Meyerhold and the Biomechanic actor training

Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold was a Russian and Soviet theatre director, actor and theatrical producer.  His provocative experiments dealing with physical being and symbolism in an unconventional theatre setting made him one of the seminal forces in modern international theatre.

Biomechanics was a system of actor training developed by Meyerhold to widen the emotional potential of a theatre piece and express thoughts and ideas that could not be easily presented through the naturalistic of the period. This technique was developed during the rehearsals of a series of plays directed by Meyerhold in the 1920s and 1930s when Socialist Realism was at its height in Russia. Biomechanics is a precursor to and influence on much of the 20th century's physical theatre.

Following Konstantin Stanislavsky's lead, he said that the emotional state of an actor was inextricably linked to his physical state (and vice versa), and that one could call up emotions in performance by practicing and assuming poses, gestures, and movements. Meyerhold's acting technique had fundamental principles at odds with the American method actor's conception. While method acting melded the character with the actor's own personal memories to create the character’s internal motivation, Meyerhold connected psychological and physiological processes. He had actors focus on learning gestures and movements as a way of expressing emotion physically.

Meyerhold's acting system relied on motion rather than language or illusion. Opposing the Stanislavsky System, which Meyerhold believed over emphasized the spirit and psychology, biomechanics emphasized elementary laws of reflexes. In addition to the bare scenery facilitating this technique, the costumes were also integral. In constructivist fashion, the costumes were not extravagant, but drastically simplified, which allowed the actors to easily perform using biomechanics and without hiding mistakes.