RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Putin at] Meeting with Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky” – KremlinRu

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Kremlin.ru – November 13, 2017) Vladimir Putin held a working meeting with Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky to discuss the ministry’s performance over the past nine months. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Medinsky, three quarters have passed, and the year is drawing to a close. Any good news? Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky: With your permission, I would like […]

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Serebrennikov says has no way of hiding abroad

Kirill Serebrennikov file photo, adapted from image at osce.usmission.gov

MOSCOW. Sept 4 (Interfax) – Theater producer Kirill Serebrennikov, who is charged with stealing 68 million rubles provided from the budget for the Platforma project, has said he has no way of hiding from investigators. “I have no way of running away or hiding, let alone [doing] anything else at this moment,” Serebrennikov said in the Moscow City Court on […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Show Trial of a Russian Theater Director; If it is not clear by now, let me say it in no uncertain terms: The #Serebrennikov case is a show trial” – Moscow Times/ John Freedman

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“The arrest of director Kirill Serebrennikov … created a firestorm of reaction …. Serebrennikov’s arrest is the latest development in an affair that went public in late May. At that time, he was questioned about funds allegedly embezzled from theater projects mounted by an entity called Seventh Studio, an offshoot of the Gogol Center, where Serebrennikov has been artistic director …. […]

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Interfax: Stage director Serebrennikov says charges brought against him absurd, asks court not to take him into custody

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MOSCOW. Aug 23 (Interfax) – Stage director Kirill Serebrennikov, the art director of the Gogol Center theater, who has been charged with organizing the embezzlement of at least 68 million rubles allocated from the budget to Studio Seven, which he founded, for implementation of the Platforma theatrical project, has dismissed the charges as absurd. “The charges brought against me are […]

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Je Suis Malobrodsky: Theater, Politics and Russian Scandal; Navigating Russian fiscal laws is something akin to traversing the woods in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – June 30, 2017) [Former theater critic for the Moscow Times] The theater world may now be at the center of one of Russia’s most profound political scandals. The stakes are high: Can the government and its people coexist? And if not, where is the country heading? Last week Alexei Malobrodsky, the former […]

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RUSSIALINK TASS: #Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre to perform in Washington for 15th time.

File Photo of Kennedy Center Across Potomac River, adapted from image at nps.gov

“#Russia’s two theater companies from St. Petersburg are beginning a series of performances in Washington, DC. While the local audience is familiar with the former, the latter will visit the United States” capital city for the first time. The world-famous Mariinsky Theatre will begin its traditional winter performances in Washington later this week coming there for the 15th time, and the […]

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Moscow theater performance of ‘Anna Karenina’ to play at a cinema near you

Leo Tolstoy file photo

Other major Moscow theater performances will follow suit later in the spring. Organizers see art and culture as a way to transcend politics. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ALEXANDRA GUZEVA, RBTH – January 25, 2017) The Vakhtangov Theatre’s interpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel, Anna Karenina, is screened in cinemas across the U.S., UK, and Ireland. It’s a […]

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Russia’s young people aren’t angry, they’re furious

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Five years after Russia’s protest movement turned sour, young people are still frustrated with the status quo. (opendemocracy.net – Mikhail Ugarov – June 8, 2016) Mikhail Ugarov is a Moscow-based writer, art director and director born in 1956 in Arkhangelsk, Russia. He graduated from the department of dramatic arts at Moscow’s Gorky Literature Institute and went on to direct numerous […]

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State vs Art: Russia’s 2015 Crackdown on Contemporary Culture

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Eva Hartog – December 31, 2015) “It’s theater. We were just playing.” That’s how Boris Mezdrich, his tone simultaneously apologetic and defiant, described the avant-garde production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser that got him fired. “Blasphemy!” – was what the Russian Orthodox activists shouted as they protested outside the State Opera and Ballet Theater in Novosibirsk, […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of the Mariinsky Theatre Board of Trustees

Marinsky Theater file photo

(Kremlin.ru – December 9, 2015) Vladimir Putin held a meeting of the Mariinsky Theatre Board of Trustees. Items on the agenda included establishing a branch of the Mariinsky Theatre in Primorye Territory, using the Primorye Opera and Ballet Theatre as a base, and other projects the theatre is involved in, in particular, organisation of the Moscow Easter Festival, which will […]

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A Critic Who Raised the Curtain

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – October 15, 2015) I wrote my first article in August 1990 for a newsletter that transformed in 1992 into The Moscow Times. I publish my last article as theater critic of The Moscow Times today. Between those dates I wrote about 1,600 reviews, interviews, features, op-ed pieces, columns and personal observations for […]

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Fasten Your Seat Belts for a Bumpy Moscow Theater Season

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – September 10, 2015) As we prepare for the new theater season, a note of alarm can be heard in the air. Consider the titles of three of the season’s biggest new shows – “The Suicide,” “Russian Blues” and “Who Lives Well in Russia?” But beyond that clear, thematic hum of consternation, there […]

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The Russian Theater – What a Season It’s Been

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedmam – July 30, 2015) Another theater season bites the dust. And, therefore, wrap it up again we must. For three and twenty years without a break The Moscow Times has listed what is great Or maybe less, But worth a dwell To test our dares And quell our cares. And so, for now, […]

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The Year in Theater: Murky Demons on the Loose

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

  (Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – July 23, 2015) Words can be fashionable. They may be dangerous. The word of this year in Russian culture, I would argue, has shades of both. The lexical item of “obscurantism”-“mrakobesie” in Russian, suggesting demonic murk and gloom – is everywhere to be found in discussions of art these days. “In […]

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Ukrainian Culture Ministry makes list of 117 Russian performers threatening national security

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Interfax – July 8, 2015) By way of implementing the law On Amendments to Certain Laws on the Protection of TV and Radio Space of Ukraine the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture has made a list of 117 performing artists from Russia that has been submitted to the relevant authorities, the ministry’s website says. The report notes that by way of […]

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Authorities Again Threatened by Bolotnaya Square

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 12, 2015) Yelena Gremina’s production of “The Bolotnaya Square Case” at Teatr.doc may be the most benign dangerous 65 minutes I have ever witnessed. A contradiction in terms, you say? Not in the land, which, as the great poet Fyodor Tyutchev put it, cannot be understood by mind alone. The fact […]

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Donetsk and Luhansk Theaters to Tour Russia

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 7, 2015) Russia’s Ministry of Culture will pay theater, opera and ballet troupes from the separatist-controlled Lugansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine to tour Russia this summer and fall. The ministry will support tours by the Donetsk Opera and Ballet Theater, the Luhansk Music and Drama Theater, the Youth Theater of Donetsk, the […]

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Soviet-Style Censorship Returns to Russian Arts

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman, Moscow Times Theater Critic – April 3, 2015) How many bulls does it take to trash a china shop? We may have an answer by the time the dust settles in a seemingly self-refueling controversy that keeps swirling around an opera house in Novosibirsk. Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said this week on […]

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Moscow Times: Deeply Human Touch Brought to Erdman’s ‘The Suicide’

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – April 2, 2015) I have written about Nikolai Erdman’s tragicomedy “The Suicide” for 35 years and I have rarely seen it done with the deep, devastating understanding that Sergei Zhenovach brings to it at the Studio of Theatrical Art. That doesn’t mean this show is an unqualified success from beginning to end. […]

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NEWSLINK New York Times: Russian Artists Face a Choice: Censor Themselves, or Else

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

… In an interview last month in his office here, Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s culture minister, said it was the prerogative of experts at the research institute to look into Russian culture, such as the plays in question. “Maybe, that’s their right to do this,” Mr. Medinsky said. But he said the academics’ findings wouldn’t have repercussions for the theaters. …. […]

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Cultural Figures Demand Minister’s Sacking Over Opera Scandal

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – March 31, 2015) Leading cultural figures launched a petition Monday calling for the dismissal of Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, saying his position on a controversial opera production was an attack on freedom of creativity, while the Kremlin said it had the right to influence the content produced by cultural organizations financed by […]

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NEWSLINK New York Times: Russian Theater Director Fired for Offending Christians

In the latest skirmish between the Russian Orthodox Church and the cultural elite, the culture minister on Sunday fired the director of a Siberian theater who included a controversial interpretation of the life of Jesus in the Richard Wagner opera “Tannhauser.” The director, Boris Mezdrich, had failed to apologize and to take other steps to mitigate the outcry among the […]

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Three Russian contributions to theater that changed the world

Anton Chekhov file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Alexandra Guryanova, RBTH – March 27, 2015) In honor of World Theater Day on March 27, RBTH presents three of Russia’s greatest contributions to the art of theater, from the plays of Anton Chekhov to the methodologies of Stanislavsky and Vsevolod Meyerhold’s “theater of the grotesque.” The plays of Anton Chekhov Chekhov’s plays […]

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Brighter future beckons for Russians with Down’s syndrome

File Photo of Child with Down's Syndrome, adapted from image at cdc.gov

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Maria Fedorishina, special to RBTH – March 25, 2015) There are some 2,500 babies with Down’s syndrome born in Russia every year. Many of them are abandoned by their parents at birth. However – mainly thanks to volunteer movements – society is now developing a more enlightened view of the condition, with some […]

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Wagner Opera Scandal Reflects Deep Divide in Russian Society

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – March 26, 2015) An avant-garde production of a Wagner opera in a Siberian city that has seen conservative Russian Orthodox activists declare war on the liberal intelligentsia is a sign of things to come, some in Russia fear. The production of “Tannhauser” at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater is accused of […]

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Embattled Teatr.doc Proudly Returns to the Stage

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – February 16, 2015) “I always thought this democracy stuff was, you know … ,” Alexei Yudnikov said, his voice trailing off with disgust still ringing in it. “Yes, yes! No, no!” A couple hundred people burst into laughter. The joke was both subtle and obvious. Yudnikov was emceeing the reopening of the […]

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Top Russian Official ‘Ashamed’ Of Culture Crackdown, Quits Ministry

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(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Claire Bigg – January 15, 2015) A prominent Russian public figure has slammed the country’s culture minister for overseeing a deepening crackdown on artists critical of authorities, quitting a ministerial commission in protest. Yevgeny Savostyanov, the head of Russia’s Coordination Council on Intellectual Property Protection, said in an open letter that he was “ashamed” of Culture […]

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A new drama in Moscow: Teatr.doc – a pioneer of ‘New Drama’ in Russia – has recently been evicted from its basement home in Moscow. But is it all an act?

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(opendemocracy.net – Alexey Krizhevsky – January 14, 2015) Alexey Krizhevsky is culture editor at gazeta.ru and member of Teatr.doc Teatr.doc is on the move. Having performed its last plays and a holiday evening, the theatre packed its bags and left the tiny basement in the centre of Moscow – its home for many years. The director of the independent theatre, […]

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Theater and the Heart of a City: Moscow’s Teatr.doc’s Confrontation with Authority

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(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Blair A. Ruble – January 2015) Blair A. Ruble is vice president for programs; director, urban sustainability laboratory; and senior advisor, Kennan Institute, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. On the evening of December 30, 2014 — just as two dozen or so patrons were settling into their seats at a purposefully ramshackle basement […]

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Take a Vacation to Crimea at Embattled Teatr.doc

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – November 6, 2014) To be or not to be, that is the question these days for Teatr.doc. A move by city authorities to oust the famous little theater from its basement in the center of Moscow will probably be successful. The chances are better than good that Doc, as the theater is […]

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Honored Burials, Mass Grave for Theater Greats

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – October 13, 2014) Yury Lyubimov once told me about meeting the great director Vsevolod Meyerhold. This happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1987. I paid Lyubimov a visit to talk about his old friend, the playwright Nikolai Erdman, but the conversation, naturally and fortunately, took plenty of detours. The story in Lyubimov’s words […]

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Nazi death squad leader: The musical

Map of Latvia and Environs

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – BALTIC BLOG: Mike Collier in Riga – October 9, 2014) If you are constantly battling to try and disprove Russian claims that your state is essentially neo-Nazi, it doesn’t help if an evening of musical entertainment then pops up giving Nazi death squads the razzle-dazzle of a Broadway musical. That’s exactly what has happened […]

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Lyubimovka Marks Real Start of Theater Season

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – September 4, 2014) It’s not quite true that the Lyubimovka play festival is the first real event of each theater season in Moscow. This year, for example, some 10 top venues, including the Moscow Art Theater, the Mayakovsky and the Gogol Center, are already up and running. Historically Lyubimovka wasn’t even held […]

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The Winners of the 22nd Moscow Times Theater Awards

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – August 7, 2014) What a year. Drama. Histrionics. Villainy. Hubris. Intrigue. Tragedy. And I haven’t even begun considering the 2013-2014 theater season. You guessed it. It is time for the annual Moscow Times Theater Awards. For the 22nd year running, I take a look back at why I will remember the last […]

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New Era Looms After Golden Age of ‘New Drama’

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – August 1, 2014) It has been an astonishing run. But doesn’t every run come to an end? The number of major playwrights that Russia put up over the last 15 to 18 years may make all other eras in the history of Russian drama pale by comparison. If this hasn’t been a […]

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The Nightmare of Being a Russian-Language Ukrainian Playwright

Ukraine Map and Flag

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – July 21, 2014) “I don’t know what to do about it, John. It is a nightmare and it is hell. And something in me has been broken irreparably.” Thus responded Maksym Kurochkin, a Ukrainian Russian-language playwright, to my question about what he is experiencing these days. As his comments starkly suggest, recent […]

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Volkostrelov Resurrects Soviet ’60s

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – June 10, 2014) In “1968. Novy Mir” at the Taganka Theater, Dmitry Volkostrelov shrewdly found a way to combine aesthetics, artistic methods and themes that are capable of unifying that distant era with the world we inhabit. Someone may think he did not do much, just put five actors on chairs and […]

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‘Donkey Heart’ Shows Soviet Past Behind Family Turmoil

Aerial View of Moscow From Beyond Stadium, file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Elizabeth Kaplunov – May 27, 2014) As the Soviet Union fades from the memories of the youngest generations of Russians, it still underpins the consciousness of their parents. The play “Donkey Heart,” written by Moses Raine and directed by his sister Nina Raine, focuses on the psychological setup of a family in post-Soviet Moscow, describing […]

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‘Culture’ Newspaper Condemns Contemporary Theater Again

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 26, 2014) I forced myself to read the entire article. It was not easy to do. But it had to be done. The Culture newspaper, which made headlines in April by attacking 29 contemporary Russian writers and directors as propagators of “sleaze, obscenities and perversion,” is at it again. This time […]

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Culture Ministry Purges Prominent Arts Figures

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – April 11, 2014) The Russian Culture Ministry raised eyebrows this week by replacing several respected figures in two departments involving the fine arts and theater. Many admit it was high time for these experts to be rotated out of their positions. But most also suggest that the actions were taken abruptly, without […]

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Investigators asked to look into Moscow Art Theater production of An Ideal Husband

Kremlin and St. Basil's file photo

MOSCOW. Dec 28 (Interfax) – Requests to conduct an inquiry into the production of the play An Ideal Husband at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater (MAT) have been forwarded to the Russian Investigative Committee’s Moscow branch, the city police department said on its Twitter page. “Twenty-three requests demanding an inquiry into the Chekhov MAT’s production of An Ideal Husband, which […]

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Protests and Scandals Strike Moscow Theaters

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – December 2, 2013) If Russian theater is a mirror of Russian society ­ – and most any Russian theater artist will tell you that is true ­ – then Russia is in turmoil. Two of Moscow’s most famous theaters have been rocking and rolling to scandalous events all week long. The Taganka […]

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Best Thespians, Theaters and Themes of 2012-13

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – July 31, 2013) It’s time to put the tired theater season to bed. Let it hibernate for a month or so then make a perennial attempt to come back fresher and better in September. The 2012-2013 season was lopsided. There was a lot of mediocre, admirably ambitious, but, frankly, forgettable, work. Decent […]

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Ibsen at the Mayakovka: Don’t Drink the Water

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Natalia Antonova – May 27, 2013) Henrik Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” has been updated for a modern audience by playwright Sasha Denisova – and you can see the results at the Mayakovsky Theater (affectionately known as the Mayakovka), as directed by Nikita Kobelev. In the politically charged atmosphere of the day, Ibsen is […]

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Russia’s “Third Cultural Center,” Yekaterinburg

Yekaterinburg file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – May 27, 2013) John Freedman has been the theater critic of The Moscow Times since its inception in 1992. Natalya Druzhinina is the director of development for the Yekaterinburg Young Spectator Theater. She is also an artistic and executive director of the Real Theater festival, which is organized biannually by the Young […]

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Unmasked, Still Golden: Awards for Theater Elite

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – April 18, 2013) The 19th annual Golden Mask Festival award ceremony began with a drum roll and a walking bass line from the Oleg Lundstrem Jazz Orchestra and ended with standing ovations for six veteran theater artists who were honored with lifetime achievement awards. As 47 awards were announced over the course […]

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Prague Spring Comes to Moscow

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – March 25, 2013) “A lot of people these days are finding parallels between the present and the 1930s, but the real connection I see is between the present and 1968.” Playwright Mikhail Durnenkov made that comment to me as we chatted Friday prior to the beginning of an evening called “1968. Prague […]

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English-Language Theater to Start in Moscow

Mayakovsky Theater at Night, file photo; adapted from image from Creative Commons/wikimedia/Shuvaev

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Lena Smirnova – March 13, 2013) When Royal Shakespeare Company alum Jonathan Bex realized he was spending a lot of time in Moscow but had little hope of acting in any of the city’s many theaters, he came up with a creative solution. He decided to start a theater company that would offer exclusively English-language […]

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“Moscow Trials” Puts Art on Trial, Trials in Art

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – March 11, 2013) Journalist and theater director Mikhail Kaluzhsky called it a “theatrical slam.” Olga Shakina, a journalist from the Dozhd television channel, said it was a moment when “one theatrical event replaced another.” What they were discussing on Saturday on Echo Moskvy radio was a now-notorious performance of “Moscow Trials,” a […]

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Magnitsky Play at Teatr.doc Hits Harder Than Ever

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – December 28, 2012) Some things remain relevant longer than you would expect. Take the death of Sergei Magnitsky. This muck-raking attorney was allowed to die in a Moscow prison in November 2009. That story was still making news when Teatr.doc opened a show called “One Hour Eighteen” in the early summer of […]

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