Michail Ščepkin was one of the most prominent representatives of early nineteenth-century Russian theatre. After his debut as a serf actor on the provincial stage, Ščepkin achieved his greatest successes in Moscow in the 1930s and 1940s, when the Higher Theatre School was consolidating the progressive idea of educational theatre and forming a new generation of critics, more attentive to and aware of the importance of actors. Ščepkin had stimulating relationships with intellectuals and artists like Granovsky and Gogol', and participated in the gradual renewal of the Russian scene in the name of greater realism. Contemporary critics and later historians have insisted on the ‘naturalness’ and ‘simplicity’ of Ščepkin. However, despite an evident anti-classicist tendency, his style clearly reveals a search for the ‘perfect truth’ for a combination of realism and formal precision. Thus the peculiarity of Ščepkin’s acting lies not in its realistic inclinations, a tendency which was already prominent in Russia, but rather in the definition of the character. Ščepkin implemented a strong portrayal of the character, emotionally saturating it and imbuing it with strong passions. At the same time he gave his characters a psychological complexity that impressed the audience and the critics, even when performing low-level repertoire. This was the case of the Mariner, a banal melodramatic vaudeville that Ščepkin turned into a mere masterpiece thanks to skilful silent scenes and subtle interpretative nuances. The psychological analysis of the role appears therefore as a fundamental element of Ščepkin’s acting technique.


Aurora Egidio è Ricercatore presso il Davimus dell’Università di Salerno dove insegna Storia del teatro e dello spettacolo. Ha scritto Aleksandr Tairov e il Kamernyj teatr di Mosca 1907-1922, Roma, Bulzoni, 2005 e vari saggi sul teatro in Russia tra cui uno dedicato in particolare alle tournées russe di Eleonora Duse («Il Castello di Elsinore», 1999). aegidio@unisa.it


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