Tairov’s Theater, Evreinov’s Monodramatic Moment, and the Lessons of «Eugene Onegin», a Drama in Verse
Learning literature through theater is a bottomless source of excitement—and one reason, surely, is the sense of urgency imposed by performance. With novels, art exhibits, architectural monuments, even movies, the reader or spectator is boss. The story (as well as interesting theories that might explain the story) can be “paused,” bookmarked, contemplated, revisited at will. But live music and live theater depend for their communication on the uninterrupted forward thrust of a concept. Polemical or ideologically-driven theater, so familiar to twentieth-century Eastern Europe, can begin with an idea or desired effect and then strap both set and cast to it. But a pragmatic approach to stage work is more often the rule. The concept works itself out intuitively during rehearsals, as a creation-in-process by those skilled practitioners in the temporal arts we call actors, musicians, dancers, projectionists, all the while being nourished here and there by a directorial hint or hunch. The ensemble succeeds (more or less well) on opening night, is tuned up throughout the run, and often it is only after the show is struck that principles emerge with the contours of a formal theory. Such was my experience co-managing, with Simon Morrison, Princeton University’s production of a dramatic adaptation of Eugene Onegin in February 2012.