Oleg Yefremov, an influential Russian actor and director who carried on the tradition of Stanislavsky as leader of the Moscow Art Theatre, died May 24 of lung disease, The New York Times reported.
Mr. Yefremov, who was 72, became artistic director of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1970 and ran it until it splintered into two groups in 1987, one representing Gorky and the other Chekhov (he continued to run the Chekhov half). The world famous troupe, founded by Constantin Stanislavsky, celebrated Chekhov, Gorky, Tolstoy and other native writers, and championed a naturalistic acting style that was embraced by theatre artists in the United States.
In the U.S., Mr. Yefremov directed American actors in Chekhov's Ivanov at the Yale Repertory Theater, with William Hurt in the title role, The Times reported.
In 1957, Mr. Yefremov founded the Sovremennik Theatre in Moscow, and the troupe became one of the city's most vital cultural institutions. A staging of Sovremennik's The Cherry Orchard played New York in 1997.
Mr. Yefremov was a graduate of the School-Studio attached to the Moscow Art Theatre, according to the troupe's web site, and the pupil of the directors, designers and actors who helped found the Moscow Art Theatre. According to the official web site, the Yefremov era mission was as follows:
"We are working on creating a theatre of a serious realistic trend which will write on its banner: sympathy but not a shock for an hour; not a spectacular sensation but a lasting artistic impression which becomes part of the spiritual essence of a spectator.
"We are creating a theatre which raises social problems and at the same time thoroughly investigates the nature of contemporary man, his soul. We try to reach our goal through an actor so that his creative potentialities can be revealed through all components of the performance.
"We are creating a theatre which prophesies humanism, modesty and participation of man in social life as a condition of his happiness...."
-- By Kenneth Jones