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[Karl Theodore Kasimir]

(b Penza, Feb 9, 1874; d Moscow, Feb 2, 1940).

Russian theorist, stage director and actor. He was the director of the imperial opera and drama theatres in St Petersburg, but he had established an avant-garde reputation before the appearance of Russian Futurism in late 1912. This was largely due to his innovative and experimental unofficial productions for the House of Interludes cabaret and the Terioki summer theatre of 1912. As early as 1906 Meyerhold had signalled his break with tradition through the production of Aleksandr Blok’s Balaganchik (‘Little fairground booth’) at the Kommisarzhevskaya Theatre. Through his use of such ‘low’ techniques as improvisation, buffoonery, masks, making-up the actors in the auditorium and direct audience involvement, Meyerhold anticipated many features employed in the visual arts by the Russian Neo-primitivists and Futurists.

In August 1918 Meyerhold joined the Bolshevik Party and embarked on a second period of experimentation. By the autumn he had become head of the Petrograd section of TEO, the Theatre department of ...