Theatre Theory *
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Key Terms: Glossary
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ShowCases: 3 Sisters, Mikado, 12th Night, Hamlet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Dangerous Liaisons, Don Juan: Director's BOOK
Yes, English translations of Russian scripts in PLAYS directory and my own in Russian (new) -- Write Russian!
Yes, Moscow, Petersburg pages as a part of the Russian-American Theatre Project 1992-94
And my Russia-related writings like Father-Russia...
The NYT article sparked my renewed interest in going to Moscow.
SummaryMeyerhold @ Work *
The Possessed 2003
Notesnew: Oksana Mysina
Russian Directors (XX century): RAT files
Borovskiy (stage designer)
[ captions ]
Yury Lyubimov at the Taganka Theatre, 1964-1994 by Birgit Beumers; Harwood Academic, 1997 - Part I: Agitation in the 1960s: Society as a Generator of Change - 1: The Development of a Poetic Theatre - 2: 1968 and After: the Crushing of a Repertoire - Part II: The Tragic Dimension of the 1970s: the Individual and Society - 3: The Individual in the Present and in the Past - 4: Individual and Artist in Crisis - Part III: The 1980s in the West - 5: In Exile - 6: Lyubimov at the Opera - Part IV: Musical Visions for the 1990s - 7: The Return of the “master” - 8: Musical Harmony and the Doomed Individual
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There are [were] pages USA and Abroad (Anatoly Online).
Here I collect the links to all my pages with my Russian expertise.
The most recent -- Russian American Theatre (1992-94) Ðóññêî-Àìåðèêàíñêèé Òåàòð
The book "Father-Russia" (web draft).
There are two places I am sending paper proposals on Russia.
Will I go to Russia again?
"Nationality and Citizenship in Post-Communist Europe" is a conference organized by the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques and co-sponsored by ASN and will be held at the Institut d'^Âtudes politiques de Paris, (France), July 9-10, 2001. The conference will focus on the issue of identity - national, political, cultural, local, or supra-national - in the post-communist world. The themes will include changing notions of citizenship and nationality; mobilization, conflict and secessionism in the Caucasus; Islam and politics in Central Asia; threats of regional disintegration in Russia; identity claims and economic development; the consequences of EU enlargement and NATO expansion in Eastern Europe and Russia; and diaspora and transnational politics.
Panel or paper proposals are welcome on topics relevant to the general theme of the conference. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2001. For more information on the conference and a comprehensive list of the themes, contact Dominique Colas, Conference Program Chair, tel: (33-1)45 49 50 77; fax: (33-1) 45 44 95 49; e-mail: email@example.com
The Documentary Theater Project, a short but intense festival of new writing for the Russian theater, will be conducted from Sunday to Thursday at several locations. It is the latest in a series of actions organized by the Moscow-based New Writing Association and London's Royal Court Theater to stimulate the development and production of new plays in Russia.Sister-page: Russian Theatre
The festival offers seminars, readings and performances primarily of plays based on material gained first-hand through interviews "in the field." Several of the pieces will touch on such timely topics as the aftermath of the Kursk disaster; life in camps for fugitives from Chechnya; the life of Russian mercenary soldiers and the problems of drug addicts and sufferers of AIDS. Each day begins with afternoon discussions and ends in the evening with performances. Admission to all activities is free.
Kicking off the performances will be "First the Geologists+ (Coal Basin)" (Snachala Geologi+ [Ugolny Bassein]), an improvisational show about miners by the Lozha Theater of Kemerova at the Theater Yunogo Aktyora at 8 Ulitsa Malaya Dmitrovka, bldg. 4. Curtain time is 6 p.m. It will be followed at 8 p.m. by "Month of the Dead Sun" (Mesyats Myortvogo Solntsa), Maria Kuzmina's play about a native Nenets hunter and his reindeer in the tundra.
Other highlights include (all at the Contemporary Play School):
Yekaterina Sadur's "Time Running Out" (Tseitnot), documenting the experiences of soldiers wounded in Chechnya. Mon., 6:30 p.m.
Vasily Sigarev's "The Pit" (Yama), exploring the world of a small Russian town where narcotics, AIDS and prison life all exist in close proximity to one another. Wed., 7 p.m.
"Immersion" (Pogruzhenie), a work compiled by a group led by Yekaterina Narshi which traveled to Murmansk after the sinking of the Kursk. Wed., 9 p.m.
Other festival supporters include the British Council, the Goethe Center and the Soros Foundation.
***For more information on the Documentary Theater Project, call 233-4064 or 8-902-120-6236.
-- John Freedman***
Pre-publication version of a feature that will be published in The Moscow Times Jan. 23, 2004. Any and all quotations of, or references to, this article must cite John Freedman. © 2004 John Freedman. The final version will be available (with accompanying photos) on Friday in The Moscow Times at www.themoscowtimes.com.
Kama Ginkas is in the thick of what we might call his American Season and I cannot possibly be impartial about it.
Last August Ginkas took his famous production of "K.I. from 'Crime'" on tour to the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in New York and I tagged along because my wife stars in the show. I had nothing to do with his September production of Chekhov's "The Lady with the Lapdog" at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, although a book I wrote with Ginkas was published in the United States during that run.
Now Ginkas has opened his dramatization of Anton Chekhov's story "Rothschild's Fiddle" at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, and I have been compromised again. This time I agreed to create English supertitles for the show that is performed in Russian by Russian actors. To do so meant sitting in on rehearsals for two months in Moscow, traveling to New Haven for the premiere and entering into the kind of intimate relationship with the show and its makers that made mincemeat of my critical impartiality.
This certainly is not the first time I have been worthless as a critic, although it is, to my recollection, the first time I have rendered myself useless on purpose and so willingly. What a joy it has been! - taking off the sour professional face, jettisoning the judgmental skepticism, rolling up my sleeves and getting down to do some (let's be honest) real work.
The American critics in the first days following the January 15 opener were tossing around superlatives - "a penetrating and visionary adaptation" said The Hartford Courant; "physically simple" and "visually poetic and arresting" wrote the New Haven Register - but let's go whole hog and forget critics altogether. More to the point are the pilgrimages directors and producers are making to New Haven from Seattle, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston and New York to see the world premiere of Ginkas' latest show. The director has established himself as a force in the United States and negotiations are underway to continue his American collaborations with multiple projects in the future.
"Rothschild's Fiddle," a compelling tale about an unthinking coffin maker, whom life bullies into taking stock of his life, closes out a trilogy based on Chekhov's prose that Ginkas has been creating since the 1990s. It was preceded by "The Lady with the Lapdog," which Ginkas has staged in Turkey, Finland, the United States and Moscow, and "The Black Monk," also in Moscow. Overall, it is the ninth time that Ginkas, who is 62, has staged a work by Chekhov and it will not be the last. He is already gearing up to stage "The Cherry Orchard" with his students at the Moscow Art Theater School. "Rothschild's Fiddle" will run in New Haven through January 31. Minus the English aid, it will enter repertory at the Theater Yunogo Zritelya in Moscow in February.
Ginkas allegorically classifies the parts of the trilogy according to three basic times of day. "The Lady With the Lapdog" represents morning, a time, the director says, when the shape of the coming day is still not clear. "The Black Monk" represents daytime, a period when a person knowingly takes chances, fails and answers for those failures. "Rothschild's Fiddle," according to Ginkas, corresponds to evening, a time given to a person to look back and ponder the losses of the day.
Ginkas's theater pulls no punches. Through his art, he stands up to God and Fate and he demands to be heard. As a miraculous child survivor of the Holocaust, he experienced violence. As a non-conformist and a Jew who only sporadically had the right to ply his trade in the Soviet years, he endured injustice. As a thinking man, he knows that banalities and sentimentality will not describe adequately his or anyone else's experience.
"Rothschild's Fiddle" is unquestionably one of the most powerful in a long line of hard-hitting Ginkas productions. Not only does it explore a man's reactions to death and his stunning recognition that he has wasted his life, but it rips back the facade of anti-Semitism with a directness that Ginkas has never before applied to this topic. The Russian coffin maker Yakov blames everything that goes wrong on a Jew named Rothschild until it finally occurs to him in the last moments before death to make peace with him. Holding faithfully to Chekhov's text except to shorten it by about ten percent, Ginkas torques the tale to a white heat by developing nuances in speech patterns and intonation, and by adding expressive, sometimes jarring, scenes of wordless action.
This is Chekhov, all right, make no mistake. But it is all Ginkas, too, surging in waves of hot and cold, comedy and tragedy. It is common at a Ginkas show for audiences to be convulsed with laughter while tears of pain well in their eyes. Caught defenseless in this state of limbo, they are primed to receive the hard truths that Ginkas invariably tackles. During the performances at Yale, one can hear the telltale signs of deathly silence broken by the sound of people sniffling beginning about a half-hour into the show.
It is easy to see where that comes from when watching Ginkas rehearse. He himself is a fount of hot and cold. He is all over the auditorium, exhorting his actors on with furious cries and intimate whispers, laughing uproariously when there is reason, and nervously stalking the floor or squirming violently in his seat during crushingly dramatic scenes.
One November day during rehearsals, Ginkas leaped up on stage as Valery Barinov's Yakov and Igor Yasulovich's Rothschild approached the end of an emotional and physical scene in which the former gives the latter a beating. He wanted to be right there with them, right in the thick of things. As the actors huffed and puffed and hugged each other to get over the difficulty of the altercation they had just rehearsed, Ginkas stepped up and began throwing fake, though earnest, punches at Barinov until everybody dissolved in laughter.
This brings us to what "Rothschild's Fiddle" is about as much as the catastrophes of prejudice and unexamined lives: the great mystery of doing and making. The clumsy, ignorant Yakov has two saving graces - the coffins that he makes so conscientiously and the fiddle on which he occasionally accompanies his nemesis Rothschild in a Jewish wedding orchestra. In fact, in Yakov, a man who is at least partially redeemed by work and art, one might see tantalizing reflections of Ginkas himself.
If I am not mistaken, "Rothschild's Fiddle" will go down as one of Ginkas' greatest, most challenging and most powerful shows. But don't just take the word of a biased and corrupted critic. Go see for yourself.
***"Rothschild's Fiddle" (Skripka Rotshilda) runs through Jan. 31 at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut (Tel. 203-432-1234; www.yalerep.org). It opens in February at the Theater Yunogo Zritelya, located at 10 Mamonovsky Pereulok. Metro Pushkinskaya. Tel. 299-5360.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.***
[ more in filmplus.org/rat ]
Next: Russian American Theatre Project
@2001-2003 * www.anatoly.tv *
New York Time: For Russians, Theater Is a Process of Constant Rediscovery
December 2, 2001
By LAWRENCE SACHAROW
MOSCOW -- ON a bright Sunday morning earlier this year, four
prominent representatives of Russian theater, all in their
50's, met in a large high-ceilinged room filled with
natural light a few blocks from Red Square.
The building, the Moscow Art Theater School, is part of the
complex of the revered Moscow Art Theater, where Konstantin
Stanislavsky directed and taught. The room itself is the
office of the school's dean, Anatoly Smeliansky, a leading
critic and editor of Stanislavsky's collected works as well
as the author of a new book in Russian on recently
discovered correspondence between Stanislavsky and Josef
Stalin. Mr. Smeliansky's book "The Russian Theater After
Stalin" was published in English by Cambridge University
Press in 1999.
Besides contributing to the discussion himself, Mr.
Smeliansky served tea and coffee during the wide-ranging
and often animated conversation on the state of Russian
theater today. The other men seated around his large table
¶Valery Fokin, a prominent director who earned
international attention with his play "A Hotel Room in the
Town of NN," his adaptation of Gogol's classic satirical
novel "Dead Souls," staged by his Meyerhold Arts Center
theater in Moscow.
¶Aleksandr Kalyagin, a leading stage and film actor and the
founder and artistic director of Moscow Theater Etc., a
small repertory theater in the capital.
¶Aleksandr Galin, a major Russian contemporary playwright
and the author of the gritty, realistic "Stars in the
Morning Sky," about the lives of four prostitutes when
Moscow was the host of the 1980 Olympics.
Also present was Natalia Fedora, a teacher of movement and
acting at the Moscow Art Theater School, who served as
Already in Moscow to direct the River Arts Repertory
production of the play "The Road Home: Stories of Children
at War" at the Taganka Theater, I raised questions and
taped the conversation.
One issue that seemed to infuse the discussion: a once
vital acting system or technique, when passed from
generation to generation through repetition, inevitably
loses spontaneity and vitality. After a time this can only
result in deadly theater. The theater must be in continual
search to rediscover its intention and relevance. The great
work of Stanislavsky was never finished. He continued to
experiment until he died in 1938, as did the other two
masters of 20th-century theater, the Russian producer and
director Vsevolod Meyerhold and the renowned Polish
director Jerzy Grotowski.
Stanislavsky said: "There is no system. There is only
nature. My lifelong concern has been how to get ever closer
to the so-called system, that is, to get ever closer to the
nature of creativity."
LAWRENCE SACHAROW Yesterday in Moscow, I spoke with a woman
who said: "Before glasnost I went to the theater to have an
experience, to breathe free. Now, it's not so important
anymore." What is the difference in Russian theater under
Communism and after glasnost?
VALERY FOKIN I think that woman's view is simplistic.
Basically, nothing has changed because the artist is still
struggling to create, to deal with mortality. Art is older
than capitalism or Communism. In the future, there will be
other forms of society, but we will still have art.
ALEKSANDR GALIN The conditions of my life as a playwright
changed drastically after perestroika because after the
political censorship another censorship appeared: the
censorship of taste. In today's theater, only really
artistic plays will survive out of the mediocrities. In
this transition we are going through, life is so
unpredictable that it will provide a lot of material for
future playwrights to create interesting new plays from.
ALEKSANDR KALYAGIN I would like to contradict my friend a
little bit. Theater is a modern part of life, and we actors
miss this aspect of it because our playwrights now are
stuck in the past. Actors train with classical texts. But
it is also important for training to include modern parts,
or the actor will not continue to develop. Right now, there
is a trend toward making the theater process more
middlebrow - commercially appealing. But it won't last
because Russian theater has a great tradition as a
sanctuary. It's a church, and it will always be like that.
ANATOLY SMELIANSKY Look at what is going on in
contemporary Moscow. When the great directors and artistic
directors are gone, the producers take their places.
Producers are now playing a much more important role than
before. It's very important, this capitalization of Russian
theater. The person who can get the money takes the job of
SACHAROW Yesterday we visited the Novo-Devichy cemetery to
see the gravestones of Chekhov, Stanislav sky, Knipper
[Olga Knipper, the actress Chekhov married three years
before he died in 1904], Bulgakov [the writer Mikhail
Bulgakov, author of "The Master and Margarita," who died in
1940] and others. Afterward, Toila [Mr. Smeliansky] gave us
a tour of the Moscow Art Theater and spoke with our
company, which includes a Tibetan musician named Nawang
Khechog. He knew nothing about Russian theater, and in fact
had been a Buddhist hermit who lived in a cave for five
years. That night he said: "Theatrical art seems to be the
gateway to the Russian soul." Is this still true?
FOKIN I think this Tibetan man is correct because Russian
theater always had important spiritual meaning. The woman
who said it's not important to go to the theater nowadays -
she probably doesn't want to do all the spiritual work that
theater demands. Many people used to go to the theater to
hear how bad the Soviet regime was and that was a mistake.
We must maintain our theater as a sanctuary.
SMELIANSKY The paradoxical thing is that all shows are sold
out in Moscow. This is good and bad at the same time
because the criteria are mixed up and people will go and
watch everything. Everything that happens onstage is called
theater, commercial theaters that pretend to be repertory
theaters, fake avant-garde theater studios. You can see a
production of this contrived avant-garde by attending a
performance of "The Gambler" by Dostoyevsky and then going
next door to a casino and gambling yourself.
FOKIN The times and criteria are all mixed up. It's very
important to preserve ourselves, our attitude of
seriousness toward the theater. We must ask: "Why do we
need theater?" "Why does theater exist?" People asking
those questions will be in the minority, but they are
trying to maintain the aliveness of real theater.
KALYAGIN This year, two theater centers are opening, the
Meyerhold Center [led by Mr. Fokin] and the School of
Dramatic Art [led by the Moscow director Anatoly Vasiliev],
both supported by the government. They give us hope that
the spiritual part of our lives will be preserved and
survive. These centers will also be for professional actors
who want to perfect their art, the spiritual part of them,
in their work.
SACHAROW Will these new centers draw on the work of
Stanislavsky, Meyerhold and Vakhtangov [Evgeny Vakhtangov,
one of Stanislavsky's most talented students, who became a
brilliant director and acting teacher and whose theater,
the Vakhtangov Theater, exists in Moscow today]? Especially
for training and developing work? And are you satisfied
with the legacy and tradition of Russian training?
FOKIN It will be different. To teach Stanislavsky's system
as it was taught even 10 years ago is impossible. When the
great ones pass away, there are always people who seek to
make careers at their expense. They canonize the word and
extinguish the spirit.
When I was studying at the end of the 60's, the names of
Vakhtangov and Meyerhold were exciting in terms of theater
process, and Stanislavsky seemed to be boring and dull. In
reality, he was a genius, very alive and a true theater
experimenter until the day he died. Stanislavsky endowed
Grotowski with everything that has to do with the human
spirit and inner life. The Meyerhold Center will be an
international center for theater research and
experimentation in the tradition of these great masters. We
will collaborate with many people, including Anatoly's
Moscow Art Theater School.
SMELIANSKY We will create a studio and work together to
combine Stanislavsky and Meyerhold in daily practical
sessions. We will open an international master of fine arts
program for directors who graduated from acting, design or
other programs. The real education of directors is very
weak, even in America, and I think this is of major
importance for the contemporary theater.
SACHAROW How would the approach be different from the
traditional training of directors? Director training seems
to emphasize two extremes: complete subservience to the
text, or creating your own event with the text. Unless
there is real genius guiding the investigation of a play,
this second approach is often a disaster.
SMELIANSKY There is a difference in theater mentality
between the United States and Russia. In the States,
theater is, first of all, literature - words - and then
interpretation. In Russia, it is much more a delicate
balance between directing and playwriting - because of
Meyerhold, Stanislavsky, Vakhtangov and other great Russian
directors. Ask Kalyagin, one of the greatest Russian actors
now, and he would say that without a director, contemporary
theater does not exist.
In America it would be difficult to say who is the
director. The director is someone who says: "Come from that
door, go out that door, put some light there." The director
in Russia is an artist at least equal to a playwright.
Frankly speaking, we have a deficit of directors today. In
the history of the Moscow Art Theater School during 60
years, we have only had a directors' program two times. I'm
inviting Fokin, from the Meyerhold Center, to help
cultivate Meyerhold's tradition at the Moscow Art Theater
School, which is traditionally an acting school. Without
directors, the education of contemporary actors is
pointless. Actors and directors should train together every
year. If you have even two or three great directors in five
years it is an event of national importance for our
FOKIN It's a normal situation that we will never have a lot
of good directors. A real director, in the true meaning of
the word, is the author of the production. It's a very
complicated question because bad directors try to exercise
their power over a play, and sometimes they don't
understand the sense of the play - the spirit of the
playwright - which should not be a vehicle for the
director's own ambitions.
Meyerhold, who put into practice the idea of the director
as the author of the production, was led by the main
artistic task. He had a profound knowledge of not just the
particular play but all the works of the dramatist, like
Gogol, for example. When he directed "The Inspector
General" in 1926, it was based on all Gogol's works and he
discovered all of Gogol through this play. The real
director illustrates the genius of a play and creates his
own new world; even interpretation is not enough, he
composes a new reality.
SMELIANSKY Look at Galin. He started directing his own
plays in the last few years because he was so disappointed
with contemporary directors. Many playwrights now say: "Why
should I give my play over to someone else? I can do it
better myself." Directing is the whole world: visual art,
music, architecture. From the time of Meyerhold, directing
has been considered the one profession that embodies all of
the arts. I would say the era of the great directors is
over and this is a period between great directors and the
GALIN Historically, I think Anatoly is correct. There's a
terrible emptiness in the contemporary theater because the
director is occupied by form, by the shape of a production.
Here in Russia, we have great set designers, world class,
and the design can be overdeveloped, independent of the
play and director.
SMELIANSKY It is difficult to be the director of your own
work. Sometimes you are not equal to the level of the play.
Because you create a new reality out of your own play, what
does it mean to be truthful to the author? When you direct
your own work you should be untruthful to yourself as the
GALIN When I first began to direct my own plays, I had a
huge inferiority complex. I began to hate my plays, as if
they were lifeless. But after some time, I reread my own
work and I thought: "Wow. I was so pure inside. I was
writing so simple a thing. I needed so little for
everything." I agree that the director should create his
own world. Without the spiritual connection, however, we
may see a production where, for example, the cherry orchard
is sold in the first act.
SACHAROW How is theater supported in the new Russia?
SMELIANSKY We have very, very few really private theaters
that are based completely on box office ticket sales.
Ninety-nine percent of Russian theaters receive some
SACHAROW Can Russian theaters survive on that alone?
SACHAROW So there's no widespread commercial theater?
SMELIANSKY That's the paradox of the new Russia: commercial
theater with state subsidies.
SACHAROW What makes a theater or a school alive?
SMELIANSKY Stanislavsky discovered the importance of a
studio, a place to work between school and professional
theater. Then those involved have one or two years to be
together as a company. In Russian theater, the company is
the form and shape of theater itself. This is why the
Meyerhold Center and Vasiliev's new center are so
important, because they don't have an obligation to
produce. Their only obligation is to develop the new
FOKIN Unfortunately, young directors and writers are forced
to think about how to be in demand. Galin says that when he
writes a play, he's thinking about the purpose for the
theater, the basic idea of the work. He is right, but he's
not the role model in this situation because he is a famous
playwright and he stands outside the general rule.
The problem of presenting the early work of young
playwrights and directors is an important one. A young
director should have the right to make a mistake, otherwise
he can't become a director. The management of a theater
often thinks, "Will audiences come to see the play?" That's
a problem. My center will offer the possibility for young
artists to start their careers in an environment of
complete theatrical investigation.
KALYAGIN I was a medical student, which influenced my
acting career. The best actors - and this is true in
America also - don't feel that they separate life from
acting technique. I understand acting not from learning at
school but learning from life. As an artistic director,
when I choose a play for my theater, I take into account
the circumstances of life, the company, the spiritual inner
life of the director who is invited to direct the play.
Theater is not a building but a group of people living in a
specific artistic climate.
In teaching, we have a great craving for new methods, new
forms of instruction. For example, writings of Meyerhold
have recently been uncovered. This is new material for us.
And it's very important to learn more about him as his
However, there is no ultimate recipe for how to cook a good
actor or a good director. And nobody will ever have one.
Max Reinhardt said it very well: real mastery in the
theater comes from unending curiosity.
Lawrence Sacharow is the chairman of Fordham University's
theater department, artistic director of River Arts
Repertory and the director of Edward Albee's Pulitzer
Prize-winning play ``Three Tall Women.'
projects: Demons 2003
texts: Theatre History
in focus: Taming of the Shrew
Theatre Books list *
reading: Theatre Theory
play writing amazon list *
Russian Classical Music
Russian Children Books
Russian Theatre: fest.theatre.ru + cultu.ru (webcast)
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