History of the theater

Konstantin S. Stanislavsky with the students
© Archive of the Stanislavsky Electrotheater

История театра

Stanislavsky Electrotheatre
The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre is located in the heart of Moscow, on Tverskaya Street 23, and was founded almost a century ago in 1915 as one of Moscow's first cinema palaces — the ARS Electrotheatre. After the revolution it became home to Konstantin Stanislavsky's opera and drama studio, and not long after that, the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre. The symbolic legacy of these three locations, a cinema, an opera studio and a dramatic theatre, has been fully endorsed by the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre as it launches a new era.
In early 2013, the Moscow Department of Culture ran a competition for the post of artistic director at what was officially called the Moscow Theatre of Drama named after K. S. Stanislavsky, i.e., the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre. The winner of the competition, announced in July 2013, was Boris Yukhananov.
In collaboration with The Wowhaus Studio — the architectural bureau responsible for numerous major architectural and design projects in Moscow in recent years, including the building of the Strelka Institute, the redesign of Gorky Park and the complete relandscaping of the Crimean Embankment on the Moscow River — Yukhananov undertook a full-scale reconstruction of the old interior of the building, creating a new, multi-functional platform not only for theatre, but for exhibitions, lectures and performance art.

The history of the building

The theatre's main building at 23 Tverskaya Street consists of two buildings from the second half of the 19th century: one contains the stage, the hall and the foyer, while the other houses administrative offices.
In 1872, the entire plot next to the English Club, which belonged to the Golitsyn family in the 18th century, was purchased by secret counselor and order bearer Ivan Pavlovich Shablykin. In 1874 a four-story apartment house was built to the plan of architect Mikhail Nikiforov perpendicular to Tverskaya Street. There were shopping galleries on the first floor, including, at various times, a beer hall, a hairdresser and a haberdashery. Next to it, in 1888, a V-shaped mansion built by architect Mitrofan Arsenyev was erected on the corner of Tverskaya and Mamonovsky Lane. It also served as an apartment house. In 1913, the property fell into the hands of Count Alexei Kapnist, who soon rented one of the buildings to the famous filmmaker Abram Gekhtman, who by that time owned in Moscow the Globus distribution company and a whole chain of cinemas - or, as they were called then, electrotheatres. On Gekhtman’s orders, the first narrow apartment house was rebuilt as a new electrotheatre with a hall seating 900, an orchestra pit in front of the screen, two foyers, two front staircases and a buffet. The building acquired a new neoclassical facade with a balcony and sculptures of lions on the roof, echoing the look of the English Club. The Ars electrotheatre was opened to great fanfare in November 1915 with a screening of the motion picture A Dream of Golden Reveries. This date is still visible on the facade today, as well as a plaque informing us that in 1918 Vladimir Lenin spoke here at a meeting on the occasion of the first anniversary of the revolution.
Ars did not screen new moving pictures for long - the revolution, civil war and the 1919 Decree on the Nationalization of Cinema suspended its work. The building fell into decay and was virtually abandoned until in 1921, on the initiative of the young Natalia Sats, who skillfully negotiated with the People's Commissar of Education Anatoly Lunacharsky, it was transferred to her new endeavor, the Moscow Children's Theater. True, it was not handed over to her entirely, but rather on a parity basis with the cinema, which, during the NEP era, began actively showing motion pictures again. On July 13, 1921, the renovated theatre (in our days known as the National Youth Theater) opened with a performance of the play The Pearl of Adalmina. The theatre and the cinema existed side-by-side for several years - the cinema being the first to fall by the wayside. Then, in 1936, the children’s theatre was moved into the space of the former Second Moscow Art Theatre on Theatre Square and renamed the Central Children’s Theatre, while, in 1940, the Moscow Young Spectator Theater moved into the space on Tverskaya Street (then called Gorky Street).
In 1950 the new Stanislavsky Drama Theatre was installed as the building’s latest occupant.
Over the last 100 years, the building has undergone numerous reconstructions. In 1940, in connection with the expansion of Gorky Street, the theater was lifted, placed on rails and moved deeper back into the block. During Nikita Khrushchev's 1955 campaign to combat “architectural excesses,” the ornate facade lost most of its voluminous decor. Gone was the central balcony, gone were the columns that were now turned into pilasters, and gone were the lions on the cornice. In 1973, a floor was added above the V-shaped corner building, where administrative offices stood adjacent to communal apartments.
The next reconstruction of the building was carried out in 2013 by the Wowhaus architectural bureau. This unified the disparate rooms of the building into a single, flowing, functional space, modernizing and emphasizing the historical decor of the interiors.