After shock confessionAutor: Author: Svetlana Alekseyeva
Source: Newspaper «Vechernyaya Moskva», October 12, 2009
A seance of the group therapy
Today all talks are about the financial crisis. So you also don’t want to lag behind and made a production on the topic of the day…
I don’t think we can be blamed in opportunism. The play of Swiss author Urs Widmer Top Dogs was written 7 years ago. There were no talks on the crisis then. I read it a year ago, when the crisis was only teething. The genre of the play is a documentary drama; it is difficult for the audience, as well for the actors, and it is absolutely non-commercial. This is a group therapy allowing us to see what’s going on in the mind of clients. They lost their job and this has immediate effect on their well-being and their families. I think that theatre, as well as those classes, to some extent help people to understand who they are and what are they goals. People want to regain their mental health that had failed due to the shocking situation. During the seances, when each of the characters utter a sort of confession, they begin to wonder whether they need this job or was it right for them to do this all their life. It is not improbable that it was exactly what led us to the situation we are now in.
Do you give good counsels to the audience?
We have no definite formulas. We think it over together with them and come to the conclusion that many things in our present life are the consequence of our own actions. Everybody wants a life full of comfort, but the pursuit of well-being sometimes turns into the change of guidelines. The money become the measure of all values. The term top dogs designates the most eager dogs who snatch all they can. So are the people who got to the top of social pyramid — they don’t have a sense of moderation. Sometimes it happens they lose everything. And then they begin to ponder over eternal things and to pay tribute to what was a matter of fact for them. The crisis is a kind of a crash test. There was a situation when we could get our salary while drinking tea during the endless brakes and smoking. We had no incentive to unveil our creative and human abilities. The global crisis made people think, it broadened our limits and lead us outside our neighborhoods, and now we discuss not only local gas leak or water cut-off, but the more serious matters. I think the similar talk may be of a great interest to the audience.
The chairs from Security Service
The booking clerks say the people often ask them to sell them tickets for the «funny stuff, to laugh in the Saturday evening…»
Unfortunately this is one of the human traits that led us to the financial and economic crisis. If we keep on laughing all the time, we are to live on as we do now. The 'stupiditisation' has a fast pace. The artists and other intelligent people should do their best to mould the taste of the audience.
You had quite a lot of festival visits and tours. Many theatres cannot afford it today. How do you make it?
How do we make it? We are invited to visit festivals, but we don’t answer all invitations, because of our restricted finances. A theatre has to pay its traveling expenses, this is almost inevitable condition of all festivals. The greatest expenditure is transportation of the stage set. That is why all those festivals show mainly non-repertory performances or the plays that don’t require many items. So called «medium European variant»: the minimum of stage set, only lights and music. We try to counter this trend or do like we did in Turkey. We were invited to Trabzon festival, and I am still under the great impression from this tour. We saw another Turkey, not that of well-known tourist Antalya. The audience in Trabzon are intellectuals and playgoers. When we negotiated the visit and proposed «The Beast» as the play, we told that we could not bring our decorations from the very start. We send photos of what we needed: several mannequins and an old broken car. We have been provided several of such cars, so the play went like it did in Moscow, almost in its native form. Recently we visited Yalta and asked the receiving part to get 12 Viennese chairs. It turned out there were no Viennese chairs in Crimea, but we kept insisting, because we couldn’t play on white Arabic or other furniture — this is Chekhov anyway. And then the Viennese chairs were found after a greatest efforts, nearly with the help of the Ukrainian Security Service.
The aim of these visits is to show us, to make us known. It is very important to change the audience. We often stay on one and the same place, while it should be changed from time to time. You need to conquer the new audience that don’t know you. Each tour is like a test, a vitalizing threshold situation. Yalta is a resort city seeking entertainments and variety shows, that is why it was difficult to make the serious performance there. The festival organizers intentionally omitted the name of Chekhov on the billboards, only the name of play, 12 Stories of Love. It was a 'love' bait. But these events also stimulate actors. After having played in Trabzon our actors became very popular there. They were recognized on the streets, sometimes even fingered at. And when local channel showed the Vladimir Khotinenko’s film 1612, where our Violetta Davydovskaya played a part, it greatly added to her popularity. We have visited Belarus, Kherson, and now we are going to visit other places.
Away from main thruways
You adopted new six members of the company while there are only layoffs everywhere else…
Thanks to the Young Specialists resolution of Moscow government we are able to hire them. We had two days auditions and graduates could show us what they are capable of.
What kind of young actors were they?
The level of theatrical education is getting lower and lower. The majority are TV-series oriented. Their aim is to get involved in 300-episodes show, and nothing more in their life. This is reflected in their persons. The young people don’t know the Theatre, they don’t like it and they don’t want to know more. They think of it as an official place of job in their future applications. Their general educational level is horrible. I have a serious and work-oriented company, so we have to make a thorough choice.
Did you theatre feel a breath of crisis?
We didn’t cut the number of productions — four performances for a season. We do everything with our own hands, because we have the real masters, the property men and designers, who can produce everything up to the historical dresses. The allocated funds are only enough to make one production, but we manage make four. It’s terrible, but what we have to do? All the difficulties of our theatre became the talk of the town, especially our location. Moscow authorities are well aware of it. The Cultural Department of the capital and its head Sergey Ilyich Khudyakov are sympathetic to our problems. If it wasn’t for them, the theatre could not live its 35 years (and this is three generations of authorities) far away from the main Moscow thruways. Finally a decision is made to build the new building in the complex around the «Worker and Kolkhoz Woman» by Vera Mukhina. I know this is far from being the first decision on terms and location. But we hope it will be the last, and our theatre will be accessible to the general audience.
A short reference
Before he was appointed the head of the New Drama Theatre Viacheslav Dolgachev worked in different Moscow theatres. In particular he was a staff director of Chekhov’s Moscow Art Theatre, where he directed «Behind the Mirror» by Elena Gremina, «Taibele and Her Demon» by Isaac Bashevis Singer, «A Possible Meeting» by Paul Bartz, «After the Rehearsal» by Ingmar Bergman, «The Light Shines in The Darkness» by Leo Tolstoy.
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