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This is from Russian-American Theatre (RAT) directory
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SummaryDodin's "The Possessed" -- two nights!
QuestionsPage(s) on Vasilyev, Fomenko, Zakharov, Ginkis?
NotesOverview of directing over the last 50 years in Russia?
Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre: Process to Performance by Maria Shevtsova; Routledge, 2004 - Part I: The Maly in Context - 1: From Leningrad to St Petersburg - 2: The Work Process - Part II: The Major Productions - 3: Dodin's 'theatre of Prose' - 4: The Student Ensemble - 5: Chekhov in an Age of Uncertainty - Part III: Dodin at the Opera - 6: Dodin Directs Opera - 7: Anatomy of the Queen of Spades
'Maly' means 'small', which describes quite adequately the 35-seat theatre that was founded in May 1944 to 'service' the outlying region of the city of Leningrad; and the term 'service', which was used without any prevarication at the time, indicates the populist intentions behind the enterprise. No one could ever have imagined that this theatre, designated for local communities, would radically alter direction and become, in the last decade of the twentieth century, a star player on the international stage...
Any and all quotations of, or references to, this article must cite John Freedman. (c) 2000 John Freedman July 1 Moscow Times at www.themoscowtimes.com
***Since its first foreign tour to Canada in 1988, Lev Dodin's Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg has become one of the world's great theatrical success stories. In April, Dodin was awarded the Europe Theater Prize, the first Russian so honored. From July 11 to 16, his theater will perform its historical production of "Brothers and Sisters," based on a novel by Fyodor Abramov, in New York at the Lincoln Center Festival 2000. John Freedman talks to Dodin about how the Maly became an international trademark of quality.***
***A 1988 New York tour of "Brothers and Sisters" fell through at the last minute because the backer couldn't raise the money.***
That was my first taste of battle in the free world. It was far more difficult than I had imagined. But the theater and the actors have retained the desire to perform in New York. Based on the way the show has been received throughout the world, I think the New York public will find it of interest.
***Is the cast more or less the same?***
Essentially the entire cast.
***I ask because this show has survived several eras. Mabye four.***
It's difficult to count eras in Russia.
***How has the show changed over time?***
You are right to say it has gone through several eras -- and we along with it. We created "Brothers and Sisters" in 1984 when the Soviet era was still going strong. Then we spent a year fighting to save it. As we used to say in the Soviet Union, the authorities did not "accept" the show. At that time, no one had heard of Gorbachev. Still, we were able to push it through. Maybe it had already become easier to push through controversial shows or maybe the show itself had some impact in that it heralded the coming of a new era.
When Perestroika began I thought the show might cease to be timely. I thought we would come to terms with what had happened to us and we would reject old ways of behavior. But our Soviet experience had deep roots, historically and genetically. As a result, there have been times when we have felt we are performing "Brothers and Sisters" about the present again and there have been times when we have felt we are performing about what is yet to come in the future.
We have played this show during two wars in Chechnya. This has given the performance new associations, increasingly profound and painful. But most important is what the actors have experienced in their own lives. "Brothers and Sisters" is the story of lost hopes and shattered illusions. In other words, it is about what many of the actors personally have encountered in all the years they have been performing this show. They have come to realize that handling freedom is no easy task. This show has absorbed all of the eras. It is now more dramatic, tragic and profound because everyone in it understands much more.
***When did "Brothers and Sisters" open?***
It opened March 9 and 10, 1985. We were exhausted after having fought so long for it, and the show itself, which runs six hours, is an exhausting one. We weren't sure it was worth having a banquet afterwards. But we decided to celebrate our victory. We sat up all night and in the early morning hours, around 6 a.m., my wife and I were riding home and we noticed workmen were hanging out banners of mourning. My wife, Tatyana Shestakova, who performs in the show, said, "Another one has died." This time it was Chernenko. Essentially, on the next day Gorbachev came to power. As a result, our show in a sense came to represent the changing of eras. There was something symbolic in its creation.
***Your theater performs in Russian, but you communicate easily with non-Russian audiences. "Brothers and Sisters" has played in 14 countries.***
Abramov's prose is universal. It gives us the opportunity to talk not only about our own lives, but about common factors in everyone's lives. On our mission of traveling the world we have come to realize that all problems are common. They may differ in expression or shape, but they are the same in essence. That is why our theater is accepted and understood throughout the world.
***How did the Maly became an international theater? When you began traveling in 1988, no one in the Soviet Union was doing that. Was that planned, or did it happen on its own?***
Nothing of the sort was planned. If it had been, it would not have happened. You can't make people need you or understand you.
***How do you see your relationship with your audience?***
This might offend spectators, but I would say we try not to think about those for whom we perform. In show business -- and, by some mistake, theater is considered show business, although I think it is an activity of another sort altogether -- a great deal of energy is spent studying the spectator and learning what he wants to see. I think that is a waste of time. Because if we're talking about serious theater as opposed to entertainment, the spectator does not know what he wants to see. When we began working on "Brothers and Sisters" people said, "Who is going to watch an eight-hour show about life in a Soviet village?" We dramatized Dostoevsky's novel "The Devils" in 1991, a very difficult post-coup period of food shortages. The show runs ten hours. People said, "Are you crazy?" But the theater was always packed because spending ten hours with Dostoevsky was a spiritual adventure many more people needed than it might seem. When you do what is important to you, and if you are sincere, you can count on finding at least one person who will be interested in what you do. But when you do what is supposedly important to others, but to which you yourself are indifferent, you risk interesting no one.
***But eventually you must go to the spectator.***
The most difficult moment is letting spectators into the hall. Because what is most interesting happens without the audience. That is when you're doing what you want. Rehearsals are a very intimate process. The first appearance of spectators always makes it much cruder. As the show and the relationship with the spectators develop, perhaps we become enriched. But the first intrusion, the loss of virginity, so to speak, is a painful intrusion.
***One of your most popular shows internationally is "Gaudeamus." This devastating work about 14 Soviet soldiers and three women has elicited almost religious responses from spectators. I know people who swear it changed their lives.***
When we did "Gaudeamus," the last thing on my mind was that it would tour all the world's continents. It was a student production. Who would have thought the horrors of the Soviet Army, or, more precisely, horrors based on the theme of the Soviet Army, would be of interest? You can't make a show about the army, you can only make a show about people. About how they are humiliated and disgraced. About how people reduce themselves to the level of villains. These themes were of interest to the world because there is no place where people are not humiliated. In France, people said, "We have the same problems in our army." I heard the same in England. It's unimportant that somewhere else people are humiliated even more. Each person perceives his own humiliation as the worst.
***What have you done to promote your theater?***
We have never marketed ourselves and we still don't. We never raise the question of tours. We never write to anyone that we want to go somewhere. When we receive invitations, we respond.
***What kind of contact do you have with audiences abroad?***
When we travel I always make a point of inviting people we meet to the shows. Especially those who seldom go to the theater. Taxi drivers, waiters, hotel maids and the like. The theater is a relatively marked social environment. These people don't go to the theater. They don't think they'll understand. I tell them there will be surtitles. They're still skeptical. But there have been interesting results. In San Diego I invited a pleasant young store cashier to the show. He came with his wife and liked the show and its sincerity. Later, he called and said he wanted to come with his mother to talk to us. They came to our hotel room and told us about their life. I realized they had no one to talk to and that our theater had told them something about themselves that they had never heard before.
***What do you think that was?***
We all share the language of the human soul. Theater is the language of the human soul, of human nerves. This is, to an extent, our mission, because theater has the ability to break down certain human prejudices. The possibilities of theater are much greater than we usually realize. Because we reduce it to the level of show business or entertainment, or we make of it some boring intellectual activity for highbrows. Real theater, as I see it, is capable of including all of that while also accomplishing its main mission of stimulating or exciting passions. That is something we experience too seldom these days because we are nervous, worried or in a hurry. We have no energy or time left for passions. But when people are deprived of their passions, they become ill.
***Many of your shows are based on Soviet themes. "Chevengur," the show that in March won you the Golden Mask award as best director for 2000, is based on a novella written by Andrei Platonov in the 1920s. Is there not a breach between your themes and what is actually taking place in Russia today? Or do you see the world around you in those very themes?***
We don't work solely with Soviet themes. I have staged Chekhov and we are currently rehearsing Turgenev. I just directed "Molly Sweeney" by the Irish writer Brian Friel. But I guess you can say my main material is Soviet prose. However, it is always major Soviet prose because, first and foremost, it is Russian. What I mean is that it is literature that was not poisoned by Soviet servility. It attempts to analyze what happened in our history. This has not yet truly been done. We have analyzed too little and have done too little to make what happened accessible to the majority of people. As a result, old myths are resurrected again and again. We must understand that what happened in Russia is not only the fault of someone, but the fault of everyone who lived at that time. Until each person individually comprehends that for himself, nothing can change. No good president can do anything. He might handle one or another policy better or worse, but he can't do a thing on the level of human consciousness. Therefore, I believe we need to analyze the Revolution, Soviet reality and post-Soviet reality. Why has life remained more or less the same even as it has changed? The great disillusionment of the 20th century is that we should have learned we cannot go back. But now, as the century has ended, we are repeating ourselves in a new way. Because there is an almost pathological characteristic of the human that we cannot overcome. If we don't think about that, if we don't analyze it, we will never avoid it.
***Is this one of your theater's main tasks?***
The last thing I believe is that theater can correct this problem. It doesn't happen like that. But it can help us take a small step. Without theater, without art in general, there is no telling where we would be. @2000-2004 thr *
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