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Anatoly Vasiliev speaks at the World Theatre Day on March 27th, 2016

“Theatre can say everything ”


"Do we need theatre?

This is a question asked by thousands of disappointed theatre workers and millions of bored spectators.

Why do we need theatre?

In a time when the stage pales in comparison to what is happening in the squares of our cities and in those lands where life’s real tragedies are unravelling.

What is theatre for us?

Gilded boxes, velvet chairs, dusty stage sets, trained voices – or, on the other hand, black boxes soiled with dirt and blood, angry naked bodies piled onto one another. What can theatre say?


Theatre can say everything.

Be it about the gods, about misanthropes languishing in caves, about how passion can elevate and love can destroy, about how there is no room for the good and that cheating reigns supreme, about how some people live in their own homes while some children are in refugee camps and others driven back into the desert, about how we have been separated from our loved ones… Theatre can speak of all these things. Theatre has always been and will be forever.

In the next fifty to seventy years theatre will be particularly necessary because out of all the arts that engage an audience theatre is the only form that passes from mouth to mouth, from eye to eye, from hand to hand, from body to body. Theatre does not require an intermediary between people, it is a transparent part of the universe – neither north nor south, nor east or west. It shines with its own light from all four cardinal points, instantly understandable by anyone, friend or enemy. We need theatre in all its forms and, of all the many forms of theatre that exist, archaic theatre will be most in demand because ritual theatre does not need to compete with the theatre of the more advanced civilisations. The culture of centuries past is losing its relevance – so-called “cultural information” has suddenly replaced simple reality and is stopping us from getting in touch with it.

Theatre is open, the entrance is free.

To hell with gadgets and computers, go to the theatre! Take your seats in the stalls or in the gallery, listen to the words and carefully observe the living images. You have theatre before you, don’t allow your frantic lives to forget it. We need theatre in its every form except one: the theatre of political games, the theatre of politicians, of politics, the theatre of everyday terror – individual or collective – the theatre of bodies and blood on the squares and in the streets, in the capital cities and in the provinces, between different religions and ethnic groups.”


Considered one of the great masters of European theatre, Anatolij Vasiliev was born in 1942. After studying chemistry and two years spent on ocean research ships in the Pacific, at 26 years of age Vasiliev was admitted to the directing faculty of GITIS (the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts) where he studied under Mariya Knebel - in turn a pupil of Stanislavky and M. Cechov - and Andrei Popov, considered among the greatest actors of Soviet Russia at the time. With these teachers, Vasiliev trained in the Stanislavsky system, psychological realism and text analysis through action – otherwise known as the etjud technique.

Thanks to Mariya Knebel, in 1973 Vasiliev was invited to work at the prestigious MChAT Moscow theatre, where he directed a number of seasoned, ‘second generation’ Stanislavsky school actors under the supervision of Oleg Efremov. He was subsequently invited by Popov to become a staff member at the Stanislavsky Theatre. Since 1981 Vasiliev has collaborated with the Taganka Theatre directed by Yuri Lyubimov and has embarked on a career as pedagogue first at the VGIK Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography and then at the GITIS, where he worked alongside Anatoly Efros running the directing course.

In 1987 the Moscow district Soviet opened a new theatre for Vasiliev, which he named the School of Dramatic Art and to which he called many actors with whom he had collaborated in previous years. From its beginning the school established itself as a new model for theatre, working both as a training laboratory and as a stage for productions, combining art with intellect, pedagogy and ethics. With the changed political climate, Vasiliev was able to take some of his historic productions on tours abroad (Cerceau, Sei personaggi in cerca di autore, Questa sera si recita a soggetto), arousing considerable interest across Europe. Since 1990 the School of Dramatic Art has become a centre for exploring Vasiliev’s teaching method through so-called “ludic structures” and improvisation technique. 

In the 1990s Vasiliev’s school collaborated with a number of festivals and workshops in Europe, including the Workcenter Jerzy Grotowski of Pontedera, the Teatro San Giminiano, the Festival di Volterra, the Teatro Ateneo, Fabbrica Europa, ETI and CSS for the Ecole des Maitres and the Atelier della Costa Ovest. He has also directed a number of important productions in France, Greece, Germany and Hungary.

After the conclusion of his period at the Moscow school, Vasiliev developed still further his activities as director and pedagogue across the whole of Europe, particularly in France where from 2004 to 2008 he headed the directing department at Lyon’s ENSATT. His work has been featured in numerous publications in various languages, including Sept ou huit leçons de théâtre (P.O.L.), Anatoli Vassiliev. Maître de stage (Lansman Cifas), Zwisschen Tradition und Erneuerung (Project Verlag), Anatoli Vassiliev: l’art de la composition (Actes Sud), A un unico lettore., (Bulzoni), L’Ecole des Maitres libri di regia vol. 1 e  2.

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