Our Story

Our Mission

MICHA aims to be the heart of the international Chekhov community -- connecting, supporting, and championing the flow of ideas and training around the world.

Dedicated to upholding the legacy and technique of Michael Chekhov, MICHA trains performers, directors, teachers, scholars, and artists; fosters cross-community collaboration and creative spaces; and produces publications, programming, and processes, all in support of artistic exploration and the cultivation of a performance-based practice with future generations.

Our Values

Psychophysical Approach: The Michael Chekhov technique seeks a connection between the inner response evoked by a physical action and its outer expression. We believe in taking the time necessary to enable integration and embodiment. We support this through active participation in classes and events as well as in intentional retreats.

Teacher Training: We embrace a diversity of pedagogies and seek to respect and empower creative individuality. Whether you are experienced or just beginning to lead others, MICHA will help guide you toward a teaching practice based in practical exploration, and a feeling of the whole, fueled by questions that will inspire your development in the classroom and rehearsal room.

Transformation: Michael Chekhov's technique is an imaginative approach to transcending limiting personal perspectives, and experiencing the truth of the character. We seek the truth both in performance and in our daily lives. We believe in the power of the imagination to inspire, enliven, and transform the artist as an individual, and the potential of the work to lead to socio-cultural change on a collective level.

Accessibility: Our workshops, publications, translations, digital archive, community-based projects and scholarships are accessed by artists the world over and are a testament to our global footprint. We seek to maintain and expand our ability to reach and support anyone who wishes to engage Chekhov’s technique and to ensure that finances are not a barrier to participation.

Inclusion: As a white, male acting pedagogue in the 20th century, Michael Chekhov primarily taught white-identifying actors. As an association, MICHA’s faculty and community has been predominantly white. We seek to grow more diverse as a community and in our pedagogical approaches. We honor the experiences, abilities and expression of all artists.

Our Board

President

Joanna Merlin

Vice President

Marjolein Baars

Secretary

Meryl Weinsaft Cooper

Treasurer

Jessica Cerullo

Directors

Cass Fleming, Ragnar Freidank, Andrei Malaev-Babel, Michael Mayer, Phelim McDermott, Lenard Petit, Ted Pugh, Mary Jo Romeo, Fern Sloan, Sims Wyeth

Committees and Councils

Advisory Board

Anne Bogart, Martha Clarke, Pierre du Prey, Floyd Rumohr, Tom Schumacher, Jimmy Smits, Julie Taymor

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Council

Jessica Cerullo, Cass Fleming, Sylvia Adome, Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson, Antonia LaChé, Michele Shay

Faculty Council

Dawn Arnold, Connie Rotunda, Craig Mathers

Executive Committee

Joanna Merlin, Marjolein Baars, Jessica Cerullo, Meryl Cooper

Our Staff

Artistic Director

Jessica Cerullo

Managing Director

Thomas Morrissey

Staff Associate

Colleen Harris

Our History

Incorporated in 1999 as a not-for-profit, MICHA brought together a faculty that included individuals taught at the Michael Chekhov Studio in New York by teachers certified by Michael Chekhov himself – Beatrice Straight, Deirdre Hurst du Prey and Blair Cutting. One of MICHA’s founders, Joanna Merlin, was a member of Michael Chekhov’s Drama Society in California where she studied with him for five years. MICHA’s associations and roots date back to the beginnings of Chekhov’s work in America and to Dartington Hall in England. Since its founding, MICHA has been committed to training a new generation of performers and teachers to share this remarkable work as it has been passed down from Michael Chekhov himself.

Our Lineage

Michael Chekhov (1891 – 1955), nephew of the playwright Anton Chekhov, is recognized as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. At age 20, he auditioned for Constantine Stanislavsky and was invited to join the First Studio of the Moscow Art Theater. Stanislavsky would later refer to Chekhov as his most brilliant student. When the First Studio became the Second Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavsky invited Chekhov to become its director.

At the Moscow Art Theatre, the collaboration between Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov, Meyerhold and Chekhov led to a theater that was bold, expressive and imaginative. In their work they searched for objective principles that would lead to inspired acting. This investigation led Michael Chekhov to develop his psychophysical acting technique, incorporating the imagination and body as well as the intellect. At the height of his acting and directing career, Chekhov was warned to leave Russia. His productions were too experimental for the Soviet regime and were labeled “alien and reactionary”. In 1928 Chekhov left Russia, never to return. He spent seven years in Europe acting and teaching as he moved from Germany, to France, to Latvia and Lithuania. He joined the Moscow Art Players, a company of Russian émigré actors who performed in the United States in 1935. Playing the role of Khlestakov in Gogol’s The Inspector General to critical acclaim at New York City’s Majestic Theater, he was seen by Beatrice Straight who, in 1936, invited Chekhov to establish his Theater Studio at Dartington Hall in England.

In 1938, the threat of war with Germany caused the relocation of Chekhov’s Theater Studio to Ridgefield, Connecticut with George Shdanoff as Associate Director. A professional theater company with a permanent acting company was formed called ‘The Chekhov Theatre Players’. They appeared on Broadway and toured to universities and colleges across America. In l942, the Studio was forced to disband because it lost its male members to the draft. Chekhov moved to Hollywood, California where he became an acting coach to the stars, acted in many films, and published his book, To the Actor. He taught a group called The Drama Society. Among the actors who studied with Chekhov in Hollywood were: Ingrid Bergman, Lloyd Bridges, Yul Brynner, Jack Colvin, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Joanna Merlin, Marilyn Monroe, Patricia Neal, Jack Palance, Gregory Peck, Mala Powers, and Anthony Quinn.

Michael Chekhov died in Hollywood, California in 1955, before his work became widely known. Twenty-five years after his death, in 1980, Beatrice Straight and Robert Cole opened The Michael Chekhov Studio in New York City. Although the Studio was only open for a decade, it fostered the next generation of teachers of Chekhov’s technique.

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