BORIS SHCHUKIN

(1894-1939)

 

He was born into a family of a clerk. Nothing in his child could indicate that he would give 20 years of his short life to serving the theatre. However, in 1910 he saw the show by Anton Chekhov “The Seagull” in The Moscow Art Theatre and it predetermined the course of his fate.

Shchukin graduated from the railway college in the Moscow region town Kashira, then he studied mathematics and biology in Moscow, then he entered a technical university and in 1917 he was drafted to the Austrian-German front. After demobilization he returned to Kashira where he worked as a mechanic in a locomotive depot and as an assistant of a locomotive driver. At the depot there was a drama hobby group where Shchukin played more than 100 roles.

In 1919 Boris was accepted to Evgeny Vakhtangov’s studio and his first big role was the character of a chancellor of the Chinese Emperor, a simple-hearted  and good-natured Tartalia in the legendary Evgeny Vakhtangov’s show “Princess Turandot”. Altogether in The Vakhtangov Theatre Shchukin played about 20 roles. The works of Shchukin softly and harmonically combined opposite things: childish naivety and deep wisdom, ancient and contemporary, ridiculous and touching, comical and dramatic. 

At that point the theatre was not absolutely free when choosing plays for staging. Being a brilliant comedy actor Shchukin played a great number of the so-called social repertoire. Official ideologists would speak very warmly about the work of Boris Shchukin but he felt  cramped in the space of socially positive heroes. The role of Egor Bulychov in the play of the same name written by Maxim Gorky and staged by Boris Zahava, was a special sign in the creative life of Boris Shchukin. The best qualities of the actor were shown in it: temperament, wisdom, humaneness. This work is considered to be a role model, a masterpiece of the art of acting.

In late thirties before the 20th anniversary of October Revolution Soviet theatre was given a task to create a character of its chief: Vladimir Lenin. In the show “A Man With a Rifle” (directed by Ruben Simonov in 1937) and in films “Lenin in October” (1937) and “Lenin in 1918, both films directed by M.Romm) the character of Lenin was played by Boriss Shchukin. Being a son of his time he tried to place an emphasis on Lenin’s greatness and humaneness in order to show the core of the character as the contemporaries imagined it.

Boris Shchukin left this world on October 7, 1939 at the age of 45, the death stopped his work on the characters in shows “The Inspector-General” and “Field-Marshal Kutuzov”.

When it was decided to immortalize the memory of the artist by giving his name to thee theatre school Boris Zahava wrote: “Boris Shchukin embodied in his creative work the principles, requirements and specificity of the Vakhtangov school better, fuller, deeper and more precisely than any other Vakhtangov actor. That’s why there is every reason to say to each alumnus of this school: be like Shchukin and you really will be a Vakhtangov actor…!”