, eccentrism, Socialist Realism, Actress