Michael Chekhov (1891-1955), nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, was an actor, director, and teacher. As a young actor, he was a celebrated member of the legendary Moscow Art Theatre, regarded as the most uniquely gifted actor of his generation. Stanislavsky called Chekhov, "my most brilliant pupil," and likely altered his own acting system, in later years, after Chekhov’s influence.

Chekhov was internationally acclaimed for his brilliant and original characterizations, improvisational inventiveness, and commanding presence on stage and on screen. He was nominated for the Academy Award for his work in Alfred Hitchcock's, Spellbound, alongside co-stars Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

Chekhov left his Russian motherland in 1928. In exile, he impressed and astonished European and American audiences and critics with his tragic, comedic, and operatic roles and productions.  

At Dartington Hall, England, he co-founded the Chekhov Theatre Studio, where he further developed his method based on an objective and precise knowledge of the creative process. 

In 1939, he relocated his studio to New York and Connecticut, where he continued to train young actors and lecture to experienced professionals. During this period, Chekhov directed his full-time students – many of whom went on to become prominent stage and film actors – in Broadway and regional productions.

In his later years, Chekhov lived in Los Angeles, further distinguishing himself as an Academy Award-nominated film actor, and a beloved teacher and coach to Hollywood stars and leading actors. 

Michael Chekhov’s remarkable professional and personal life, artistic vision, and creative method is the subject of his autobiography, The Path of the Actor, as well as the recently published biography by Charles Marowitz, The Other Chekhov.


Michael Chekhov was regarded as the most uniquely gifted actor of his generation. On stage and on screen, Chekhov was acclaimed for his brilliant and original characterizations, improvisational inventiveness, and commanding presence. Notwithstanding his achievements as actor and director, Chekhov's greatest legacy is his method – an objective (universal-lawful) approach to the art of acting based on a lifetime's experience and research with the creative process.

Central to his method is an image of the Ideal Actor. Chekhov is ever-conscious of the two-fold organization of the actor’s instrument. As an embodied being, the actor is corporeal: he has a physcial body. As a self-conscious being with thoughts, feelings, and will impulses, she has an active inner life, a psyche or soul, capable of experiencing an inner-, as well as an outer-, world. In Chekhov’s vocabulary, the term “psycho-physical” is shorthand to indicate the actor’s whole instrument, which by its essential parts is both physical and psychological-spiritual. Understandably then, the first goal of the method is for the two component parts of the actor’s whole to develop together in the direction of their highest potential.

Practical, elegant and artistic, the Chekhov method is founded on creative principles, techniques, and exercises that respect and unleash the actor’s highest nature. With its recognition of the true nature of the actor-human being, it is easily distinguished from other methods of acting. The approach is necessarily both physical and psychological, thereby developing of the actor’s whole instrument while at the same time facilitating the actor's acquisition of a comprehensive professional craft.

Chekhov training awakens and elaborates the actor’s artistic imagination, strengthens the capacity for intense inner action, and loosens habitual restrictions to expressive emotion. Professional application of the method satisfies the actor’s longing for transformation. 

"Chekhovian" acting is evident in the totality of dramatic qualities that include exceptional originality, boldness, daring, physical and emotional expressivity, radiant presence, and truthful characterization. The Chekhovian actor is a pioneer of sorts, a harbinger of the Theatre of the Future.

The principles and techniques of his method are outlined in Chekhov’s book, To The Actor, about which theatre anthropologist and director Eugenio Barba wrote: "One of the best practical manuals for the training of the "realistic" actor. It should be read and re-read, reflected upon, pried into."