Article Title

Meyerhold Meets Mei Lanfang: Staging the Grotesque and the Beautiful


Min Tian


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

[T]he theatre itself is essentially an example of the grotesque .... the grotesque [is] the basis of its existence

. -V. E. Meyerhold1

Chinese classical song-dance drama (gewuju), like other art forms, has its own aesthetic basis .... Whether the character in the play is truly mad or is just feigning madness, the artist must see to it that all the movements and postures on the stage are beautiful.

-Mei Lanfang2

Mei Lanfang's 1935 visit to Russia has been considered one of the most important events in the twentieth-century intercultural theater. This historical meeting between Mei and a host of renowned Russian and European theater artists brought about significant repercussions both in the West and in China. After observing Mei's performance, Vsevolod Meyerhold predicted in 1936 that after twenty-five to fifty years, "a certain union of devices of Western-European and Chinese theaters will occur," and he argued that "the glory of the future of the theater" and the Soviet "socialist realism" would be based on the techniques of the Chinese theater.3 Today with the flourish of intercultural theater, Bertolt Brecht, Meyerhold, and Sergei Eisenstein have been recognized for their "insight" into the Chinese and Asian theater traditions and their "fusion" of them in the formation of their new theater aesthetic. Elsewhere,4 I have examined Brecht's interpretation and incorporation of Mei Lanfang's art and Chinese xiqu.5 This article will be focused on Meyerhold's.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.