As a dramatist, Leonid Andreyev, whose vital drama, "The Life of Man," the Dramatic Club will produce during the second week of December, is the most interesting product of contemporary Russian literature. Abandoning the older traditions that prevailed from Ostrovski to Tolstoi, and passing by the school of Tchekov, Andreyev has brought to the theatre a unique form of art, the rich possibilities of which he is still developing.
In a "Letter on the Theatre," published in the theatrical journal, "Maski," Andreyev illustrates his views on the theatre of the future by drawing an interesting contrast between the lives of two men of widely different ages and points of view, Benvenuto Cellini and Fried rich Nietzsche. He emphasizes the former's life of crowded events and the latter's withdrawal from such life into the silence and inactivity of the study, where the real drama of Nietzsche's life, however, lies. But, writes Andreyev--"Humbly bowing before the immutable law of action, the contemporary drama declines to represent--indeed, cannot represent for us--a Nietzsche, who is so near, so important so essential to our lives, but continues to offer us in profusion empty, antiquated, and unnecessary Cellinis, with their paraphernalia of tin swords, etc." Modern life, Andsoyer continues has withdrawn into the inner recesses of the soul, whereas the theatre has paused at the threshold of these new and profound psychological experiences and intellectual strivings--the struggle of man's thoughts with man--and has never thrown open the door that leads to them.
"The Theatre of Truth."
In "The Life of Man," which the Dramatic Club has chosen for its twenty-fifth production, Andreyev has thrown open such a door; depicting his hero, Man, as an extreme individualist,--one who has made himself the center of the universe, yet failed to establish the necessary bond between his personal existence and the laws of nature. The piece is an impelling example of the tremendously powerful drama of the "inner life,"--the life of today wherein thought in its sufferings, its joys, and its struggles, is the great motivating force. This is the drama which Andreyev calls the theatre of truth.
Attempted Suicide Three Times.
The life of this remarkable literary figure has been, in the main, uneventful. Andreyev was born in 1871, and from the time his father died, while he was a student in the city high school, until his graduation from the law department of the Moscow University, at the age of twenty-six, he suffered greatly from the lack of means, discouragement leading him three times to attempt suicide. For some time he supported himself by painting portraits, practicing law, or newspaper reporting, reading insatiably always, until 1898, when he began his literary career. In 1901 Andreyev became famous through the publication of a small volume of stories which dealt with certain vital problems of Russian society. His stories attracted the attention of Gorki, then at the height of his fame who lent Andreyev a great deal of encouragement and assistance. Since that time his plays have been enthusiastically received and have had long runs in the theatres, while the printed editions of his works have been rapidly exhausted. The phenomenal success of "He Who Gets Slapped" and the large sales of his works, attest the keen interest and appreciation he is receiving in this country.