Yevgeny Vakhtangov was a stage actor in Russia around the time of the Revolution. He joined the Moscow Art Theater in 1911, and by 1920 was in charge of his own studio. For many teeth-gnashing theatre scholars—who struggle to choose between early Stanislaski’s stage-freight-based emotion-recalling inside-out acting, and late Stanislavski’s fake-it-til-you-make-it, just-pretend-why-don’t-you, outside-in acting—Vakhtangov is a welcome, if obscure, connective tissue.
Legend has it, he was once cast in a touring show with Michael Chekhov. After the performance every night, the two would find a local saloon and play pool. Vakhtangov was as average at billiards as he was brilliant on stage, and Chekhov almost always won. But one night, Vakhtangov ran the table. And then, he ran it again. And again. Aghast and agog, Michael Chekhov demanded to know if he’d been sharked all these months, to which Vakhtaongov simply said that he’d decided to pretend he was the greatest pool player in the world.
And so he was.