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Fyodor Fyodorovich Komissarzhevsky ( , 23 May 1882 - 17 April 1954) or Theodore Komisarjevsky, as he is better known in the West, was a leading Russianmarker theatrical director and designer of the 20th century, particularly notable for his groundbreaking productions of plays by Chekhov and Shakespeare.

Born in Venicemarker, Komisarjevsky was born into theatre, as his father was a high-profile opera singer who befriended Tchaikovsky, and as his sister, Vera Komissarzhevskaya, was a pre-eminent Russian actress of her generation. Originally interested in architecture, Komisarjevsky turned to theatre in 1907, when he started staging plays in his sister's theatre.

Two years later he joined the theatrical revolutionary Nikolai Yevreinov in establishing a new stage company whose productions were intended to combine philosophy and romance. Interested in the idea of art synthesis, Komisarjevsky dreamed about the "theatre of all the arts". He maintained that "colors, line, and music emphasize the acting, they can give the actor's words alternate meanings, they can pervert the episodes of the performance".

In 1910, Komisarjevsky moved on to set up his own studio in Moscow. He illustrated his ideas in well-received productions of Faust and The Idiot. Young actors entering his studio were trained in dancing and singing, as Komisarjevsky sought to prepare a new breed of "universal actors". Some of these, like Igor Ilyinsky and Mikhail Zharov, went on to make spectacular careers in Soviet theatre and cinema.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Komisarjevsky was named Director of the Bolshoi Theatremarker, in which he had produced several operas. After Lenin infamously advised Lunacharsky to "put theatres into coffins", Komisarjevsky emigrated to Britainmarker. In the course of the following decade he amassed a formidable reputation for having introduced British audiences to Chekhov's plays.

In the 1930s, Komisarjevsky commanded such a presence in so many areas of theatre that the Encyclopædia Britannica recognized him as "one of the most colourful figures of the European theatre". His much reprinted study of theatrical dress, The Costume of the Theatre, appeared in 1932. He also delivered lectures at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, with the likes of John Gielgud and Charles Laughton among his students. Donald Wolfit, Christopher Plummer, and his own wife Peggy Ashcroft were among the many fine actors who starred in Komisarjevsky's productions.

It was at that time that he directed his unorthodox versions of Shakespearean plays and scandalised the conservative British establishment with novel interpretations of classics. His 1933 production of Macbeth in Stratford-on-Avonmarker received much publicity, as it featured an abstract aluminium set, sparse lighting and extravagant costumes, notably a crown of saucepan lids worn by Lady Macbeth. Three years later, he won another box-office success with King Lear, with action set “outside time and beyond geography", as the director termed it.

Komisarjevsky left a lasting legacy in Londonmarker in the shape of theatre buildings he designed, including the Phoenix Theatremarker in Charing Cross Roadmarker and the Tooting Granadamarker, the first cinema to be awarded Grade I-listed building status. Upon the outbreak of the World War II, he chose to move to the USAmarker, however. The director died in Darien, Connecticutmarker.

Komisarjevsky's second wife, noted dancer Ernestine Stodelle, died January 8, 2008 in Santa Barbara, Californiamarker [242465]


On July 24, 2007, Joshua Komisarjevsky, an adopted son of Benedict Komisarjevsky, son of Theodore Komisarjevsky , was arraigned on charges related to his murderous, psychotic rampage along with co-conspirator Stephen Hayes at the Cheshire, Connecticutmarker home of endocrinologist William A. Petit, Jr. Dr. Petit was beaten severely with a baseball bat, his wife strangled and his two young daughters left to die in the torched house. Press reports were that the girls were tied to their beds, raped, and left to die as the home was set ablaze. The state's attorney has announced he will seek the death penalty against Komisarjevsky and his accomplice.


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