By Laurence Senelick
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Additional resources for Wandering Stars: Russian Emigre Theatre, 1905-1940 (Studies Theatre Hist & Culture)
6 Later, on tour in cities where an ethnic Russian quorum barely existed, audiences for The Chosen People tended to be exclusively Jewish and to regard the play as a public meeting. 7 After that first matinee in New York, the St. Petersburg Dramatic Co. stayed in working-class Jewish neighborhoods by necessity, drifting from one small East Side playhouse to anotherthe Windsor, the Adler, the Thaliaand doing good business at the box-office despite their forced migration. "8 Eventually they moved uptown to 42nd Street, where Orlenev hoped to attract a larger, more mixed audience by offering Aleksey Tolstoy's blank-verse historical chronicle Tsar Fedor Ioannovich.
Actors like Michael Chekhov, who had been regarded as brilliant exponents of their art, were limited to quirky character roles in B-movies. Directors like Richard Boleslavsky, who had been staging innovative versions of the classics, were assigned to flashy musicals and romantic slush. Playwrights like Nikolay Evreinov who had been on the cutting edge of avant-garde drama found themselves rehashing their best work or playing to increasingly smaller circles. They brought distinction to whatever they touched, but the opportunities for their artistic growth became ever more circumscribed.
But no sooner does a poster go up advertising a play from the Russian classical repertoire than the whispers start on every side: "How boring! Isn't this stale? " 3 Evreinov noted a third difficulty: many mediocrities who bore no illustrious credentials often assumed major functions as actors and directors, owing either to the need for bodies or as a deliberate imposition on Westerners unacquainted with their reputations at home. ") The very size of the Russian colony in Paris relegated its theatrical impact to the fringes, because it could provide its own audiences for its spectacles and made no appeal to a wider public.