Born in 1891 in Russia, Michael Chekhov was the nephew of celebrated author Anton Chekhov and one of Russia’s most honoured actors. He started his career as a star pupil of Constantin Stanislavksy and became part of the twentieth century revolution in acting.
After heading the second Moscow Art Theater Studio, he was forced into exile leaving Soviet Russia in 1928 due to political pressure. Over the next ten years he worked in Europe as an actor, producer, director and teacher before settling in England in 1936. He was invited by Beatrice Straight to establish the Chekhov Theatre Studio at Dartington Hall. It was here, with a group of actors, that he developed the foundation for his method.
In 1938, with the onset of war, Chekhov relocated the Chekhov Theatre Studio to Ridgefield, Connecticut. He formed the Chekhov Theatre Players, a professional theater company and toured their productions around the Untied States. The company disbanded after they lost their male actors to the war and Chekhov moved to Los Angeles. Chekhov received an Oscar nomination for Hitchcock’s Spellbound and spent his last 13 years teaching and coaching actors such as Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Quinn, Clint Eastwood, Yul Brynner, Lloyd Bridges, Jack Palance, Mala Powers, Beatrice Straight and Joanna Merlin (president of the Michael Chekhov Association). Chekhov died in 1955 before his work became widely known.
Chekhov dedicated his life to exploring and searching new ways to free the body, voice and imagination and to enter and live in the world of the creative imagination. Today his method is being rediscovered and a new generation of teachers and actors are spreading the work of Michael Chekhov around the world.
“Deep within ourselves are buried tremendous creative powers and abilities. But they remain unused so long as we do not know about them, so long as we deny them.” Michael Chekhov