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Who is Michael Chekhov?

I had never met such a person before. He creates the impression of being a brilliant personality deeply involved in art. It cannot be said of him that he is merely a gifted artist and director who is capable of staging the most varied repertoire. He simply breathes art. His hands, eyes, everything about him radiate a boundlessness of feeling and melancholy; it can be surmised that he is capable of the depths of villainy and the heights of ecstasy typical of Dostoevsky.

Margot Klausner - Habimah Theater - January 1930
 

Michael Chekhov's unique contribution to acting has been one of the best kept secrets of the theatrical world. Born in 1891, Michael, nephew of Anton Chekhov, became one of Russia's Most Honored Actors. Constantine Stanislavski considered Misha his most brilliant pupil. He is often considered to be the finest actor Russia has ever produced. By 1928, as head of the Second Moscow Art Theater, Chekhov's innovative directing and teaching had provoked such severe criticism by the Communist government, he was forced to flee the country for safety.

There followed ten years of wandering through Europe, with sojourns in Germany, France, Latvia, Lithuania and finally England. There, with the support of Beatrice Straight and the Elmhirst Family, Chekhov established his first acting school in English. The onset of World War II inspired the Elmhirsts to move the school to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1938. Here and in New York, Chekhov trained numerous actors from the Group Theater and the Actors Studio before moving to Los Angeles in 1942.

Michael Chekhov was deeply respected by his peers- Stella Adler, Sanford Meisner, Lee Strasberg, Herbert Berghof, Morris Carnovsky and Harold Clurman. He received an Oscar nomination for Hitchcock's "Spellbound" and spent his last 13 years, acting in films and coaching some of our greatest actors in film history. His student, Deirdre Hurst du Prey transcibed every class from 1936 to 1942. Keep your eyes open for future publications based on these notes.

His books On The Technique of Acting, To the Actor, and Lessons for Teachers are recommended for all actors, teachers, writers and directors. Noted actors Jack Nicholson, while receiving his 1999 Golden Globe Award, and Anthony Hopkins, on "Inside the Actors Studio", both acknowledged the power of Michael Chekhov's Psychological Gesture. Today, the Chekhov techniques are gaining world-wide recognition in an amazing expansion of interest as artists seek to discover a consistent means to peak states of performance. Current technology can scientifically support the once considered "too mystical" means of Mr. Chekhov and humanity is now ready to embrace this inspirational, organic means to accessing one's highest artistic aims.

What's Unique About Michael Chekhov's Approach?
While Michael Chekhov was the first to acknowledge his enormous debt to Stanislavski, the following story illustrates the difference in emphasis of the two approaches: As a student, Chekhov was asked to enact a true dramatic situation as an exercise in Affective Memory. He recreated' - extremely effectively - his father's funeral. Stanislavski only later discovered that Chekhov's father was still alive and consequently commented on his pupil's 'overheated imagination.' This Faculty of Imagination was to become the key to his whole approach to acting in the course of his professional career. Movement, Atmosphere, Concentration and intense Ensemble work became additional tools for the building of a role and the birth of a production. The vitality of Chekhov's approach can enthuse and inspire in a dynamic way, enabling actors to open new doors to the creative individuality within.