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3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97202-8199

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Alisa Koonen and the Kamerny Theatre Revolution

The Moscow Kamerny Theatre, founded in 1914 by Ukrainian-Jewish director Alexander Tairov and lead actress Alisa Koonen, was one of the most dynamic experimental theatres of the twentieth century. It became world-renowned in its first two decades for its sweeping international repertoire, collaborations with cubist artists, and virtuosic actors. Yet it remains little-known outside Russia, and it has been largely misunderstood since its 1949 liquidation, in part due to the disinformation that was weaponized against it to force its closure. This talk illuminates the significance of the Kamerny Theatre’s vivid life before turning to new archival findings that reveal the complex reasons for its death during the “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign, the second wave of Stalin’s post-World War II anti-Semitic purge. Within this bird’s eye view of the Kamerny’s history, my focus will be on the innovations of Alisa Koonen, the brilliant actress who was the Kamerny’s creative center.

Dassia N. Posner (Associate Professor, Theatre, Slavic Languages and Literatures, Northwestern University) is a theatre historian specializing in Russian avant-garde theatre, the history of directing, production dramaturgy, and world puppetry history and performance. Posner’s books include The Director’s Prism: E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Russian Theatrical Avant-GardeThe Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance (co-edited with Claudia Orenstein and John Bell, 2014); and Three Loves for Three Oranges: Gozzi, Meyerhold, Prokofiev (co-edited with Kevin Bartig and associate editor Maria De Simone; Indiana University Press, 2021).


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