The ‘Second Wave’ Actresses of Russia and the USSR: Serafima Birman, Sofia Giatsintova, Alla Tarasova and Olga Pyzhova: their relationship to Stanislavsky, his System and the Moscow Art Theatre

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The chapter illuminates an under-researched area of Russian theatre history, particularly in relation to the lives of female performers. It investigates the artistic and cultural contribution of the ‘second wave’ actresses of the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT) in four case histories: Serafima Birman, Sofia Giatsintova, Olga Pyzhova and Alla Tarasova. All four actresses worked at the MAT founded by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko in 1898 and famous throughout Russia, Europe and North America. They did significant work in the theatre studios in the revolutionary and civil war period (1910s-1920s). They went on to have distinguished careers as performers, teachers and directors in Stalinist and post-Stalinist USSR (1920s-70s). The development of their careers required great personal and artistic determination which necessitated making theatrical and political choices, enduring conflict and compromise, loss and reward. This chapter throws light upon the development of the System in the practice of four female actors and their work in the 20s under the Stanislavsky System in the Soviet theatre, regarded as the only appropriate training for actors in the Stalinist-era Soviet Union.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of the History of Women on Stage
EditorsJan Sewell, Clare Smout
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Mar 2018


  • Russian theatre, Actresses, Stanislavski