The Moscow Art Theatre (Russian: Московский Художественный академический театр, МХАТ; Moskovskiy Hudojestvenny Akademicheskiy Teatr, МHАТ) is a theatre company in Moscow that the seminal Russian theatre practitioner Constantin Stanislavski, together with the playwright and director Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, founded in 1898. It was conceived as a venue for naturalistic theatre, in contrast to the melodramas that were Russia's dominant form of theatre at the time. The theatre, the first to regularly put on shows implementing Stanislavski's system, proved hugely influential in the acting world and in the development of modern American theatre.
At the end of the 19th century, Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko both wanted to reform Russian theatre to high-quality art that was available to the general public. They set about creating a private theatre over which they had total control (as opposed to trying to reform the government operated Maly Theatre, a move which would have given them far less artistic freedom). On June 22, 1897, the two men met for the first time at the Slavyanski Bazar for a lunch that started at 2 PM and did not end until 8 AM the next morning.
While Stanislavski’s approach to theatre revolved around the acting process, Nemirovich was far more concerned with the literary, intellectual angle. Their differences proved to be complementary, and they agreed to initially divide power over the theatre, with Nemirovich in charge of the literary decisions and Stanislavski in charge of all production decisions. Stanislavski interviewed all his actors, making sure they were hard working and devoted as well as talented. He made them live together in common housing for months at a time to foster community and trust, which he believed would raise the quality of their performances.
Stanislavski's system, in which he trained actors via the acting studios he founded as part of the theatre, became central to every production the theatre put on. The system played a huge influence in the development of method acting. Stanislavski and Danchenko’s initial goal of having an “open theatre,” one that anyone could afford to attend, was quickly destroyed when they could neither obtain adequate funding from private investors, nor from the Moscow City Council.