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Korsh Theater


Founded in 1882 by entrepreneur F. A. Korsh (18521923), this was the first successful private, commercial theater established after the repeal of the government's monopoly on theaters in the two capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Built in the heart of Moscow's bustling theater district, the Korsh Theater was designed to meet four professional objectives: to respond to audiences' changing aesthetic demands; to increase performance opportunities for provincial actors; to present productions of new plays, which led to special Friday night performances of experimental works; and to make both the Russian and the international dramaturgy available to students, which Korsh accomplished by offering free Sunday morning performances. The playwrights whose works played in Russia first at the Korsh included Hermann Sudermann, Edmond Rostand, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, George Bernard Shaw, and, perhaps most significantly, Anton Chekhov. Performers who advanced their careers here included comedian Vladimir Davydov, heartthrob Alexander Lensky, and light opera celebrities Lidia Yavorskaya and Maria Blyumental-Tamarina. The theater itself, designed by nationalist architect M. N. Chichagov, was the first to use electric lighting.

Korsh could afford his artistic innovations because of the extent to which he catered to the crowd, exemplifying the "dictatorship of the box office." The most popular, and prolific, playwright in his employ was I. I. Myasnitsky (Baryshev), who kept Korsh supplied with farces, comedies of topical issues with protagonists from all social backgrounds, such as "The Old Woman Makes a Fool of Herself." The theater's most famously popular production was the 1892 staging of Victorien Sardou's comedy about Napoleon's ex-washer woman, Madame Sans-Gene, translated by Korsh himself, and featuring the latest fashions directly from Paris.

Until its incorporation by the Soviet government in 1925, the Korsh Theater offered a central locale where new ideas about Russian culture were contested, reshaped, sometimes vulgarized, but always celebrated.

See also: chekhov, anton pavlovich; theater


McReynolds, Louise.(2003). Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Louise McReynolds

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