Jurij A. Vasiljev

(English version translated by Marianne Junger)


 “Theatre is a mode of thinking, a principle of being for me …”

Jurij Vasiljev was born in Leningrad and studied drama at the Institute for Theatre, Music and Film Arts there. In 1968 he joined the class of the famous Prof. Makarjev. “… He was so weightless; he was lighter and more agile than all of us taken together: he was always up in the air, as if he was forever flying. Makarjev was already 75 years old at that time, but truly only 4 or 5 years old … Whether they were rehearsals or trainings, they were always big or small fantastic journeys into the world of drama lyrics, of drama literature, of great theatre …” After his education Jurij Vasiljev worked as an actor in Pskov, in Archangelsk, and on different theatre stages in Leningrad. Jurij Vasiljev became also director of his own theatre in Lenningrad and gained his doctorate on ‘Phonetics, Speaking on Stage, and Recitation’. Since 1976 he has been a lecturer, later a professor at the Institute for Theatre, Music and Film Arts (nowadays Theatre Academy St. Petersburg), while he continued to work as an actor at various theatres for many years. Nowadays his works as director are shown in St. Petersburg as part of the Alexandrinskij Theatre’s programme for the theatre season.

At the St. Petersburg Academy he is one of six deans and as such responsible for the lifelong learning of academics who specialise in theatre arts, of theatre directors, of actors, and of stage designers. JurijVasiljev’s additional pedagogical work includes the “Interstudio” and the “School for Russian Drama” in St. Petersburg as well as, since 1993, the summer academy at Haus Urban in Trstenice/Czech Republic. After the economic crisis in Russia of 1998 Jurij Vasiljev founded a trust to support underprivileged students of the Theatre Academy St. Petersburg.


 “The creative process requires a process of feeling, of becoming aware.”

(…) from earliest days, whether at school or elsewhere, Vasiljev felt that he is playing every day, every hour and that he feels the whole game through playing. Play is a way, an art of living for him, which expresses itself in all areas of life.

“The most important aspect for any human being who is involved in theatre is that a complete, exclusive world exist for him or her, a world with its own laws, a world which exists only in the imagination, which can only exist there. This imagination can either be very original or very traditional …” The honest contac with, the surrender to the play is to Jurij Vasiljev the very aspect, which truly creates an actual theatrical  play. (…)

 (Delphine Akoun:”Insights into the Life of an Extraordinary St. Petersburger Human Being of the Theatre”)

Theatre is play. And this very process of lively game, of playfulness is at the core of it all. Whenever Jurij Vasiljev works on a piece of drama with either actors or students it all develops almost unnoticeably – just as in a game. Much is improvised and no result aspired to: one approaches the drama through playing. Breathing freely and a relaxed open body allow to experience the unity of voice and movement. Much time is devoted to exercises, which Jurij Vasiljev has developed, in order to rebuild the afore mentioned sensory ability, which has been lost in everyday life.

“The expression ‘Speaking on Stage’ encompasses the art of acting, the sculpting/the body language, and all means of expressions such as voice and language in a more literal sense: … work on the voice, breath, diction, phonetics, the history of both poetry and drama literature, artistic reading, intonation, physiology, biology, psychology of both language and creative work, the language of the theatre, and literature studies … When a voice sounds, that is, when it carries the words into a partner and makes him/her resound like soundbox, then a contact between two human beings develops. If the voice does not sound, that is, if it does not reach into the partner, then no true, creative contact can establish itself”


 “When the voice sounds, a contact between two human beings develops.”

(…) This ‘mise en scene’, which was presented publicly as a work-in-progress by the students and the lecturers of the Music Academy in Stuttgart, is just one of the fascinating results of the highly rewarding co-operation between the Institute for Theatre, Music and Film in Leningrad and the Spoken Word Studio founded at the Music Academy in Stuttgart by Uta Kutter … The guest performance from Leningrad with their staging of two fairy tales by Puskin at the Forum 3 proved that Vasiljev’s enthusiasm inspires the audience to extraordinary applause of highest appreciation. In a rich texture of playful recitation, folk dance, and songs the fairy tales came fully alive thanks to the eleven Russian actors. (…)

 (Andrea Kachelriess on Gogol’s “The Dead Souls” and Puskin’s “Fairy Tales”, in Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feuilleton, 7.2. 1991)

 Jurij Vasiljev has developed an unorthodox method of learning in the course of his many years of pedagogical experience, which is based on the idea:

sensory experience – movement – sound. It is a matter of “feeling within oneself”: thus sensations bring forth feelings, feelings create movements and out of these the voice develops. “Without inner sensation there can be no movement, and without movement there can be no sounding voice.” As a renowned specialist for voice and language Jurij Vasiljev has written four books about Theatre Pedagogics: “Development of the Actor’s Voice Range” (1981), “Voice and Language Training” (1996), “Exercises for Speaking on Stage” (1997), and “Imagination – Movement – Voice” (2000).


 “… It is also a mystery how theatre comes into being and how the individual role is born”

 Professor Jurij A. Vasiljev’s work with actors builds on the great tradition of Stanislavskij, Meyerhold, and Michail Cechov, yet at the same time it has an unmistakable imprint: Jurij Andrejevic has been working only according to his own “school” for years. All etudes for role studies are his own, in cooperation with the actor in question. Starting point for Jurij’s approach to his work is always the individual, and it is only out of this interplay between actor and director that an idea takes form, and the concept for a ‘mise en scene’ develops. Jurij Vasiljev says about it: “In the theatre it is best when everything happens unnoticed, all quietly, when one does not know how it happens, but it does happen. Just as there is a mystery at the centre of becoming, of giving birth to life, it is equally a mystery how theatre is being created, and how the individual role is born. If much noise and much fuss is made over it, much haste and unnecessary nervousness can be sensed on stage, then it becomes difficult to experience the depth of a drama piece, to realise at all, what different aspects have developed in a play.”


(…) What happened on stage in Wald during one and a half hour without a pause to breathe was a theatre experience of exquisite excellence, offered from the old tradition, where song and dance, miming and language were elements of equal importance which formed a fantastic, sensual whole. With the Russian Fairy Tale Poem “Tsar Saltan” after Alexander Puskin the young St. Petersburger actors did not only bring Eastern theatre tradition to Wald but also a part of the Russian soul. (…)

 (Bernadette Reichlin-Fluri, 1993)


“The diversity of human beings demands that I start anew every single time; each time it is like the very first time …”


 “I cannot say in what ways exactly Finnish, German, Russian, or American drama students are different from one another. They are all young and emotional, they all want to get to know and to experience as many new, other, different things as possible …”

Workshop offers see ==> here

Professor Vasiljev is an internationally well sought after course leader and has worked at many different institutes and theatre academies in Zurich, Hamburg, Leipzig, New York, Helsinki, Stuttgart, Shanghaj, Sofia, Prague; he also directs seminars and workshops in Germany, Russia, the Czech Republic and Switzerland every year. For each of these courses he offers not only body and voice training but also an intensive acting course. The aim is always an honest finding of the role within each individual and not a preset role pattern. Since emotion, movement and voice cannot be separated from one another according to Jurij Vasiljev, each of his exercises always trains all three aspects simultaneously, whilst focussing on one in particular. All courses are given in Russian and are interpreted simultaneously by Tomas Ondrusek in the case of German. The courses are aimed at drama students, pedagogs, therapeuts, and all loves of voice, language, and theatre.

(…) Since May Jurij Vasiljev, renowned lecturer at the Institute for Theatre, Music, and Film Arts in Leningrad and Dean of the Academy in Leningrad, has been working with 22 students, who were happy to give up their semester holidays in order to rehearse.

(…) Yet then he teases the young people, who work enthusiastically, relentlessly, demands undivided attention and concentration and knows how – after several hours of hard work – to create the necessary tension for it.

(…) The facial expressions and gestures have developed out of an improvisation, during work on a text and the inner interpretation of its content. (…)

 (Julia Schroeder about Demetrius or the Blood Wedding in Moscow by F. Schiller, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 31.8.1991)

„Everyone nowadays still knows what Perestrojka meant, this warm wave of life and of new relations between Russia and the world, the world and Russia ... This wave naturally also reached the world of theatre and carried it along … All at once totally new things became possible … and that is how how I first came to Germany in 1989, to Hamburg, to the Academy for Music and Performing Arts, then to the Academy in Stuttgart, and later to Haus Urban in Trstenice by Litomysl in the Czech Republic, an unorthodox international lab for artists. Here Russian, German, Czech, Swiss, French … students, actors, painters, muscians, architects meet and work toegether on a common project …”

(Prof. Vasiljev in an interview for the Russian Broadcast Company)



For enquires in English

Marianne Junger

Neufeldstr. 119

CH-3012 Berne/ Switzerland

 phone o/h 0041 31 351 07 72

e-mail address on request


"Imagination - Bewegung - Stimme" (2000)

Extract from this book “Imagination-Movement-Voice, Variations for a Training” in English see ==> here

"E (Stimme) =  m (Bewegung) . v (Atem)" (2002)

Extract from the book
“Imagination-Movement-Voice, Variations for a Training” by Prof. Jurij A. Vasiljev,
Urban, 2000, ISBN 3-00-006439-7; pp. 192-4

>> A Few Considerations at the End of the Lesson << 

In everyday life human beings tend to disguise their true feelings and to hide them in conversation with partners. The actor’s or actress’ professional work has other intentions: he or she shall express every single subtle nuance of a feeling, of a thought, each and every wish, everything she or he wants, every echo in her or his soul which resonates with the partner’s behaviour and with the conflicts of a situtaion in the course of the dramatic development – in such a way that both the partner on stage and the people in the audience can understand as well as sense all particuliarties and nuances and everything unexpected in his or her emotional experience as well as in his or her actions by going through it all with him or her and by re-enacting it all. Yet, often feelings are being hidden and suppressed in life (and sometimes also on stage!). Many people avoid embarrassing someone else by dealing with their emotions or even by surrendering to them; they don’t want to lift the curtain, which covers their true and often clear feelings and emotions. Work on stage means that human beings choose a different path: it is not about disguising but all about using and expressing her or his inner experiences and perceptions as well as the experiences , excitements, and behavioural motives of the enacted role. It is crucial for an actress or and actor to get used to revealing her or his feelings and emotions in a completely natural way. Otherwise, all the actors and actresses on stage are either locked in utterly neutral postures or they demonstrate all those well-known clichés in a despaired, daring or proactive manner, which express a limited scope of feelings in a conventional way, while
merely pretending the mental and emotional processes – which are supposed to happen in that context.

This is the actor’s and actress’ approach to able linguistic and physical expressiveness. It allows to open up a broad range of a person’s very individual particularities and is thus rather meaningful to any human being. In our training it is yet another useful aspect of the system I offer to you. Just as a free human being embraces the remote temporal and spatial distance with his or her emotions, each human being has the possibility to tear down the barriers which prevent him or her from creating in an individual, unfettered, inspired way.

Feelings, sensations and perceptions, stimuli and reactions “vibrate” within us at any given moment. Each of us reacts to appearances, which are particularily appealing to him or her, with agitation. Often our soul responds to something inspiring and attractive. Often we think to ourselves, but without saying it aloud: “I like her, I would like to see her and to meet her ...” Thus , everyone of us now absolutely needs the attitude: “Since I react to everything with a feeling; I absolutely don’t want to keep it all to myself, instead I also want to express it. Hence I express it.”

Then we have to tell ourselves: “She sings well. – I won’t hide that I like her singing – I want to express that I find it pleasing.” In this way we have to disclose and express our reactions all the time. This is the prerequisite for playing on stage. This is the self-revelation both of the theatre and the art of public speaking, of any kind of scenic creation. Yet another example: you shake hands with someone – and there’s an immediate reaction to it. Or: “I look at my partner, into his or her eyes, and his or her eyes look at me (inside me) – and I express at once what sensation is being created within me: I like it or I don’t like it.”

This principle must guide every exercise, each rehearsal. We have to find and feel the most important way for us – how to express all my feelings. Someone takes a slice of bread away from you. Have you reacted at once? What do you do about it? You’re not just standing around, are you? – What does your body do? With what words do you react to what has happened? Yes, you have to react at once! Someone slaps your hand – react at once, respond! If someone shouts at you, then react, respond! If someone caresses you – then, too: react, respond!

And under no circumstances react and respond the way we were taught as children: stay calm, don’t show your feelings. The actor or actress has to express him- or herself and his or her feelings all the time! Disclose, express! Bring forth, from the inside out – visibly, audibly! – Yet, before we come to the disclosure, the expression, we have to sense something that we both can and want to express and we have to reasssure ourselves that our body, our voice are the strongest, clearest expressions of feelings, emotions, thoughts. We have focussed our attention onto this aspect of clearest creation in several exercises for the past lesson. The teaching that follows now is dedicated entirely to the vocal-linguistic and physical expressiveness.