Finishing one of the most difficult chapters of The Fairground Book and researching the film simultaneously. The chapter concerns Blok and Meyerhold’s legacy and in particular the legacy of The Fairground Booth in Russian and world theatrical history. This is a difficult subject to tackle as it is all a question of interpretation and quite subjective although I have tried to use referenced argument to get my point across. However this is not the main thing to consider since the purpose of the book is to be an introduction to The Fairground Booth rather than a definitive interpretation so the approach has to be looser and maybe even a bit experimental to find a way into the material.
Benois – Italian Comedy -1905
There is not much material to go on and very little can be found on this play and on Russian theatre generally so I have to rely on my own judgement. What happens is that The Fairground Booth is referenced and mentioned in various works, often in passing. Its never occurred to anybody that The Fairground Booth was a major turning point in Russian and world theatrical history.It didn’t exactly turn Stanislavsky’s method on its head but Blok and Meyerhold’s little “balagan” certainly brought down Stanislavsky’s fourth wall. The book will explore not just the play itself but the background and context in which the play was received and will be part of The Russian Documentary Film Series
Planning an extra chapter about Dostoevsky and the Fairground Booth in the book Blok, Meyerhold and the Fairground Booth thefairgroundbooth.com. Its come about due to further research into the symbolist painters of the time who were involved with theatre set design and theatre in general in Russia and Europe: Benois, Somov,Golovin and more particularly Dobuzhinsky. He designed sets for The Devil’s Play, and an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Devils. Dobuzhinsky also designed the frontispiece for Blok and Meyerhold’s play The Fairground Booth.
Dobuzhinsky’s illustration for the set of “The Devil’s Play”
This chapter and section will give an extra depth to the discussion about The Fairground Booth. It will also serve one of my intention which is to put the play in the wider context of Russian and European literature.
Attached are the frontispiece for The Fairground Booth and the set design for the fist part of The Devils Play by Remizov
+Russian Theatre Documentary Series
Fair Booths on Admiralty Square, St. Petersburg – Konstantin Makovsky, c.1869
A pause in the writing of the book about the play The Fairground Booth which was written by Alexander Blok and staged by Meyerhold as more time is spent on the script for the documentary film of the same subject. Finally put together a draft which still needs a great deal of work to distill it down into something manageable but at least the process has started. One of the characteristics of this project is that firstly I am writing a book, two scripts and editing (for the time being) a documentary film simultaneously. Plus The Fairground Booth project has to be integrated into the over all Russian Theatre Documentary Film Series which already has three films available and completed: “Meyerhold Theatre and the Russian Avant-garde”, “Stanislavsky and the Russian Theatre” and “Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre“.
All these elements will compliment each other and inform each other to hopefully provide a rich and fairly comprehensive introduction to this play and moreover to this particular time in Russian theatrical history. Working at the same time on marketing strategies and trying to form alliances with publishers and institutions which may be interested in such a project.
Now about to embark on the underlying theme of Shakespeare’s Tempest which was a big influence on Blok. Even though this influence is not immediately apparent in the play, it is definitely there embedded in the fabric of the play. The tempest and Shakespeare in general was a huge influence on Blok and it is almost inconceivable that Blok would not have this play in mind while writing his own first theatrical work .
+Russian Theatre Documentary Series
Well into the Fairground Booth project by Copernicus Films and Michael Craig with meetings planned and book going ahead step by step. Excellent progress on this project. Going through the Shakespeare section which is a specific component of Blok’s play. With regard to this project there is a feeling that I have broken through a barrier which seemed to be holding up progress but in fact this was just my imagination. With each project one reaches a plateau. While traversing the level and horizontal path it feels like little progress is being made but this is self evidently an illusion and even talk of plateaus and peaks is misleading.
There probably is no right way of describing the process and the answers you seek and solutions you want do not come straight away. However you find that you are asking the same questions as other practitioners of theatre have asked. What is theatre and what is acting and who am I. Directors actors and theoreticians have asked these questions over and over and their answers and thoughts are illuminating and inspirational, so there is plenty of help out there for whatever you may be searching for. Next week will be a key meeting for the project. There are back ups but this meeting is important.
+Russian Theatre Documentary Series
Moscow late evening
After the last bit of writing here things have moved on. Got down to completing a whole section of The Fairground Booth book – the section detailing The Apocalypse and The Fairground Booth. Not a bad bit of progress and all ready to start the next section about Blok and Shakespeare. I wanted to move through things chronologically but instead I started again somewhere a bit further on. The in between sections I will deal with later.
Talked with an acquaintance who I met at the Irish Embassy. We are cooperating at a number of levels but it might be possible to cooperate on The Fairground Booth. Preparing a letter to send to him based on the discussion we have had earlier
A few weeks ago filmed at the Vvedensky cemetery where Field is buried. Cold snowy weather perfect for what I wanted. Tried out the new slider which I have. Worked OK and got some very evocative footage. May come in handy in the future.
Having a difficult time with The Fairground Booth book for the Russian Theatre film project. Every time I make a new start I seem to run into a brick wall. Unable to move forward at all or find any kind of rhythm with the writing. has been going on for some time now and I’m not sure what the problem is. A complete lack of flow or even a desire to write or work on the project. The desire is there in fact but there seems no will or it may be the other way round. Even that I cant determine. Its almost like I don’t want to complete the book and yet I know that I do. Very strange sensation or set of circumstances. Don’t know what to do. Maybe its a question of simply doing more work. Need to find a way into it to enjoy it again like I did at the beginning. Maybe I am starting at the wrong place. Maybe I should start with the Tempest part and work backwards.
As I finish the book about the Russian Theatre film series +Russian Theatre Documentary Series work already gathering pace on the whole Fairground Booth side of the series. Possible locations being lined up in March for a film version of the a play itself. The Fairground Booth and editing going ahead with the documentary film about The Fairground Booth project which will be an integral part of the Russian Theatre Documentary series.
The book about the Fairground Booth is also taking shape almost simultaneously. Its too early to make any predictions but two years ago when I was working on the film Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre I could not have predicted that this work would be moving along. It just seemed much to far into the future. Now that Vakhtangov and the Russian Theatre is released a path has cleared to make progress on this part of the project.
After the successful launch of Encounters with the Russian avant-garde two more books are in the pipeline. Both of them will be about Russian theatre and connected with the Russian Theatre documentary series. The first book is already two thirds into the first draft and should be ready for publication in the early spring. It will chronicle the making of the series, the vagaries and joys of filming in Moscow and Russia, how the series was conceived, came together, was filmed and where it is going.
Three films are complete and hopefully another two will add to the series. Shooting and some preliminary post production already underway. Script for one film already complete as well. The second book is a much more ambitious project about one of the seminal plays of the early twentieth century. The scope will be broad and speculative but I hope will be a start in explaining some of the themes of Russian theatre in the early twentieth century.