The Tower– Apartment of Vyacheslav Ivanov

             Tavricheskaya Street 25

 

             The Tower, the apartment of the poet Vyacheslav Ivanov and his wife Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal, was one of the hallmarks of the symbolist movement in fin-de-siecle St. Petersburg. During their regular Wednesday night gatherings, modernist poets came to recite their work in the company of fellow writers, artists, musicians, and other figures associated with the intelligentsia.

 

The Tower Vyacheslav Ivanov
The Tower   Vyacheslav Ivanov
(Click on image to see a larger version)

 

             The story of The Puppet Show is closely tied to the Tower; it was Vyacheslav Ivanov who founded the symbolist theatre journal Torches (Fakely) in 1905. He also planned to establish a theatre, but this plan was never realized. Another poet associated with the journal, Georgy Chulkov, asked Blok to write a play for the journal; he asked specifically that Blok rework a poem he had written, also titled The Puppet Show, into a drama. Blok was not enthusiastic at first, but quickly found inspiration and wrote the play in less than three weeks. The text was published in Torches in April 1906.

 

Balaganchik
Blok's The Puppet Show title page in the journal Torches
(Click to see a larger version)

 

             During the play's run at the Kommissarzhevskaya Theatre, the Tower often provided the setting for post-performance gatherings. Meyerhold would give the actresses Verigina, Munt, and Volokhova a ride, and Blok would arrive separately with his wife. Verigina recalls not only the serious literary side of the meetings (it was here that Blok read his cycle The Snow Mask), but also the lighthearted side. She remembers, for instance, how Blok would try to make her laugh during the readings.

 

             Blok and several other poets would often walk the actresses home from the Tower in the snowy darkness of the city. Verigina remembers one such instance: “Blok, Auslander, Meyerhold, and Gorodetsky escorted four ladies– Volokhova, Ivanova, Munt and me (we lived in the neighborhood of Ofitserskaya). I recall one of those trips like a distant picture or a vision. It was quiet and snowy. We walked through the spectral city, across the canals, along the fantastic bridges of the Venice of the North, and probably ourselves appeared as specters walking about in the Venetian Bauta masks of the past. Our life at that time also existed on some unreal plane– as if in a game. After The Puppet Show and the Evening of the Paper Ladies, the masks made our meetings marvelous, and we didn't leave the magical circle for two winter seasons, until we finally parted.”