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 Vera Komissarzhevskaya


Born:   8 November 1864
Deceased:   23 February 1910

Russian stage actress

      

Vera Komissarzhevskaya was born on November 8, 1864 into the family of the singer and film director Fyodor Komissarzhevsky in St. Petersburg.  Vera debuted on an amateur theatre stage in Petersburg in 1888 and played in performances by the Art and Literature Association in Moscow in 1890-1891. She worked in Novocherkassk and Vilnius and was a success in comedies and singing vaudevilles. The actress’ drama talent manifested itself in plays by Hermann Sudermann (Battle of the Butterflies), Alexander Ostrovsky (Dowerless Girl), and others. 

 
Invited to the Alexandria Theater in Petersburg in 1896, Vera Komissarzhevskaya became one of the brightest exponents of new artistic aspirations of that time. Her rebellious art imbued with quest for moral ideals conveyed the moods and aspirations of prerevolutionary years. 
 
The role of Nina Zarechnaya in Chekhov’s The Seagull (1896) became a landmark for Vera Komissarzhevskaya and all the Russian theater. Her deeply dramatic play attracted attention of Anton Chekhov, who saw her as a kindred artist with new means of stage expressiveness. 
 
Vera Komissarzhevskaya dreamed of creating advanced modern repertoire theater. In 1902 she left the Alexandria Theater and after two years of touring in Russian province founded her own theater in Petersburg in 1904. She was a great success with plays by Maxim Gorky and dramas by Henrik Johan Ibsen. 
 
Vera Komissarzhevskaya became the favourite actress of democratic intellectuals. She organized concerts and donated the revenues to revolutionary circles and to support students’ movement. Her quest in the field of conditional symbolist theater jointly with Vsevolod Meyerhold in 1906-1907 triggered acute controversy between the actress and the stage director. 
 
After breaking from Meyerhold she toured in North America (1908) and then around cities of Russia (1908-1910). Despite the success of these tours, she was subject to doubts and despair. She was frustrated with condition of the contemporary theater. Thus, in 1909 Vera Komissarzhevskaya took the decision to leave the stage and devote herself to bringing up the new actor, and creating the new theater through a theatre school studio. 
 
Unfortunately, she did not live long enough to implement her plans. Vera Komissarzhevskaya died of black smallpox on February 23, 1910 during her tour in Tashkent.


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