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Volume eleven, no 2

summer 1991
east european
SEEP (ISSN # 1047-0018) is a publication of the Institute for Con-
temporary Eastern European Drama and Theatre under the auspices
of the Center for Advanced Study in Theatre Arts (CASTA), Graduate
Center, City University of New York. The Institute Office is Room
1206A, City University Graduate Center, 33 West 42nd Street, New
York, NY 10036. All subscription requests and submissions should
be addressed to the Editors of SEEP: Daniel Gerould and Alma Law,
CASTA, Theatre Program, City University Graduate Center, 33 West
42nd Street, New York, NY 10036.
Daniel Gerould
Alma law
Edward Dee
Edwin Wilson, Chairman
Marvin Carlson
Leo Hecht
Martha W. Coigney
Richard Brad Medoff
CASTA Publications are supported by generous grants from the
Lucille Lortel Chair in Theatre and the Sidney E. Cohn Chair in
Theatre Studies in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at the City University
of New York.
Copyright 1991 CAST A
SEEP has a very liberal reprinting policy. Journals and newsletters
which desire to reproduce articles, reviews, and other materials
which have appeared in SEEP may do so, as long as the following
provisions are met:
a. Permission to reprint must be requested from SEEP in writing
before the fact.
b. Credit to SEEP must be given in the reprint.
c. Two copies of the publication in which the reprinted material has
appeared must be furnished to the Editor of SEEP immediately upon
Editorial Policy .................................... _ ................................................. 4
From the Editors .................................................................................... 5
Events .................................................................................................... 6
"Kantor' s Marionettes:
Taking It Personally"
Agnieszka Per1inska ...................................... ...................................... 11
"Soviet and American Scholars Gather
at Harvard Theatre Collection"
Michael Yurieff .............................................................................. ....... 19
"Russian Drama and Performance in the
United States Prior to the Arrival
of the Moscow Art Theatre in 1923"
compiled by Laurence Senelick ............................................ 22
"Three Soviet Suicides"
John Freedman ......................................... ................ ............. 37
"Diary of a Madman by Nikolai Gogol
Prop Theatre, Chicago
Jeff Stephens ......................................................................... 46
"The Lenigrad Leteiny Theatre's
Lolita: A Review"
Shir1ey Burke ...................................................................... .... 49
"Blue Nights of the K. G.B.
Edward Dee ................................................. ................ .......... 51
Contri butors ................................................ ............. ............................ 54
Playscripts in Translation Series ......................................................... 55
Subscri ption Policy ..................................................................... ........ 57
Manuscripts in the following categories are solicited: articles of no more
than 2,500 words, performance and film reviews, and bibliographies. Please bear in
mind that all of submissions must concern themselves either with contemporary
materials on Soviet and East European theatre, drama and film, or with new
approaches to older materials in recently published works, or new performances of
older plays. In other words, we welcome submissions reviewing innovative perform-
ances of Gogol but we cannot use original articles discussing Gogol as a playwright.
Although we welcome translations of articles and reviews from foreign
publications, we do require copyright release statements.
We will also gladly publish announcements of special events and anything
else which may be of interest to our discipline. All submissions are refereed.
All submissions must be typed double-spaced and carefully proofread.
The Chicago Manual of Style should be followed. Transliterations should follow the
Library of Congress system. Submissions will be evaluated, and authors will be
notified after approximately four weeks.
The Spring issue for 1991 continues our tribute to Tadeusz
Kantor with a feature article by Agnieszka Perlinska about how
Kantor actually worked in the theatre. In June Cricot II has been pre-
senting The Dead Class and Today Is My Birthday at La MaMa as
part of the New York Theatre Festival. The rest of the issue Is
devoted to reviews and reports on recent theatrical events here and
abroad. Providing such Information is the central function of our
journal, and we encourage readers to send us such articles. The
concluding Pages from the Past. an occasional feature of SEEP, is a
chronicle of Russian drama and performance In the United States,
1895 to 1923, compiled by Laurence Senelick.
Daniel Gerould and Alma Law
From June 27 to July 14 at the Theater der Welt being held
this year in Essen, Germany, there will be performances by two
Yugoslav companies and a Soviet company. From Yugoslavia the
Theatre Mladinskol offers Zenit, and Das Albanisches Drama Theatre
presents The Mysterious Yarn-Spinning Bee. The Omsk State
Academic Drama Theatre is bringing Dostoevsky's The Insulted and
the Injured.
At the London International Festival of Theatre running from
June 29 to July 21, the following Eastern European plays are being
offered: The Maly Theatre of Leningrad will be presenting Brothers
and Sisters (see review SEEP vol. 9, nos. 2 and 3, fall 1989, page 55)
and Gaudeamus; Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream by the
Comedy Theatre of Bucharest, Romania, directed by Alex Darie; and
Poland's Kalina Theatre's production of Welcome to Poland by Jerzy
On August 5 and 8, the Russian company Litsedei will pre-
sent Catastrophe and Assissai as part of the Festival International du
Mime de Perigueux in France.
This fall BITEF (the Belgrade International Theatre Festival)
will celebrate its 25th anniversary. The program, entitled "Theatre
Summit 91," runs from September 19 to 30, and will bring to Bel-
grade, Yugoslavia ten theatres from ten different countries, including
both veterans of former festivals as well as first-timers.
This year'sfestival will open with Moscow director Roman
Viktiuk's highly theatricalized interpretation of David Hwang's M. But-
terfly. Among this year's other offerings are the Taganka Theatre's
production of Pushkin's Boris Godunov directed by Yuri Lyubimov.
From Lyon, France will come La Cite Cornue, written and directed by
Wladislaw Znorko; from Stockholm, the Royal Dramatic Theatre of
Sweden with Lars Noren' s Autumn and Winter directed by Brigitte
Ornstein; and from Brussels, a new production entitled, Always the
Same Lies, conceived and directed by Wim Vandekeybus.
Shakespeare will be represented by two productions:
Andrzej Wajda's Hamlet IV from the Stary Theatre In Krak6w; and
another Hamlet from the National Theatre in Maribor, Yugoslavia,
directed by Tomaz Pandur.
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
As part of BITEF's program for this anniversary year, on the
weekend of September 21-22 there will be an international
symposium dedicated to a discussion of theatrical performance past
and future. Among the invited panelists are Ellen Stewart, Richard
Schachner, Robert Wilson, Eugenio Barba, Nurid Espert plus repre-
sentatives yet to be designated from Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union
and Poland.
The YU Theatre Marathon, a two day showing of significant
Yugoslav theatr productions from the past season, will also run the
weekend of September 21-22.
Additional information about the Festival can be obtained by
writing Iovan Cirilov, Artistic Director, BITEF, Terazige 29, 11000 Bel-
grade, Yugoslavia, or by contacting Ms. Baca Vuco, Producing
Director, cj o The Acting Company, 420 West 42 Street, New York,
NY 10036, tel. (212) 564-3510.
United States
From June 8 to 23 the second New York International Festi-
val of the Arts, with dance, theatre, music, and multi-media events,
will be held throughout New York City. The State Theatre of
Lithuania at the Joyce Theatre will perform two productions by direc-
tor Eimuntas Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and The Square, a
modern political parable. From Yugoslavia, the Open Stage Obala
offers Mladen Materits Tatoo Theatre which won a Fringe First
award at the Edinburgh Festival. The Cathedral of St. John the
Divine will present Gulanye, groups of dancers, singers, and
musicians recreating the spirit of Old Russia. Featured performers
include a folk dance group from the village of Plechovo, a polyphonic
folklore chorus of Old Believers and a collective of specialists in Cos-
sack songs and dances.
Among the highlights of the Festival will be the Cricot 2
Theatre, presenting the U. S. premiere of Tadeusz Kantor's last work,
Today Is My Birthday and a revival of The Dead Class at La MaMa
E.T.C. The performances which were arranged before Kantor's
death ear1ier this year, will now be a tribute in his memory.
llkhom from the U.S.S.R. will be performing Clomadeus at
the International Clown-Theatre Congress f rom June 24-28 in
Philadelphia. They will also be onstage at the New York International
Festival of the Arts from June 8 to 23.
The Moscow- based Tovarishchestvo of Actors and
Musicians will show Tverboul, a depiction of life on Moscow's
Tverskoi Boulevard with folk and contemporary music, at the Sixth
International Theatre Festival at Stony Brook University in New York
from June 14 to July 28.
The Phoenix Ensemble in New York will perform a collection
of short plays by Joe Pintauro at GITIS in Moscow in mid-June. In
return, a troupe from GITIS under the direction of Sergei lsaev will
perform three one-act plays under the heading "Funny and Sad
Stories" from the end of September through the beginning of
October. The plays are based on three stories from Russian
literature: The Barber by Chekhov, The Twelve Chairs, based on llf
and Petrov's story, and The Dragon, based on a story by Shukshin.
The performances will be held at the theatre of Hunter College in
The New York Metropolitan Opera is presenting the Bolshoi
Opera from June 25 to July 6. The Bolshoi will perform the wor1d
premiere of a new production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, as
well as the American stage premiere of his Maid of Orleans. They
will also offer the centennial production of Rimsky-Korsakov's Mlada
featuring the Bolshoi Ballet.
A special project of the 1991 National Playwrights Con-
ference, held annually at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in Con-
necticut will be the development of a translation of Aleksei
Khlapovsky's play Russian Melancholy.
During March and April, the UConn Nutmeg Theatre pre-
sented Vaclav Havel's The Memorandum in a new translation by
Marie Winn, directed by Jerry Rojo.
In March, the BACA Downtown Theatre in New York pre-
sented Romanian emigre Oana-Maria Hock's new play, The Almond
Seller, directed by Tina Landau. The play recounts the story of a
Romanian emigre journalist who returns to do a photographic essay
of free Romania, and how she has become an outsider.
The New York State Theatre Institute in Albany presented
Vasilisa the Fair with book by Sofia Prokofieva and Irina Tokmakova:
translated by Sabina Modzhalevskaya and Harlow Robinson;
adapted by Adrian Mitchell; music by Alia Lander, and directed by
Patricia Snyder from May 6 to 26.
8 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
At the Istanbul International Theatre Festival in Turkey, the
Rustaveli Theatre of the U.S.S.R. presented Brecht's Caucasian
Chalk Circle from May 18 to June 3.
The Jean Cocteau Repertory at the Bouwrie Lane Theatre
presented ~ w o m r Mroiek's The Emigrants from May 23 to June 2.
The Dead Class by Tadeusz Kantor was performed by his
Cricot 2 Theatre at the Festival de Theatre des Ameriques in Montreal
from June 3-8.
As part of the Vienna Festival from June 5-7, Tadeusz
R6i:ewicz's The Trap was presented In German, directed by Jerzy
An American play, A Chekhov Concert, created, directed and
performed by Sharon Gans and Jordan Charney was performed this
spring in New York. It will also be performed later this year at the
Moscow Art Theatre, as well as the "Sovremennik" and Chekhov
State Theatre, also in Moscow; the St. Petersburg Salon Theatre in
Leningrad; the Georgian Film Actors' Studio Theatre in Tblisi, and at
the State Theatre Academy for a conference of cultural ministers in
This year's Cannes Film Festival, from May 10 to 20 had
numerous Eastern European connections. The president of this
year's jury was noted Polish director, Roman Polanski, who had just
returned from what he described as a "very difficult" experience,
acting in a Soviet film. Another judge was Soviet act ress Natalya
Negoda, best known for Little Vera. Two Soviet films were in com-
petition, Karen Chakhnazarov's meditation on regicide, Assassin of
the Czar, with Malcolm McDowell and Oleg Yankovsky, and Anna
Karamzova, directed by Roustam Khamdamov and starring Jeanne
From East Europe came a joint French-Polish production of
Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronica starring the
French actress Irene Jacob, who was voted Best Actress. The Palme
d'or for best short film went to Polish director Mitko Panov for his
film, With Hands in the Air.
The organization, Human Rights Watch, presented a week-
long Human Rights Film Festival at the Angelika Film Center in New
York City during May. The Festival screened 36 films, 15 of them
U.S. or New York premieres. Among the films from East Europe
were The Interrogation starring Krystyna Janda, winner of the 1990
Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress. From Poland came
Agnieszka Holland's Europa, Europa about a Polish-Jewish boy dur-
Ing World War II . Bulgarian refugee Kalina Ivanov presented The
Longest Shadow about her return to Bulgaria in 1990 to discover the
fate of both her grandfathers who had been arrested in 1951. The
Soviet Union was represented with Homecoming, Tatyana
Chubakova's film about Soviet soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
As part of its New Directors/New Films series, the Museum
of Modern Art in New York presented t he Czechoslovak film The
Time of the Servants written and directed by Irene Pavlaskova.
From May 2 to 4, the University of Ottawa held an interna-
tional symposium entitled "Slavic Drama: The Question of Innova-
tion." Among the sessions was a Playwrights' Forum with Zoran
Bozhovich of Yugoslavia, Una Kostenko from Ukraine and Tadeusz
R6iewicz of Poland.
This spring the Hayward Gallery in London, in cooperation
with a number of Soviet art galleries presented an exhibition titled
"The Twilight of the Czars" dealing with the period from 1861 t o the
Revolution In 1917. Accompanying the many exhibits were 14 hours
of silent films including Merchant Bashkirov's Daughter.
On May 15, the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of
novelist and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita,
Zoya's Apartment, Heart of A Dog, The Day of the Turbins), the
Soviet government granted him full birthday honors, the country's
highest literary accolade.
Jerzy Grotowski, Polish director and theatrical experimenter
(see article by Jan Kott, SEEP, vol. 9, nos 2 & 3, pp. 20-24) has
received a grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Founda-
tion. These non-conditional grants are commonly known as the
"genius awards".
prepared by Edward Dee
10 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Agnieszka Perlil1ska
The First New York International Festival of the Arts in 1988.
A hot June evening. Standing on a dark stage among his nervous
actors and the troubled La MaMa staff, Tadeusz Kantor stages one of
his infamous awanturas, or fits of anger, half an hour before the per-
formance. The temperature in the small auditorium, already high
after a day of unbearable heat, steadily rises. Wildly gesturing,
screaming in both Polish and French, Kantor accuses the theatre
personnel of not providing decent working conditions for his actors.
Translation becomes a difficult task bordering on diplomacy. Kantor
demands immediate action. That New York City has been hit by a
heat wave resulting in power failures and that everyone suffers from a
service shortage is dismissed as an unacceptable explanation.
The exchange becomes more heated as some of the actors
back the director, asserting that they cannot perform in a room
without any ventilation. It's like adding fuel to the fire. "How can you
say such a thing?" Kantor explodes. "How can you even think of not
performing?" Yet the real climax comes only after news that some of
the audience has left. In the confusion, it had been announced that
the show was canceled due to the heat. "I never said that we would
not perform," the Polish director furiously shouts. "Cricot 2 is a great
theatre! We will suffocate and die, but we will not cancel the show!
We will perform even if there are only three people in the audience!
Let's go!"
The performance begins. Andrzej Welminski, playing the
part of the innkeeper, turns to the audience. Instead of his usual
opening line: "A wonderful evening," he devilishly announces: "A hot
evening!" Everybody laughs at the "inside" joke.
The entire evening becomes an artistic manifesto, exposing
the director's relationship with his actors in all its complexity, and
capturing the intricate ways in which Kantor's life intertwines with his
art. No one questions who is in charge. Yet the evening also proves
that Kantor's angry voice, still resonating in the room, simultaneously
confirms his supreme authority and reveals his extreme vulnerability.
This performance of I Shall Never Return confirmed what I
witnessed every day while working as Kantor's interpreter and trans-
lator. For a man who calls his productions "personal confessions,"
life and art merge on stage and off. Every event, every aspect of life
is a deeply personal matter with an immediate impact on the integrity
of the artistic work. In such an unequivocal, almost painful, commit-
ment to art the stakes are always high, and everything, particularly
the actors, must be subordinated to the directorial concept. Yet, the
"' 0






_ ,
12 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11 , No. 2
actors are not merely Kantor's phantoms, not merely the embodi-
ment of his dreams, memories or fears, but also vibrant and creative
forces, so well captured by Wehninski's improvisatory flair.
The performance progresses under the scrutiny of the obser-
vant ever-present Kantor. More things go wrong. Literally, the heat
is not meant to subside this evening. At the end of one scene, the
burning wick of a candle falls to the floor. Noticing it, Kantor nerv-
ously gestures to the innkeeper to put it out. Without losing his com-
posure, Welminski walks to the burning wick, and energetically
stamps it out. He then comes up to Kantor, sitting behind a table,
and declares: "Pyromaniacs!" The audience roars with laughter.
The scene manifests the dynamic interplay between the director and
his actors, showing how dependent and independent Kantor's actors
really are.
Many of the director's metaphorical formulations acquire sur-
prising reality during the evening. According to Kantor, for a great
actor, coming out on stage Is like coming out for an execution.
Since the director is equally responsible for the performance, Kantor
feels he also must come out for an execution. He does not consider
his presence on stage a performance; he sees himself more a victim
than a director. Kantor insists that he only makes a few signs from
time to time. The actors, he claims, build the performance with him;
he says he gives them their life, and they give him their in return.
Not surprisingly, the actors revolt against Kantor during the
show. "That's him! That's him!" they shout excitedly as if recog-
nizing their worst enemy. They come together, curse him, shake
their fists, and finally execute him, shooting him with an old-
fashioned camera turned machine gun. In the final scene, however,
it is the actors who are buried under the black shrouds of a self-
destructive civilization, an image evoked by Kantor in universal, yet
deeply personal terms.
Born during the first world war and reaching manhood in the
second, Kantor acquired military jargon. He describes his theatre as
a battle map, the company as his headquarters and his army, a per-
formance as an attack, and rehearsals as a review of soldiers ready
for the attack. This vision materializes in the production as a
hauntingly recurring parade of silver-gray soldiers, all playing violins
and marching in sync across the stage. Kantor's attack, as the direc-
tor confessed, Is aimed against mass culture, mass wars, and mass
suffering. Kantor pits an individual's single, weak, yet beautiful life
against totalitarianism, emphasizing what is universal in that Individ-
ual life.
Just as the individual becomes part of the universal, the fig-
ure of the lone actor merges into a collection of vagabond artists.
Dressed in black, white or gray, and leveled out by the grayish-white
make-up of Kantor's own invention, all the actors seemingly lose their
14 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
individuality. Just as an individual opposes the bigger powers, the
actors become the anonymous heroes of each performance.
Kantor starts work on a new show by first jotting down the
main ideas and situations. Then he develops them into sketches.
Yet the text is not shaped fully until his work with the actors begins.
He lets them say the lines and try out new variations. Much depends
on their individual personalities. Music and props are incorporated
into the performance from the very first rehearsal. Kantor shapes the
production by manipulating all the elements and gradually stripping
down all the layers. He strips everything down: costumes, props,
set pieces. Even music is left only in fragments. The actors often
complain: "We are tired of wearing the same old rags on stage, we
want to look good for a change!" "All right," Kantor responds, "this
time I will dress you up, you'll all look very elegant. But when he
begins work, the same thing happens again.
As the rehearsals proceed, little by little Kantor strips the
beautiful costumes until nothing but rags are left. "Tear that sleeve
off, rip the skirt on the side, smudge up this coat, he commands.
Kantor always wants to show a reality of the lowest kind, believing
that a thing of the lower kind arouses sympathy and has a stronger
appeal to our humanity. An ordinary table, for example, does not
mean anything. A table that is stripped has a more powerful mean-
ing. In Kantor's theatre, an actor is not so much tied to things as
etched into them. A thing has the same meaning as an actor, and
together they form reality of the lowest kind, they partake in, as well
as create, Kantor's disturbing visions.
An intimate, but distant relationship develops between the
actors and Kantor. There seem to be no boundaries that could not
be crossed. 'They know me very well. And I know them; I'm a good
psychologist. I know all their weaknesses, pains and deviations. It is
very important because only out of human weakness can a truly
great piece of art be created." On the other hand, there is always a
sense of distance off stage. Very few of the actors are on a first
name basis with Kantor; the majority address him as "Maestro" or
When asked about what he required in an actor, Kantor ans-
wers: an ability to concentrate, a sense of humor, a tendency toward
exhibitionism, and an awareness of the relativity of life. Kantor never
holds any formal auditions in his theatre. He does not like to work
with professionally trained actors, repeatedly stressing that acting as
such disgusts him. He claims that his actors never play parts but
only play themselves. Except for one professionally trained actress,
the group represents a variety of professions. One is a Professor of
Art at Warsaw University, another a painter, a third and engineer.
Some are, so to speak, picked up from the street. Ever observant,
Kantor would notice someone who fit his current needs. That person
would then be approached and asked to participate in the rehearsal.
"The encounter in theatre is like an encounter in love, Kantor
explained. "An actor and the ensemble must meet as lovers do." A
love affair at first, but later more and more like marriage. The actors
joke that once somebody comes into Cricot 2, they never leave. A
graphic designer who came to make posters, for example, was grad-
ually incorporated Into the acting ensemble. This process i s
inevitable and unnoticeable. Kantor likes to involve everyone in the
performance, especially while touring. For example, the official
Polish manager who travels with the group would, after running
around doing business all day, change into a costume each evening
and perform the part of a soldier along with the ensemble.
The same actors participate in Kantor's theatre for decades.
They not only perform; they live their lives there. "See the older
woman with the big suitcases," the company doctor points out to me
during a rehearsal. "She used to be the gir1 in the cage in the cabaret
costume. Her husband was also one of Kantor's actors, the main fig-
ure in The Dead Class. He died a few years ago. That's why Kantor
is so apprehensive about staging The Dead Class again. He can't
see recreating it without that actor.
We are sitting in the La MaMa auditorium the day before the
opening. Everybody is nervous as rumor spreads that Kantor is in a
particular1y bad mood. The rehearsal begins with the sound test: the
water dripping at the beginning of the show. Kantor is very particu-
lar. He explains what he wants to the sound technician: the sound
should be louder at the beginning and then gradually fade away. The
scene starts. The sound is too loud. Kantor immediately interrupts.
The attempt is repeated. Kantor screams again. As he curses out
the technician with a vengeance, t he effect Is surprisingly comic. The
vulgar words notwithstanding, the director uses a very formal mode
of address. Finally the volume is adjusted and the scene continues.
Kantor sits on the side for a while, calmly observing the
action. With a cigarette In his mouth, he starts walking around the
actors, prompting them with small gestures. The sound and move-
ment are to go together. Kantor steps back to gain some distance.
He concentrates on a scene in which all the characters rush through
a door and, as they fill the stage, talk in turns. Kantor gets annoyed.
"What happens on stage is chaotic and senseless," he explodes. The
point of the scene is for each speaking person to take the limelight
for a few seconds. As one actor talks the others are to turn to him,
stop whatever they are doing, and freeze. "Respect the other per-
son," Kantor demands, "notice the other actor, move closer." The
director begins to demonstrate. The actors start again. But It Is no
good. Kantor sends them all back like naughty children. As they
reemerge, the focus still lacks sharpness. Kantor interrupts with a
series of insults--unusual for their inventiveness and original plasticity
16 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
of language. Nobody appreciates the humor. In this climate of
extreme tension, Kantor seems driven to despair.
The director's obsessive desire for absolute precision only
escalates in the next scene. An actor. speaking at a podium
assembled out of two chairs, is to step down backward, while con-
tinuing to deliver his speech. As he retreats further into the back-
ground, his voice is to get lower and lower. In the end, the actor is to
back into an open door without glancing over his shoulder. Afraid of
running into the wall , the actor stiffens up. Slight shifting his eyes
toward the wall, the actor moves backward, trying not to upset the
director. Kantor Is furious, making the actor repeat the scene several
times. Under such pressure the actor simply fell apart. Kantor reacts
to the failure of the actors to execute his directorial conceptions as a
personal insult. His anger is indistinguishable from his love for the
The literal tension underlying Kantor's performances equals
the artistic tension underlying the production's frightening images.
As Roger Planchon, the French director puts it, Tadeusz Kantor is "an
authoritative, outrageous and despotic poseur. a skillful magician of
ruins. He stamps his foot, makes a wry face, and with tenderness.
kindness and humility, he organizes, fixes, and rearranges the circle
of his inert mannequins.
One year later, I was struck by this interplay at a perform-
ance of I Shall Never Return in Paris. The director's last emballage in
the production--a coffin--had been replaced by an actress, who like a
wax figure of eerie beauty became the symbol of Kantor's actor: a
thing and a being, a marionette and a woman, uniting the realms of
the animate and inanimate, of the living and the dead.
In the New York Times review of I Shall Never Return, Frank
Rich concluded that "It can't be easy being Tadeusz Kantor, at once
blessed and cursed with the ability to dream the nightmares of our
century. By the same token, it cannot be easy to be Kantor's actors.
at once blessed and cursed with the privilege to enact those dreams
and nightmares. Entangled in the unique interplay of life and art.
caught between the most intimate and most universal theatrical
visions of the twentieth century, they are the faithful lovers who carry
out Kantor's work even after he is gone.
18 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Michael Yurieff
In the aftermath of the October revolution, two culturally
creative Russias were formed--Soviet and emigre. Though each
developed on its own, their relationship constitutes a fascinating
chapter in twentieth century Russian culture. From February 13-16 at
the Harvard Theatre Collection, a handful of American and Soviet
scholars began writing a portion of this chapter in a symposium on
Russian emigre theatre.
Sponsored by the International Research and Exchanges
Board, the symposium offered a wide range of lectures and present-
ations that showed how Russian theatrical culture continued and
developed in emigration, becoming part of world culture. The Har-
vard Theatre Collection's holdings, capturing a part of this legacy,
made it a fitting site for the discussions.
The four-day symposium, skillfully moderated by Tufts
Drama Professor Laurence Senelick, brought to light the need to
share materials from here and abroad to get a more complete picture
of Russian theatre and the fate of some of its practitioners. Curator
Jeanne Newlin of the Harvard Theatre Collection began this process
by detailing the Henry W. L. Dana Russian theatre collection and their
holdings on Fyodor Komissarzhevsky, Nikolai Roerich, and Sergei
Sudekin for the Soviet guests.
American and Soviet delegates alike discussed the impact of
the emigres on their host cultures, the impact of the host cultures on
the emigres and the effects of the cultural divide on those left behind.
In an articulate and thought-provoking summation of the con-
ference's proceedings, Senel ick cited some of the key themes
raised: trauma, crisis, opportunity, adaptation, nostalgia, the redefin-
ing of oneself, a longing for a past that was far from idyllic, and the
emigre artist as a cultural mediator who at times dilutes the original
work to fit the new context.
Several biographies and chronologies illustrated these
themes. Mary Hunter-Wolf, founder of the American Actors' Com-
pany, detailed her study of acting with Andrias Jilinsky. Senelick
gave a thorough account of Pavel Orlenev and Alia Nazimova' s
American tour. Svetlana Kurach, a graduate student at GITIS, pre-
sented her research on Michael Chekhov's final season before leav-
ing the Soviet Union, a narrative continued on this side of the Atlantic
by Deirdre Hurst du Prey, a t eacher at the Michael Chekhov Studio,
who had worked closely with him until his death in 1955. Sergei
Ostrovsky, a Soviet exchange student at Tufts, gave valuable factual
data on Maria Germanova in London and the Prague followers of the
Moscow Art Theatre. Alma law, co-director of the Institute for Soviet
and East European Theatre, captivated both delegations with her lec-
ture and slide presentation on Nikita Baliev and the emigre cabaret of
the 1920s.
Throughout the symposium, a picture of emigres' lives and
their influence on actors, designers, critics, audiences, directors,
teachers, and scholars began to emerge. That Stanislavsky's techni-
ques were absorbed into the new culture through his writings and
students is well known. Less known is the material presented by
Sharon Carnicke, Associate Professor of Theatre at USC, who talked
about Richard Boleslavsky, one of Stanislavsky's first spokesmen in
America, and the problems with the translation of Stanislavsky's writ-
ings and terminology Into English.
The Soviet delegates' research gave insight Into a seminal
event in American theatre, the 1922-23 tour of the Moscow Art
Theatre. Elena Pollakova, the Chief Collaborator of the Theatre Sec-
tion of the Moscow Scientific Research Institute, discussed the Mos-
cow Art Theatre's repertoire during Its tours abroad and Anatoly
Smelyansky, General Secretary of the U.S.S.R. Union of Theatre
Workers, Vice Rector of the Moscow Art Theatre Studio School, and
Chief Editor of a new edition of Stanislavsky's Collected Works,
offered the delegates and observers glimpses Into the unpublished
writings of Stanislavsky. Using Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-
Danchenko's transatlantic communiques, Smelyansky documented
their complex relationship, MXAT's financial difficulties, and the intri-
cate political and social context at the time of the tour. On a lighter
note, Smelyansky noted Stanislavsky's adaptation to what he
thought were the customs of the culture, Including a compulsion to
eat all of the boxes of bad chocolates given to him, so as not to
offend American admirers. The Russian perspective on the tour also
yielded another significant fact: MXAT experienced almost nolan-
guage barrier In the United States since they played to largely
Russian-speaking audiences. This insight helps account for the over-
whelmingly favorable response of American audiences.
With the political situation now allowing for a freer exchange
of delegates and materials, theatre historians can better piece
together the biographies of emigre artists and trace their contribution
to world culture. Such an exchange of views also allows for new
interpretations of the emigres and their work as in Vladislav Ivanov's
"Michael Chekhov and Russian Existentialism," Brown University
Theatre Professor Spencer Golub's dense analysis of Nikolai
Evreinov's work In emigration, and English theatre specialist Aleksei
Bartoshevich's discussion of Komissarzhevsky's Shakespearean pro-
ductions, which foreshadowed Peter Brook's work. Question and
answer sessions expanded on this exchange of views and the range
of topics. Bartoshevich broke new ground by asking to what culture
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Peter Brook (whose parents were Russian emigres) belongs--French,
English, American, or Russian? Emigre culture, he says, is world cul-
ture in the twentieth century.
The effect of emigration on Soviet culture was also raised. In
her fascinating outline of emigration as a search for a lost homeland,
lnna Soloviova, a co-editor of Stanislavsky's promptbooks and a
Moscow Art Theatre School instructor, dramatically repeated the
question asked of those the emigres left behind, "Do you have rela-
tives abroad?" Their politically correct answer was always an
emphatic "Nyet!" Valery Semenovsky, editor-in-chief of the new
theatre journal, Moscow Observer, discussed the idea of an inner
emigration. Those who remained on t he soil of the U.S.S.R.,
Semenovsky says, emigrated in all other respects, adopting America
as their model--the "quintessence of being abroad." From the Soviet
point of view, he brought the effects of the emigration up to date.
First there was silence and an inner emigration, then a desperate
quest for an invitation to go abroad to wait out the situation, then to
return, only to quickly leave again. The wave of emigration have
given way to an ebb and flow of repetitive migrations.
Having been stifled by Socialist Realism for more than half a
century, Soviet culture now relishes the information, ideas, and
creativity of the emigres in all fields of endeavor. Personal contacts,
exchanges, joint research, and publications add to the creative
efforts in the U.S.S.R., satisfying the unquenchable thirst for what had
been created in the other Russia. Emigre culture is coming home.
Compiled by Laurence Senelick
Recently, in carrying out research on the American tours of
Pavel Orlenev, I found it useful and instructive to compile this list, to
get some idea of how familiar Americans were with Russian
stagecraft before the much-publicized tour of the Moscow Art
Theatre. Starting at the turn of the century, the Russian element
grows from a mere trickle to a mighty torrent, swelling in particular
during the years of Revolution and Civil War (a Jewish influx from
Russia was much more evident during the pogroms and abortive
rebellions of the 1904-6 period). The interaction among drama, bal-
let, opera and design is considerable, but I have not tried to trace
appearances by instrumental soloists which had been frequent since
the middle of the nineteenth century. Names and titles are given as
they were transliterated and translated into English at the time with
the original Russian name or title provided in parentheses in a
modified Library of Congress transliteration.
The Story of Rodion the Student by Charles Henry Meltzer
(adapted from Prestuplenie i nakazanie by F. M. Dostoevskii), star-
ring Richard Mansfield, Garrick Theatre, New York
March 2.
The Storm (Groza by A.N. Ostrovskii), Carnegie Lyceum,
New York; 1 performance only.
Februarv 17.
Resurrection by Henri Bataille and Michael Morton (from
Voskresenie by L.N. Tolstoi), with Blanche Walsh, Hammerstein's
Victoria Theatre, New York.
March 1.
Ivan the Terrible, Tzar (adapted by S. A. de Meissner from
Smert Ivana Groznogo by A. K. Tolstoi), starring Richard Mansfield,
New Amsterdam Theatre, New York (remained in his repertory
through 1906).
22 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Russian Symphony Orchestra of New York founded to play
Russian music, Modest Altschuler (Aitshuller), conductor; It endures
to 1919.
Louis H. Chalif dances at the Metropolitan Opera House and
teaches ballet and folk-dancing at New York University (to 1907).
March 23.
Opening of Paul Orleneff and Alia Nasimoff (Pavel
Nikolaevich Orlenev and Alia lakovlevna Nazimova) with the "St.
Petersburg Dramatic Co." at Herald Square Theatre, New York in
The Chosen People; play other East Side houses until June 18.
Resume October 27 at E. 3rd Street Theatre renamed "Orleneff's
Lyceum"; later tour U. S., Including Boston, Chicago and Berkeley.
Orleneff returns to R u s s i a ~ Nazimova remains to become an
American star. Repertory includes: The Chosen People (Evrei by E.
Chirikov), The Son of Ivan the Terrible (Tsar Fedor loannovich by
A.K. Tolstoi), Crime and Punishment (Prestuplenie i nakazanie by F.
M. Dostoevskii), The Brothers Karamazov (Bratia Karamazovy by F.
M. Dostoevskii) , Out of Place (Nevpopad by A. Liudvigov), The
Forest (Les by A. N. Ostrovskii), The Inspector (Revizor by N. V.
Gogol), The Red Flower (Krasnyi tsvetok by I. Shcheglov), The
Misery of Misfortune (Gore-zloschaste by V. A. Krylov), The Children
of Vanyushin (Deti Vaniushina by Naidenov),Ghosts (Ibsen), A Doll's
House (Ibsen), The Master Builder (Ibsen), Miss Julie (Strindberg),
Zaza (Berton and Simon), The Farewell Supper (Schnitzler) Love and
Intrigue (Schiller), The Family Zvee (Pinski).
Maxim Gorky and his actress-mistress Marla Andreyeva
(Marlia Fedorovna Andreeva) arrive In New York. After they are
lionized by Mark Twain, W.O. Howells and the press, the revelation of
their non-marital status causes a scandal. They depart the U. S.
October 13.
November 13.
Nazimova makes her English-language debut in Hedda
Gabler, directed by Henry Miller, Princess Theatre, New York.
Ermete Novelli's company presents Povere Gente (adapted
from Bednye liudi by F. M. Dostoevskii, in Italian), New York.
September 2.
Anna Karenina by Edmond Guiraud, adapted by T. W.
Broadhurst (from the novel by L. N. Tolstoi) with Virginia Hamed,
Herald Square Theatre, New York
November 20.
Feodor Chalipiane (Fedor lvanovich Shaliapin) appears as
Boito's Mefistofele, Metropolitan Opera House, New York (remained
in company to February 15. 1908. also singing Don Basilio, Leporello
and Gounod's Mephistopheles).
Tenor Ivan Altchevsky (Ivan Alekseevich Alchevskii) sings
Corentin to Tetrazzini's Dinorah, Manhattan Opera House, New York.
Louis N. Chalif opens the Chalif Russian Normal School of
Dance, which remains in operation until 1948.
February 1.
Concert version of Eugen Onegin (Evgenii Onegin by P. I.
Chaikovskil) performed, Carnegie Hall, New York.
February to April.
The Fool Hath Said in His Heart There Is No God by
Laurence Irving (from Prestuplenie i nakazanie by F. M. Dostoevskil),
starring E. H. Sothern, Lyric Theatre, New York
March 2-May 2.
Vera Komisarjevsky (Vera Fooorovna Kommlssarzhevskaia)
at Daly's Theatre and Thalia Theatre, New York; then on tour to
Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. Repertory Includes: A Child of
Nature (Dikarka by A. N. Ostrovskii), The Dowerless Bride
(Bespridannitsa by Ostrovskii), Uncle Vanya (Diadia Vania by A. P.
Chekhov), The Life of Man (Zhizn Cheloveka by L N. Andreev), The
Children of the Sun (Deti Solntsa by M. Gorkii), The Wild Duck
(Ibsen), A Doll's House (Ibsen), The Master Builder (Ibsen), The
Battle of Butterflies (Sudermann), The Fires of St. John (Sudermann),
Magda (Sudermann), Sister Beatrice (Maeterlinck), The Miracle of
St. Anthony (Maeterlinck).
Reviz6r (by N. V. Gogel), Yale Dramatic Association,
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York (also played Hartford, Waterbury
and New Haven, Connecticut, April 21-25).
24 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Alexis Kosloff (Aieksei Kozlov) dances in support of Adeline
Genee, Washington, D.C. With his brother Theodore (Fedor Kozlov)
tours the Orpheum vaudeville circuit in divertissements from Russian
and Diaghilev repertories.
February 28-April 2.
Anna Pavlova and Michel Mordkin (Anna Pavlovna Pavlova
and Mikhail Mikhailovich Mordkin) dance at Metropolitan Opera
House, New York in Werther, Orfeo ed Euridice, Coppelia, Hungary
and divertissements.
March 5.
U. S. Premiere of Pique Dame (Pikovaia Dama by P. I.
Chaikovskii), Metropolitan Opera House. New York (sung in German,
conducted by Gustav Mahler).
Henry Russell's Boston Opera Company opens with three
Russian singers in the troupe. The bass George Baklanov (Georgyi
Andreevich Baklanov) will remain till 1913, singing Barnaba,
Amonasro, Rigoletto, Escamilla, Nilakantha, Valentin, Scarpia, T onio,
lago, Telramund and the title role in The Miserly Knight (Skupoi rytsar
by S. V. Rakhmaninov). Of the two coloratura sopranos, Lydia Lip-
kowska (Lidiia lakovlevna Lipkovskaia) will stay till 1 911, singing
Violetta, Gilda, Lucia, Rosina. Micaela and Mimi; and Evgenia
[Adolfevna] Bronskaya [Bronskaia] will last only one season, as
Micaela, Musetta, Gilda. Violetta, Nedda. Lucia and Marguerite in Gli
Bass Lev Sibiriakov sings Mefistofele, Mephistopheles and
Don Basilio at the Boston Opera, all in Russian.
December 30.
Tenor Dmitri Smirnoff (Dmitri Alekseevich Smirnov) makes
his debut at the Metropolitan Opera. singing the Duke in Rigoletto.
and stays there to 1912, also playing Alfredo and Romeo.
Morris Gest produces Gertrude Hoffman's Ballets Russes at
Winter Garden Theatre, New York. and on the Keith vaudeville circuit:
the company includes Lydia Lopokova (Lidiia Vasilevna Lopukhova)
and Alexis and Theodore Kosloff.
Mordkin establishes the All-Star Imperial Russian Ballet with
Lopokova, Geltzer (Ekaterina Vasilevna Geltser) ldzikowsky
(Stanislas ldzikovski) and Volinine (Aieksandr Emelianovich Volinin),
which tours the U. S.
Alexander N. Ivanov's Balalaika Orchestra tours the U. S.
Januarv 3.
Paul Orleneff returns to New York, playing a reduced version
of his earlier repertory plus Brand (Ibsen) and Czar Paull (Pavel/ by
D. Merezhkovskii), Garrick Theatre. After touring to Buffalo, Chicago,
St. Louis and Cincinatti, he leaves the U. S. in June.
Yiddish dramatist Halper Leivick escapes from Siberia and
comes to U. S.
George Baklanov tours in Max Rabinoff's company as
A Bear (Medved by A.P. Chekhov), Washington Square
Players, Bandbox Theatre, New York.
Love of One's Neighbor (Liubov k blizhnemu by L. N.
Andreev), Washington Square Players, New York.
Theodore Kosloff appears in The Passing Show of 1915,
Winter Garden Theatre, New York.
December 30.
U. S. premiere of Prince Igor (Kniaz Igor by A. Borodin),
Metropolitan Opera House, New York (sung in Italian).
The Beautiful Sabine Women (Prekrasnye Sabinianki by L.
N. Andreev), produced by S. A. Eliot, Jr. Indianapolis Little Theatre,
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
January 12-29.
Serge Diaghilev's (Sergei Pavlovich Diagilev) Ballets Russes
with Adolph Bolm, Leonide Massine (Leonid Fedorovich Miassin) ,
Lopokova dance, Century Theatre, New York (repertory includes
L 'Oiseau de feu, Scheherazade, Les Sylphides, Carnaval, L 'Apres-
midi d'un faune, etc.). They subsequently tour eastern and central
u. s.
January 16.
Maria Kouznetsova (Mariia Nikolaevna Kuznetsova-Benua)
sings at the Chicago Opera in the U. S. premiere of Massenet's
The Marriage Proposal and The Swan Song (Predlozhenie
and Lebedinaia pesnia by A. P. Chekhov), Neighborhood Playhouse,
New York.
May 20-31 .
The Seagull (Chaika by A. P. Chekhov), translated by Marian
Fell , Washington Square Players, Bandbox Theatre, New York.
October 2.
A Merry Death (Veselaia Smert by N. N. Evreinov) Washing-
ton Square Players, Comedy Theatre, New York.
The dancers Serge Oukrainsky and Andreas Pavley (Sergei
Ukrainskii and Andrei Pavlei) leave Pavlova's troupe to work at
James Whitcomb Riley Festival, Indianapolis, and Chicago Opera.
Adolph Bolm and his Ballet lntime tour the Otto Kahn opera-
house circuit ; he becomes chief choreographer of Metropolitan
Opera House, New York, and Chicago Civic Opera.
January 14.
The Life of Man (Zhizn Cheloveka by L. N. Andreev).
Washington Square Players, Comedy Theatre, New York.
March 22.
Nju (Niu by Osip Dymov), produced by Joseph Urban, Band-
box Theatre, New York; Ossip Dymow (Joseph Pearlman) had
arrived in New York in 1916 to become an American citizen.
Vaslav Nijinski (Vatslav Fomich Nizhinskii) dances in
Scheherazade, Le Spectre de Ia rose, Prince Igor, Petrouchka,
Metropolitan Opera House. New York.
October 23.
Nijinski dances in his own ballet, Till Eulenspiegel , designed
by Robert Edmond Jones, Manhattan Opera House. New York.
Oukrainsky and Pavley open a school of dance in Chicago.
Alexis Kosloff becomes choreographer for the Shubert
Brothers in Chu Chin Chow and Peter Pan (and in 1918 in Sinbad).
Theodore Kosloff becomes a member of Cecil B. De Mille's
Hollywood stock company, playing an Aztec warrior in the film The
Woman God Forgot.
George Baklanov joins Chicago Opera to sing
Mephistopheles; he remains there to 1926, reputed to be its best
Boris Godunov.
Exhibition of Boris (lzrailovich) Anisfeld's theatrical designs
at Christian Brinton Gallery, New York.
March 6.
U. S. premiere of Le Coq d'or (Zolotoi Petushok by N.
Rimskii-Korsakov). Metropolitan Opera House, New York (sung in
French with Adolph Balm as the pantomime King Dodon).
October 3.
Redemption (Zhivoi Trup by L. N. Tolstoi), directed by Arthur
Hopkins, starring John Barrymore, designed by Robert Edmond
Jones, Plymouth Theatre, New York.
December 5.
Resurrection (Voskresenie by L. N. Tolstoi) (in Yiddish), star-
ring Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
Pavley-Oukrainsky Ballet becomes a fixture of the Chicago
Grand Opera (to 1927).
March 6.
Believe Your Wife (Ekaterina lvanovna by L. N. Andreev) (in
Yiddish), starring Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
28 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
November 24.
Michel Fokine (Mikhail Mikhailovich Fokin) makes his U. S.
debut in the musical spectacular Aphrodite by P. Fronduit and G. C.
Hazelton, produced by Morris Gest, Century Theatre, New York.
December 22.
Night Lodging (Na dne by M. Gorkii), directed by Arthur
Hopkins, Plymouth Theatre, New York with Edward G. Robinson as
Satin (revived 1920).
December 25.
The Lower Depths (Na dne by M. Gorkii), (in Yiddish), star-
ring Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
January 15.
The Power of Darkness (VIast Tmy by L. N. Tolstoi), pro-
duced by the Theatre Guild, designed by Lee Simonson, Garrick
Theatre, New York.
March 24.
New York premiere of fully-staged Eugen Onegin (Evgenii
Onegin by P. I. Chaikovskii), Metropolitan Opera House, New York
(sung in Italian).
The Beautiful Sabine Women (Prekrasnye Sabinianki by L
N. Andreev) , Neighborhood Playhouse, New York.
Nicolas Roerich (Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh) arrives in
New York, "loaded with paintings and theosophy".
November 17.
Jacob Ben-Ami, Yiddish actor trained in Minsk and Odessa,
first plays in English in S. Lange's Samson and Delilah, Garden
Theatre, New York.
The Power of Darkness (VIast Tmy by L. N. Tolstoi) (in Yid-
dish), Jewish Art Theatre, Garden City, New York.
January 15.
Mishtanya (Meshchane by M. Gorkii), (in Yiddish), starring
Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
He Who Gets Slapped (Iot Kto Poluchaet Poshchechenii by L. N. Andreev),
Theatre Guild, Garrick Theatre, New York
- (')
Anathema (Anatema by L. N. Andreev), directed by Vadim
Uraneff {Uranev), Apollo Theatre, New York.
September 1.
The Dybbuk (Ga-Dibbuk by S. An-ski) {in Yiddish), opens the
first season of Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre, Irving Place
Theatre, New York.
September 3.
The Thunderbird, choreographed by Fokine, appears in the
spectacular Get Together, New York Hippodrome. Fokine also
choreographs Shaitan tor Gertrude Hoffman's troupe.
Boris Shaliapin, now called Chaliapin without the "e", returns
to the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in Boris Godunov {by
M. Musorgskii) {he sings in Russian, the rest of the cast in Italian).
During the 1922-23 season also appears as Mefistofele and Philip II.
December 30.
U. S. premiere of The Love for Three Oranges (Lyubov k
trem apelsinam by S. S. Prokofev), Chicago Auditorium {sung in
French), conducted by Serge Prokofiev, with designs by Roerich,
and Nina Koshetz {Nina Pavtovna Koshits) as Fata Morgana.
Fokine choreographs Russian Toys, a dance sequence for
Gilda Gray, and Adventures of Harlequin, a "Prolog" at the Mark
Strand Theatre, New York.
Alexis Kosloff made principal mime at Metropolitan Opera
He Who Gets Slapped (Tot Kto Poluchaet Poshchechenii by
L. N. Andreev), Theatre Guild, Garrick Theatre, New York.
January 12.
The Thought (Mys/ by L. N. Andreev) , {in Yiddish), starring
Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
January 23.
U. S. premiere of Snegourotchka (Snegurochka by N.
Rimskii-Korsakov), Metropolitan Opera House, New York {sung in
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No.2
Peer Gynt by Henrick Ibsen directed by Theodore Komisarjevsky (Fedor Fedorovich Komissarzhevskii)
Theatre Guild, Garrick Theatre, New York

February 4.
The Chauve-Souris (Letuchaia Mysh) cabaret, hosted by
Nikita Balieff (Nikita Fedorovich Baliev) designed by Serge Sudeikin
and Nicolai Remisoff (Sergei lurevich Sudeikin and Nikolai
Vladimirovich Remizov), opens at 49th Street Theatre, New York
(moves to Century Theatre on June 5, and continues to play in U. S.
to 1931). A member of the original company, Tamara Daykark-
hanova (Deikarkhanova), will become an important teacher of acting
and make-up in New York.
The Green Ring (Zeli!moe koltso by Z. Gippius), Neighbor-
hood Playhouse, New York
April 26.
Ossip Dymow' s "fantastic comedy" The Bronx Express,
opens at Astor Theatre, New York, starring Charies Coburn; the play
written in Russian about Dymow's experiences in America, is trans-
lated by Samuel Goldberg and adapted by the popular playwright
Owen Davis.
May 10.
Uncle Vanya (Diadia Vania by A. P. Chekhov) (in Yiddish),
starring Maurice Schwartz, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
May 13.
New York premiere of The Demon (Demon by A.
Rubenshtein), performed by the Russian Art Grand Opera Company,
New Amsterdam Theatre; the company is organized by baritone
Max Panteleieff (Maksim Panteleev); its repertory will include Boris
Godunov and Khovanschlna (Khovanshchina by M. Musorgsky).
Theodore Komisarjevsky (Fedor Fedorovich Komis-
sarzhevskii) directs at Chauve-Souris; the Theatre Guild invites him to
direct for them; his 1923 season will include The Tidings Brought to
Mary (Ciaudel) Peer Gynt (Ibsen) and The Lucky One (A. A. Milne).
June 23.
Sawa (by L. N. Andreev), Beechwood Players, Vanderlip
Theatre, Scarborough, New York.
October 1.
U. S. premiere of Rusalka (by A. S. Dargomyzhskii), San
34 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
The Tidings Brought to Mary directed by Theodore Komisarjevsky (Fedor Fedorovich Komissarzhevskii)
Theatre Guild, Garrick Theatre, New York

October 5.
Maria Kouznetsova's Revue Russe arrives from Paris; the
company includes Eugenie Leontovitch (Evgeniia Leontovich) and
her husband Gregory Ratoff (Grigorii Ratov) . Leontovich will become
an important American actress and teacher; Ratoff will become
prominent as a Hollywood film actor and director. Former Moscow
Art Theatre actor Richard Boleslavsky (the Pole Ryszard Srednicki)
serves as conferencier and directs the pantomime tragedy "Lachete"
by Leon Bakst (lev Samoilovich Bakst) . Under Shubert manage-
ment, the revue plays 20 performances at t he Booth Theatre, New
York, and closes in Philadelphia.
Revizor (by N. V. Gogol) , (in Yiddish), with Maurice Schwartz
as Khlestakov, Irving Place Theatre, New York.
Alexis Kosloff joins the ballet troupe of the Metropolitan
Opera House, New York.
Exhibition of Russian emigre painters at Brooklyn Museum;
includes works by Anisfeld, Sudeikin, Bakst, Boris (Dmitrevich)
Grigoriev, David (Davidovich) Burliuk, Natalia (Fedorovna) Gon-
charova, Mikhail (Fooorovich) larionov, Vasili (Vasilevich) Kandinski,
and Alexander Archipenko.
January 8.
The Moscow Art Theatre (Moskovskii Khudozhestvennii
Teatr) opens at Jolson's Theatre, New York, In Tsar Fyodor
lvanovitch (Tsar Fedor loannovich by A. K. Tolstoi); the tour is pro-
duced by Morris Gest, subsidized by Otto Kahn.
copyright 1991 L. P. Senelick
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
John Freedman
Since the Soviet rehabilitation of Nikolai Erdman began to
unfold slowly in 1987, the question that has most nagged directors
and critics has been, "How do you stage his plays?" The Warrant
appeared first in a plodding production at the Theatre of the Soviet
Army. The following year the small Moscow Theatre of Comedy pro-
duced a frivolous-albeit funny--staging, and in 1989, the Fili Theatre-
Studio created a dreamy phantasmagoria that drifted away from
Erdman's play as often as it clung to it. The Suicide, too, has had its
troubles finding a home. Despite dozens of stagings throughout the
Soviet Union, until 1990 none attracted serious attention.
One increasingly began to hear that Erdman was unstage-
able, that time had passed him by, or even that his plays weren't as
good as legend had it. As rumors grew that Yuri Lyubimov was plan-
ning to stage The Suicide, after banned efforts in 1965 and 1982, one
often heard that if his staging didn't succeed, Erdman's drama was in
danger of falling back into oblivion. However, before Lyubimov
released his work on June 26, 1990, one of the Soviet Union's most
respected regional theatres took some of the pressure off by produc-
ing an unusually powerful interpretation.
Naum Orlov's staging of The Suicide in spring of 1990 at the
Tsvilling State Academic Dramatic Theatre in Chelyabinsk reveals
several key qualities that previous productions failed to grasp.
most are his attention to Erdman's highly rhythmic, poetic text that
provides an introspective tone, and his realization onstage of key
metaphors that emphasizes the play's most crucial themes. Perhaps
the most obvious is the tuba, which serves as a symbol of the hero,
Podsekalnikov's higher yearnings. Hanging out of reach above the
stage throughout the entire performance, it is lowered onto Semen's
shoulders at the outset of the scene In which he attempts to
"become a musician. But when he fails to master his dream, so to
speak, it again rises into the heavens, carrying him with it until he can
hang on no longer. His fall back to earth is, itself, a neat illustration
of the scene's basic intent. Similarly, the steed in white horsecloths
that Aristarkh promises will bear Podsekalnikov gloriously to the
grave after he has committed suicide is brought out in the banquet
scene as an absurd, enormous Trojan horse of sorts that Podsekal-
nikov rides about the stage. Furthermore, after the scene in which
Semyon and his wife, Mariya, smash all the family dishes, Orlov adds
a small touch of his own. At this moment, when Semyon first takes
the notion of committing suicide seriously, he, like Adam, slowly and
thoughtfully bites into an apple. The striking set by Timur Dldishvili is
especially effective in the final scenes when Podsekalnikov hangs
suspended in his coffin ten feet above the stage and the other
characters regale him from three balconies even further above him.
Everything in this staging strives upward. When Mariya goes
to enlist Kalabushkin's help in saving her husband, she does not
knock at his door, but stands dwarfed in a darkened, cavernous
street and stares up at Kalabushkin who appears on a balcony high
above. Through the use of music, props, and lighting, this produc-
tion emphasizes the lyricism of Erdman's drama. (Critic Pavel
Markov, against the strenuous objections of Meyerhold, rightly
claimed that Erdman's drama harbors deeply lyrical tones.)
Emphasizing this, the deaf-mute appears holding a violin, and after
Semyon's parodical monolog of Hamlet's to-be-or-not-to-be speech,
they begin a slow dance together. If Oriov downplayed the work's
comic aspects, he sought at all times to reveal its philosophical and
poetic underpinnings, and he did so without making it preachy or
maudlin. The actors are seldom carried away or overmatched by the
dense, figurative language which can easily turn an actor who isn't
up to the task into a shrieking or weeping buffoon.
One of the many highlights is the writer Viktor Viktorovich's
convoluted homily to Rus. (i.e., Russia) delivered by A. Rubtsov as a
rhythmic chant, punctuated by the stamping feet of the large cast
and the gradual building in volume of accompanying music that lead
to an exhilarating, wild crescendo. Aleksandr Mezentesev's Pod-
sekalnikov finds the perfect balance of timidity, sincerity, and
boorishness. His phone call to the Kremlin. and his self-defensive
speech in the final act, especially succeed in achieving the proper
tone. He is capable of dreaming, but is not dreamy, is capable of
tyranny, but is not tyrannical, is capable of warmth, but is not
The early scenes, lacking the sense of musical and poetic
composition which make the production so engaging as a whol e, are
the least effective. Mariya (T. Kameneva) and her mother (L.
Bokareva, who otherwise is funny and charming) are unable to find
the tone or precision needed to transform these scenes into some-
thing more than frivolous domestic patter. Kameneva, however, is
sublime when being fitted for her funeral raiments. Following Meyer-
hold's plan to play this scene as an imitation of Rembrandt's
"Removal from the Cross, Kameneva stands frozen in an eloquent,
sculpture-like pose.
In all, Orlov produced a powerful , moving production by
bringing out the introspective and internal aspects of Erdman's text.
As I walked to the subway after the performance, I fell into conversa-
tion with an elderly gentleman who frequented Meyerhold's theatre In
the 1930s. He told me that the Chelyabinsk staging was the closest
approximation of those great productions he has seen in many
Soviet and East European Performance Vol . 11, No. 2
The Suicide, Taganka Theatre, Moscow
directed by Yuri Lyubimov
years, no small praise from one who has more right than I to make
such a comparison. 3
The production at the Taganka literally attacks the play from
the opposite direction. Lyubimov calls the play a tragi-farce, but he
hits hardest on the farcical elements, incorporating elements from
the circus, commedia dell'arte, variety show, and even shadow
theatre. It is full of physical humor (falling, tripping, hitting, nose-
wiping, water in the face), absurdly exaggerated solemnity, and
wacky, "low" humor. When it succeeds (most of the time) , It is a
raucous, Rabelaisian spectacle. When it fails, it descends into super-
ficial, noisy excess.
None of the characters is played in a single style throughout;
the timbre of their performances often changes from scene to scene.
In accordance with Nadezhda Mandelstam's observation that people
ceased conversing in the 1920s and began making speeches to one
another, many of the lines are delivered not so much as dialog, as
Individual mini-performances. Transitions are often seemingly
unmotivated on the surface, but are usually called up from the
depths of the text itself, which tends toward the theatre of the absurd.
lnna Ulyanova, as Podsekalnikov's dingy mother-in-law, creates a
very sympathetic buffoon. Mariya Politseimako, in the role of Mariya,
is at once her husband's timid doormat and a threatening force to be
reckoned with. If one can put a finger on the heart of this production
it is probably Politseimako. With her large body draped in loose,
flowing clothing, she careens about the stage, first in angry pursuit of
her husband, them in an attempt to protect or soothe him.
Fillip Antipov as Podsekalnikov, Is at most times a
sympathetic simpleton who is as sloppily dressed and as roly-poly as
his wife. (Lyubimov made size a crucial element by means of
costume, lighting, movement, and in the case of Serafima llinichna,
an absurdly padded rear end.) Despite muffing his lines several
times at the performance I saw, and occasionally falling into rote reci-
tal, Antipov succeeded in unburdening Semyon of the weightiness
that often hinders actors in this role. He did an admirable job of
seeking out the slightly thick-headed, but sympathetic Russian-type
that lies at its essence. His most effective moment comes in the
penultimate scene when he appears dressed in a sharp, three-piece
suit, and delivers Podsekalnikov's defense in a calm, straightforward
tone without the slightest hint of hysteria, anger, or downing. In fact,
he can hardly even be said to be performing this segment; the actor
steps out of character and out of the farcicality of the play to deliver a
moving, human plea.
Veniamin Smekhov as Aristarkh Dominikovich and Vsevolod
Sobolev as Viktor Viktorovlch add their own eccentricities to the pro-
ceedings. Smekhov's stiff, mannered portrayal of the rather childish
(as opposed to child-like) intellectual and Sobolev's portrayal of the
40 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
The Suicide, Taganka Theatre, Moscow
directed by Yuri Lyubimov
rather bullish and coarse anti-writer add wonderfully weird touches to
the odd menagerie of characters.
One of the many unexpected touches of eccentricity is the
white cloth Viktor Viktorovich invariably wears around his head (for a
head-ache, a tooth-ache, an ear-ache, for no reason at all?) until the
final scene when he exchanges it for a black one, presumably of
mourning. In touches like these, Lyubimov invariably undercuts
pomposity with farce. True to the play, this staging never evokes
humor by making fun of the characters, but by creating an overall
atmosphere of farce and comedy.
As is his wont, Lyubimov staged more than just The Suicide.
The performance begins as an officer of the N.K.V.D. Song and
Dance Ensemble (in which Erdman toiled in the 1940s) enters with a
flying clown, and announces the appearance of several members of
the ensemble (Mikhail Volpin, Sergei Yutkevich, Lyubimov, etc.), all
represented as a composite by a single actor who enters and then
gives way to Erdman (played by Valery Zolotukhin). After putting the
play into motion, this quartet constantly responds to the action of
The Suicide, frequently Interrupting it in order to perform short num-
bers culled from Erdman's letters, skits and interludes written over
the span of his career.
The idea of bringing Erdman, et al., onstage is a good one
that Is not always as effective in deed as it is in principle. It works
because it literally sets the stage for a comedy, interrupting, pacing
and interacting with the play in a way that either deflates or
heightens moments of farce or pathos. Zolotukhin is an effective,
silent Erdman, grinning, laughing, or falling into thought over his own
witticisms and scenes of psychological tension. This solves one of
the play's touchiest moments: neither audience not actors need
assume that Podsekalnikov is either a portrait of, or a mouthpiece
for, Erdman himself. However, Zolotukhin is far less convincing
when speaking his lines. His flat, rather uninspired manner drags
down the sharp, snappy tone of the production as a whole.
David Borovsky's versatile set is a jungle of white rags and
linens that frequently seem to attack the characters trying to go
about their odd business. It is fronted by an enormous curtain bear-
ing the image of Karl Marx, who constantly threatens to cave in on
the odd proceedings (and even drops to bite Kalabushkin's finger).
Two walls of sheets on either side of the stage allow for some very
effective shadow scenes, and the four-poster bed at one point turns
into Semyon and Mariya's prison.
Lyubimov's production has not been well received by the
peevish Moscow corps of critics, but it seems to me that the basic
reason for this Its the eternal enigma of the half-full or half-empty
This Suicide is certainly not Lyubimov's best production, and
it is not the masterpiece that is lurking in this play, but it is engaging
42 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11 , No. 2
theatre, and it is indisputably a significant step towards unlocking the
secrets of an extraordinarily complex work. Lyubimov seized The
Suicide with both hands, shook it up and freed it of sixty years of
ponderous expectation. His and Or1ov's very different interpretations
make it evident that The Suicide has begun to find its niche on the
Soviet stage.
Since it was the world of film that quietly harbored Nikolai
Erdman in relative safety for forty years after the banning of The
Suicide, it is only natural that a new film adaptation of the play has
been the object of much attention and gossip in Moscow. Valery
Pendrakovsky, a young filmmaker from Yalta, completed his work in
the fall of 1990. However, Mosfilm's artistic council requested that he
re-edit his work substantially, and his original three-hour film in two
series was cut down to a single segment of one-and-a-half hours.
Among other things, Pendrakovsky was told that Soviet filmmakers
must make shorter movies if they want to compete on the wor1d
market. that may(or may not) have been a legitimate notion had he
been told about it before writing his script and shooting the film, but
the post factum decision of his administrative bosses had a
decidedly detrimental effect on his work. The result is a film which is
too often disconnected and too often drowns beneath the weight of
the near-perfect original that ever hovers in the shadows.s
Pendrakovsky's essential idea was a good one. He set the
action in a eerie, pseudo-futuristic atmosphere that reminds one of
the monstrous apartment building-ships in Evgeny Zamyatin's story
"Mamai. This crumbling, leaking, self-contained wor1d exists within a
recognizable modern Moscow while remaining almost entirely inde-
pendent of it. It was a marvelous choice intended to free the work of
"domestic comedy" elements which so often dog interpretations of
The Suicide. The film, however, is hampered by two fatal flaws: a
chaotic attempt to break free of Erdman's exquisite text and the
acting which usually does not correspond to what the director was
If, for instance, the first half of the film is too much a captive
to the play, occasionally resembling a filmed stage performance, one
soon finds that some of Erdman's most crucial scenes are either cut
or entirely absent (such as Podsekalnikov's attempt to play the tuba
and his Hamlet parody). Obviously, any film adaptation of a work
from another medium must include some hard decisions, but the
ones made here inevitably prompt unflattering comparisons to the
The film begins to acquire a sense of independence with
Podsekalnikov's first meeting with Aristarkh Dominikovich. Played
out as a kind of mystical meeting between a second-rate Faust and
Mephistopheles, it transpires on the rooftop of an apartment building
towering over the Moscow river and the Kremlin--one of the first
times the characters foray from the insulated world in which they live.
The banquet scene builds on the other-worldly aspects of
Pendrakovsky's conception and despite some flat moments, sets the
stage admirably for the film's interesting ending. When Podsekal-
nikov's supplicants learn that he was unable to finalize his pact with
the devil, they pursue him out into the streets of Moscow. Suddenly,
these people who seemed to be living at some undetermined time in
the future, appear to be odd creatures from the past. Podsekalnikov
meets with nothing but stony, indifferent stares from various crowds
of modern Muscovites, all in eerie Podsekalnikov masks, and all of
whom are preoccupied with perestroika and political street-meetings.
This Podsekalnikov, rather than being a reduced hero of his time,
proves to be an anti-hero of no time at all.
The biggest failure--and the film's biggest success--come in
the work of the actors. Elizaveta Nikishchikhina's inspired, wry and
eccentric performance of Serafima llinichna carries the first half
singlehandedly. She doesn't have many lines, but her every move
and facial expression are bomb shells on the screen. Unfortunately,
she is the only performer fully up to the task. Aleksandr Trofimov as
Aristarkh Dominikovich has some effective moments of subversive
deviltry, but at times he falls into caricature. Sergei Shakurov as
Podsekalnikov matches his task only when the action is removed
from the futuristic interior into the world of modern Moscow and
provides the necessary sense of estrangement itself; otherwise he
too often resorts to blatant posing. Irina Byakova as Mariya stub-
bornly plays a stock character out of a domestic comedy, violating
not only the movie's intent, but the essence of Erdman's play as well.
Elena Bushueva as Margarita lvanovna was handed a particularly dif-
ficult task. Her part is cut severely, and in those few moments when
she does appear, she doesn't seem to know what is expected of her.
Vladimir Menshov--known in the West as the director of Moscow
Does Not Believe in Tears--plays an almost nonexistent Viktor Vik-
torovich. His monolog about Rus', for instance, is chopped to pieces
and passes almost unnoticed. Leonid Kuravlyov plays a beefed-up
Kalabushkin--interpreted in the script as a kind of Stalinist
bureaucrat. But relies too much on the conventions of this now-
standard amplua, never really bringing him to life. Valentin Gaft's
role as a cabaret singer in several interludes in neither performed
convincingly not integrated with the action.
Ultimately, one can't help but regret that the film was cut so
mercilessly. Perhaps this is the main culprit in the actors' lack of
interaction with the central idea. But whatever the reason, one is left
with the feeling that Pendrakovsky's film version of The Suicide is a
fascinating idea gone wrong.6
44 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
11 saw four. Valentin Pluchek's production at the Theatre of Satire
(1987) is largely a bombastic domestic/political comedy. The
Radomyslensky Theatre-Studio (1988) produced a plodding, dis-
jointed effort, and Evgeny Simonov's production at the Ruben
Simonov Theatre-Studio (1988) is an odd, saccharine treatment that
hits all the wrong notes. Only Kirill Dateshidze's undeservedly
obscure production in 1989 at the Leningrad All-Union Society of
Theatre Workshops (VOTM) captured the essence of the play. His
resolution of the extremely difficult opening scenes deserves note.
Following the Intent of Erdman's stage directions, these scenes were
performed in total darkness with the actors themselves actually read-
ing the stage directions to keep the audience oriented. Also of note:
the actors' almost acrobatic movement and their measured, often
monotone delivery of their lines. Not once In the course of the play
did an actor raise his or her voice. The effect was very powerful.
21 attended a performance at the Mossoviet Theatre on September
24, 1990.
3See also N. Zhegin, v nepogodu." Teatr, No. 5 (1990); Irina
Bagrationi-Mukhraneli, "Cheliabinsk," Teatral'naia zhizn', No. 11
(1990) ; Aleksandr Svobodin,"V kogo streliaet 'Samoubiitsa'?"
Sovetskaia kul'tura (October 27, 1990).
See N. Lorkipanldze, "lurii Llubimov: lgralte tak, chtoby spektakl'
zakryll," Ekran i stsena (July 19,1990) ; Viacheslav Stepnov, "Pod-
sekalnlkov pod ognem kritikl." Ekran i stsena (November 22, 1990);
Anatolii Smelianskii , "Spektakl', kotoryl ne zapretiat." Moskovs/e
novostl, No. 30, 1990.
51 attended a private showing of the movie on April 5, 1991 at the
Mosfilm Studios. The official premiere took place May 20, 1991.
6For further information about Nikolai Erdman and The Suicide, see
Soviet and East European Drama, Theatre and Film, December 1988
(vol. 8, nos. 2 and 3) for John Freedman's article on Erdman, his
interview with Yuri Lyubimov on the playwright, and Alma law's con-
versation with Elena Tiapkina about the night Stalin was scheduled to
see Meyerhold's preview performance of The Suicide.
Jeff Stephens
Rush Pearson's production of Diary of a Madman at the Prop
Theatre's Garage in Chicago is a testament to the dramatic capacity
which seems to mark all of Gogol's prose. (No mean dramatist him-
self, Gogol is, of course, the man behind The Inspector General,
Russia's most stalwart comedy.) Written less than a decade after the
failed Decembrist revolt of 1825, Diary of a Madman concerns itself
with, well, madness. The short story on which this production is
based is probably the most stageworthy of those short stories for
which Gogol is best known: The Overcoat, The Nose, Nevsky
Prospekt, Ivan Shponka and His Aunt, The Carriage. Unlike these
works, rife as they are with bizarre juxtapositions of lyricism and
grotesquery, freaky narrative interventions, and an ambiguous
realism, Diary of a Madman stands alone as a frontal assault (albeit
softened somewhat In this production by the lighting designer's Ill-
advised decision to punctuate each "entry'' with a blackout rather
than a cross-fade). Its monologic structure, coupled with the tour de
force role of the madman himself, makes it both an adaptor's and
actor's choice for dramatization.
The texts depiction of a roguish clerk's abrupt transformation
from faceless St. Petersburger to Ferdinand VIII has been stage
before in the United States by such theatre practitioners as Eric Bent-
ley and, more recently, Tim McDonnell in 1989. Rush Pearson's one-
man show is a pastiche of various translations, but seems most
dependent on Andrew R. Mac Andrew's 1960 version.
Diary of a Madman offers its interpreters both the wildly
theatrical nature of Gogol's own life from which to gird any interpola-
tions, as well as the fascinating prospect of a post-glasnost madman.
Presented In dramatic form, Diary of a Madman is ripe for a rework-
ing of its signifiers. If the show is flawed, it is because the pre-show
soundtrack sets us up for a deconstruction of the piece, whereas the
production itself never moves outside the realm of a "faithful" staging
to take into account the endless dramatic possibilities Gogol's text so
generously bequeaths. The Prop Theatre's Garage is just that-a
garage--which serves as both art gallery and theatre. As patrons
meander among the works of the anti-war exhibit, tunes such as
What Kind of Fool Am I? and the Beach Boys' classic In My Room
issue from the house's speakers. Not surprisingly, the twentieth
century musical selections foreground Gogol's expressionistic nine-
teenth century tale. And from the moment we see the madman eying
the house, pacing among the three small (6'x8') black screens posi-
tioned upstage, while I Gatta Be Me blares in the background, we are
46 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
prepared for what might be deemed a "romp". Framed by the crum-
bling brick and mortar of the theatre itself, the text appears primed
for dissection. But as soon as Mr. Pearson begins to speak things
fail into line and he merely plays the text. This particular criticism
notwithstanding, the show succeeds beautifully as a vehicle on which
Mr. Pearson hangs his vibrant interpretation.
Every element of the pre-show seems intent on erasing the
Gogolian image most tend to reify, i.e., the frenetic, megalomaniac
genius desirous of Russia's salvation; the pawn in a game between
religion and rationality; the emaciated post-Dead Souls Gogol. And
this is only right since the madman's "cierkish wit"--not Gogol's
despair--sustains his diary. Mr. Pearson's madman is excruciatingly
humorous, but then one doesn't really have to try too hard In order to
glean the text for its boisterous humor. To achieve its supposed end,
the production subtextualizes nothing which might be construed as a
commentary on Gogol's own bitter fate. Indeed, Gogol in not a mad-
man. Or is he?
It is tempting to argue that Gogol's mental collapse inter-
mittently manifested itself years before his death in 1852. It is also a
reasonable assumption to associate Gogol's vision with the notion of
"madness." Within the parameters of our postmodern sensibility it is
impossible fully to comprehend the impact his seething imagination
had on nineteenth century Russia. Some critics praised his use of
colloquial language; others, such as Belinsky, Dobrolyubov, his "nat-
uralism"; all of them, his Russian world-view. Gogol's scathing satire,
his dramatic criticism in the form of the playlet On Leaving the
Theatre After the Performance of a New Comedy, the picaresque
travels of Russian literature's greatest anti-hero, Chichikov--all found
vehement detractors and passionate champions among the ranks of
the intelligentsia. At any rate, whether or not Gogol was "mad" in
offering what Voice critic Mark Gevisser in reviewing Tim McDonnell's
1989 production of Diary of a Madman called his "tauntingly
ambiguous social commentary--(i.e.) you have to be mad to rebel
against the system is not the point. That Mr. Pearson's production
fails to take advantage of the dramatic possibilities inherent in this
historical perspective is.
There is much which is fine about this production. Acting the
madman's circuitous path from doltish clerk to King of Spain is a for-
midable task and Mr. Pearson delivers at every twist and turn. His
level of commitment to each "entry" /monologue is complete and
handled with absolute surety. Dashing in and out between the play-
ing area proper and the vomitorium, he forces the audience to
choose between directing its attention forward or backward. When
we choose to view the madman's domain while he is playing far
upstage of us In the vomitorium, a slight movement of the head may
suddenly find his face-eyes flashing--just above our shoulder. Just
as often, he drops his confrontational mode and disappears
altogether, leaving us but one visual option, i.e., the consideration of
the madman's hovel while a disembodied voice rants about his smug
superiors, his object of affection, and his plan to steal letters from a
chatty poodle.
Certainly, the Prop Theatre's meager budget presupposes a
minimalist set, but the paucity of the design is quite effective: a table
and chair placed stage left, balanced by a longish chaise lounge
stage right which acts as bed, and, figuratively, as analyst's couch.
The table at which the madman performs his menial tasks serves as
anchor. Believing himself unjustly abused by his Spanish retinue, the
madman pushes the table on its side for protection. Mr. Pearson
eventually positions himself In such a way that as we hear the mad-
man's haunting lament--"Mother! Hold me, a poor waif, in your
arms!"--we see him cradled not by a memory, but by the wooden
legs of the omnipresent table. Humorist to the core, Gogol (and Mr.
Pearson) refuses us this catharsis and instead leaves us to ponder
the wart under the Dey of Algiers' nose. Nevertheless, this last image
simply cannot dispel the harrowing one preceding it. The two mesh,
and one doesn't know whether to weep for the madman, Russia,
Gogol, or the sins of the world. Such is the nature of Gogol's art.
Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Shirley Burke
The recent opening of Lolita at Leningrad's Leteiny Theatre
did not meet with the protests, picketers, scathing reviews, and dis-
appointed audiences of the controversial short-lived production
directed by Frank Dunlop on Broadway in 1981. This may be the
result of a difference in production style, moral sensibility, lack of
feminist advocates, or the passage of time. Another possibility may
be an unfamiliarity with the original text. The argument that Edward
Albee's adaptation failed to express the author's original points and
exploited the sexual idea would be lost if one had not read the novel
by Vladimir Nabokov, originally published in 1955. This could indeed
be the case in the Soviet Union where all of Nabokov's works were
banned until very recently.
The clash of morals in American and European societies was
clearly seen in the Soviet production in the way the surreal style and
ironic tone commented on its content. This awareness began in the
opening scene with the entrance of the narrator, "A Certain
Gentlman," in whiteface and wearing a 1940s black double-breasted
suit with one white lapel. Played by V. Gushchin with an attitude of
gnawing mockery, this narrator diverged sharply from the distin-
guished, gentlemanly demeanor of lan Richardson at the Brooks
Atkinson Theatre in New York.
The entrance of the protagonist, Humbert Humbert played
by A. Ryazantsev, followed shortly after the narrator's opening
monologue to the audience. In contrast to the controlled perform-
ance by Donald Sutherland in the New York production, the Leteiny
Theatre's Humbert Humbert, wearing a mousy brown suit and brown
bowler, seemed in a near constant state of anxiety. N. Burdukova's
Lolita, appeared in combinations of red, white, and blue, an
unavoidable comment by its choice. The different facets of the
Soviet production blended together well.
In brief, the story of Lolita concerns Humbert Humbert, a 38-
year-old European professor with a thwarted adolescent relationship
and a failed marriage, and his sexual obsession for "Nymphets,"
demonic girls between the ages of nine and fifteen, who either con-
sciously or unconsciously tantalize older men. When he looks for a
place to reside in New England, Humbert meets and is obsessed by
Lolita. At the untimely death of Charlotta Haze, Lolita's mother and
Humbert's landlady (and for a very brief time, also his wife), Humbert
takes Lolita on an odyssey across America to entertain her while
trying to avoid detection of his deviant behavior. During one of these
trips, Lolita Is abducted.
When she contacts Humbert three years later, she is happily
married, pregnant and in need of financial assistance. Unable to per-
suade Lolita to return to him, Humbert demands to know who her
abductor was. Lolita admits that the guilt was hers just as much as
Clare Quilty's, an old friend and writer. Humbert tracks down Quilty
and murders him. The narrator closes the play with the details of
Humbert's arrest, trial, death, and a comment on the elusiveness and
effects of time.
The imaginative staging designed by A. Shapiro also con-
trasted to William Ritman's New York set of black curtains and sliding
panels covered with text from the novel. Shapiro's raked platform
placed on a turntable was sparsely decorated with a window frame,
door frame, two erotic pieces of sculpture, a bench, and some
greenery. A swing hung behind and to the right of the platform.
Directly behind the platform was a picture which mirrored the surreal
setting when the platform was placed at a particular angie. There
were also three minor playing areas adjacent to the platforms which
were revealed as the turntable revolved. A rocking chair placed
down stage right was used intermittently by the narrator.
The Leningrad production was directed with insight, deft-
ness, and restraint by Gennady Rudenko. The performances of the
actors and actresses were for the most part very entertaining,
although, N. Burdukova's Lolita, like Blanche Baker's in New York,
failed to convey the idea of a twelve-year-old nymphet. This is one of
the problems in adapting Nabokov's novel for the stage. The per-
formance of I. Kushnir as the maid was especially notable. The
shock value evoked with the appearance of the novel in 1955, and
again with the first production in 1981, appears to have waned. The
racial overtones of the black maid in the script and original produc-
tion were discarded. The discomfort experienced by the Leningrad
audience was not with the material or technical structure of the pro-
duction but in the comments made by the narrator and protagonist
suggesting that the audience should be grouped with Humbert with
regard to their behavior and morals. When Humbert is about to have
his way with Lolita, the narrator draws a curtain in front of them, with
the comment: "You don't want to see it. You have all imagined it."
50 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
Edward Dee
Playing this April in New York, San Francisco, Oregon, New
Hampshire and at their host institution, Montana State University in
Bozeman, was the Moscow University Student Theatre. They
brought their cabaret piece, Blue Nights of the K. G. B . which played
very successfully at last year's Edinburgh Festival. While this Mos-
cow group is composed of amateurs, they perform like professionals.
The performance I saw at Barnard, the day after their arrival in the
U.S. was marred a bit by both jet lag and inadequate facilities, but
the talent and the nerve of this young group were still evident. The
performance space at Barnard, arranged on very short notice, was In
the student center and had no technical facilities, with the sounds of
bowling occasionally heard in the background. The Student Theatre
performed the "highlights of their full production, with no scenery
and only a piano, saxophone. and drums to accompany the singers.
Blue Nights of the K. G. B. contains the traditional cabaret
elements: songs and dance, poetry and comedy routines. held
together by two devices. One Is the compere, played by Valery
Golavsky, shirtless under his tuxedo jacket. The other device, not
only original , but daring, Is the "Grey Mackintoshes, a Keystone
Cops version of K. G. B. agents who wander around the stage hold-
ing flashlights on various performers and getting involved In the vari-
ous acts. The K. G. B., at first thought, seems no better a target for
jokes than Hitler's SS, but in this case, the satire is sharp and funny.
Not only do the secret police drag off the occasional hapless
entertainer, they perform one number themselves, with an agent
singing of life after perestroika with "full shops and "green trees." As
he gets deeper into the song, "crying tears of happiness", the agents
who are backing him up realize that they will be out of work in this
utopia, and sobbing all the while, they go out into the audience, hats
in hands. and beg for spare change.
The genesis of these singing, dancing secret pol ice agents
comes from a strange but real historical event. According to the
director, Yevgeny Slavutln, during the days of Stalin, theN. K. V. D.
(the ancestor of the K. G. B.) had a Song and Dance Ensemble to
provide "safe" entertainment for the Party elite. Among the many
famous entertainers who worked for the secret police was the noted
director, Yuri Lyubimov. To Slavutin, these N. K. V. D. shows
"became a wonderful metaphor" of art in the U.S.S.R. He points out
that things haven't changed that much and that the artist Is still a
prisoner, performing "at the point of a gun." The Moscow University
Student Theatre first successfully performed this cabaret at the
height of glasnost two years ago, having been banned during
previous production attempts. Slavutin says that he wishes to use
this window of opportunity since there are no guarantees that life
won't go back to what it used to be.
Blue Nights of the K. G. B. is the collective work of graduate
students and recent graduates, who are mostly mathematicians, with
a physicist and chemist thrown in. The cabaret was developed
through improvisation in class and onstage, based on Slavutln's
directing theory using psychotherapy techniques in rehearsal. He
prefers working with amateur actors as he considers that "profes-
sionalism in art is like professionalism in love." The members of the
company tend to remain with it for up to 7 years after graduation. At
home, they perform in a 450 seat theatre on Herzen Street that was
built in 1756 and is directly opposite Red Square. Slavutin argues
that t heir primary mission is not political, but "to help the audience
work out their problems.
But it Is Impossible to see Blue Nights of the K. G. B. in any-
thing but a political light. The ever-present secret police present a
continuous political subtext that cannot be ignored, no matter how
innocuous the subject matter. Most of the numbers do not have an
overt political bent, such as a man's lament for the woman he loves
who has just been drafted. The music is very good, especially the
wonderful blues songs written and performed, in both English and
Russian, by Irina Bogushevskaya. The company continually subverts
the musical numbers, allowing no song to be presented straight
through without some bit of mischief. The lament, for example, Is
continually broken up by both the piano player and by a Garcon,
played by Denis Chesnokov, who wanders in and out serving vodka.
K. G. B. agents also crawl all over Bogushevskaya, or between her
legs, blowing bubbles through straws in their vodka and waving
around flashlights.
The cabaret is full of funny moments, but the two that stand
out most strikingly are a joke told by Valery Golavsky about a cuckoo
and a cow in a pine tree that reminded me of all the strange Russian
jokes that Ronald Reagan used to tell. They are much funnier,
however, if just as senseless, when told by Golavsky. Perhaps
because the president didn't flap his arms.
The other moment was called the "Siberian Glass Rap".
Reminiscent of Peter Schikele during a P.D.Q. Bach concert, the
glass rap consisted of all the male members of the company banging
vodka glasses on a table in an elaborate and intricate rhythm. This
falr1y long piece, which the audience watched with awe, ended with
the performers filling their glasses with vodka, downing them in one
swallow, and gargling the grand finale. The show ended with a rather
shameless bit of audience-pandering, with the cast doing a high-
energy version of the Beatles' classic, "Back in the U.S.S.R.".
This group is especially adept at playing with languages,
52 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
making fun of their inability to speak English while speaking fluently,
or by having the compere speak in English while being translated
into Russian, with both Golavsky and his translator getting more con-
fused over which language each is supposed to be using. In another
Instance, the poets Nester and Chankin tell the audience that they
will be doing "virgins" for our entertainment. After a hurried con-
ference, they tell us they meant to say "verses." The poetry and the
music also alternate between Russian and English, and while the
Russian-speaking portion of the audience seemed to get the jokes
faster than the English speakers, the latter were never left out of the
fun for long. At times, unfortunately, the vocal part seemed quite
garbled. It was difficult to determine at times whether this was inten-
tional, resulting from t he space, or whether they were just sloppy.
Still this is a minor quibble, and Blue Nights of the K. G. B.
provides an entertaining, surreal evening. This production must be
one the few that has the rare distinction of having both been banned
because of its content and also selling a bloc of tickets to the secret
police. Their reaction is unknown, but the thought that the dreaded
K. G. B. has a sense of humor is hard to reconcile with its traditional
image. And even with a newly opened public relations office, this is
probably not the reputation they want to have.
SHIRLEY BURKE is a doctoral student at the City University of New
York Graduate School concentrating in Modern Italian Drama. She
recently attended a theatre conference in Czechoslovakia and the
Soviet Union with other American theatre educators.
EDWARD DEE, associate editor of SEEP, is a doctoral student in
Theatre at the City University of New York Graduate School.
JOHN FREEDMAN lives in Moscow, where he recently completed a
book, Silence's Roar: The Life and Drama of Nikolai Erdman for
Mosaic Press, Canada.
AGNIESZKA PERLINSKA, a native of Warsaw, is a doctoral
candidate in the Ph.D. program in Comparative Literature at New
York University. She is a regular contributor to the Encyclopaedia
Britannica Book of the Year on Eastern Europe and Russian
Expatriate Literature.
LAURENCE SENELICK is Fletcher Professor of Drama at Tufts
University and author of many books on Russian theatre. This past
season he has spoken at Russian theatre conferences throughout
the U.S. His most recent publication is Cabaret Performance:
Europe 1890-1920. Sketches, Songs, Monologues, Memoirs and as
editor, National Theatre in Northern and Eastern Europe, 7 4 ~ 1900.
JEFF STEPHENS is a doctoral candidate in the Ph. D. program in
Theatre at the Ohio State University.
MICHAEL YURIEFF is an Assistant Professor of Russian and Rus-
sian Theatre at Norwich University in Vermont. He has also been a
visiting lecturer on twentieth century Russian culture and civilization
at the University of Vermont.
54 Soviet and East European Performance Vol. 11, No. 2
The following is a list of publications available through the Center for
Advanced Study in Theatre Arts (CASTA):
No. 1 Never Part From Your Loved Ones, by Alexander Volodin.
Translated by Alma H. Law. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
No. 2 /, Mikhail Sergeevich Lunin, by Edvard Radzinsky. Translated
by Alma H. Law. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
No. 3 An Altar to Himself, by lreneusz lredynski. Translated by
Michal" Kobialka. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
No. 4 Conversation with the Executioner, by Kazimierz Moczarski.
Stage adaptation by Zygmunt Hubner; English version by
Earl Ostroff and Daniel Gerould. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
No. 5 The Outsider, by lgnatii Dvoretsky. Translated by C. Peter
Goslett. $5.00 {$6.00 foreign)
No. 6 The Ambassador, by Slawomir Mrozek. Translated by
Slawomir Mrozek and Ralph Manheim. $5.00 {$6.00
No. 7 Four by Liudmi/a Petrushevskaya (Love, Come into the
Kitchen, Nets and Traps, and The Violin) . Translated by
Alma H. Law. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
No.8 The Trap, by Tadeusz R6zewicz. Translated by Adam
Czerniawski. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
Soviet Plays in Translation. An annotated Bibliography. Compiled
and edited by Alma H. Law and C. Peter Goslett. $5.00
($6.00 foreign)
Polish Plays in Translation. An annotated Bibliography. Compiled
and edited by Daniel C. Gerould, Boltlslaw Taborski, Michat
KobiaK<a, and Steven Hart. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
Polish and Soviet Theatre Posters. Introduction and Catalog by
Daniel C. Gerould and Alma H. Law. $5.00 ($6.00 foreign)
Polish and Soviet Theatre Posters Volume Two. Introduction and
Catalog by Daniel C. Gerould and Alma H. Law. $5.00
($6.00 foreign)
Eastern European Drama and The American Stage. A Symposium
with Janusz Glt>wacki, Vasily Aksyonov, and moderated by
Daniel C. Gerould (April30, 1984). $3.00 ($4.00 foreign)
These publications can be ordered by sending a U.S. dollar check or
money order payable to CAST A to:
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10036
SEEP is partially supported by CASTA and The Institute for
Contemporary Eastern European Drama and Theatre at The Gradu-
ate Center of the City University of New York. Because of Increased
printing and mailing costs, it is necessary to raise the annual sub-
scription rate to $10.00 a year ($15.00 foreign) . Individual issues may
be purchased for $4.00.
The subscription year is the calendar year and thus a $10.00
fee is now due for 1991. We hope that departments of theatre and
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scribe as well as individual professors and scholars. Subscriptions
can be ordered by sending a U.S. dollar check or money order made
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Subscription to SEEP, 1991.
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