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Russian Case, 2016

Moscow, Russia; March 31-April 5, 2016



The Russian Case, the International Showcase component of the Golden Mask Festival, was chosen for two reasons:

1) This festival offered a carefully curated Showcase of national work. 


2) The curator, Paul Rudnyev, made a point to present young artists within the framework of this major National festival. 

Within this site are reports by Kellie Mecleary on six Russian productions showcased at the festival.  Emphasis was placed specifically on young artists showcased in the Festival, as opposed to those with more established careers.

About Our Reporter

Kellie Mecleary

Kellie is a producer, director, and dramaturg residing in Baltimore, Maryland.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in English and Theater from Goucher College. Mecleary has worked as a dramaturg, director, critic, producer, administrator, and stage manager with various organizations including Brave New World Repertory Company, Pipeline Theater Company, WOW Café Theater, Manhattan Theater Source, and Vital Theater. Her writing has been published through Cerise Press and Locally, she has worked artistically and administratively with Deep Vision Dance Company, Center Stage, Single Carrot Theatre and with the BROS (Baltimore Rock Opera Society). She currently serves as Producing Director at Single Carrot Theatre.

"I am so excited that other young American theater makers will have the opportunity to travel to these theatrically rich parts of the world, witness phenomenal theater, and be asked to think critically about them. Experiences like these are ground-shifting, and necessary. I am deeply grateful to Philip and the Center for International Theatre Development for this opportunity."

About the Russian Case: Interview with director Yury Urnov

What are the origins of the Russian case? When and why did the curators of the Golden Mask decide to include an international component?

In my understanding, the main reason why the Golden Mask festival came to being, was the dissociation of theaters around Russia during 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union which used to have a relatively strong touring system. To create a yearly presentation of the best shows produced around the country, to let theater artists see each other’s work, to provide the frame for the creative dialogue – were among the core goals of the festival. Another post-Soviet trauma – the consequence of the Iron Curtain policy, rooting into earlier decades - was the separateness of the Russian theatrical process from the one developing in the rest of the world. In the attempt to restore connections with the larger international theater community, the Russian Case program was established, aimed to promote the highlights of the national theater season among theater producers, journalists, and professionals from other countries.


How has the Russian Case changed over the years? What about this year’s Russian case is unique?

I’m not exactly aware of what the formalities are, but I have a strong feeling the choices very much depend on who is the curator/chief selector of the particular years’ program, on his/her aesthetical taste and understanding of which Russian works would be more in demand on the European festival market. I don’t mean this negatively at all; actually I have a lot of confidences in every RC selector from the past years: Dolzhansky, Davydova, Kovalskaya, Matvienko, Freedman, and Rudnev are clearly the top Russian critics, who are also very well-informed of the prevailing trends in the European theatrical process. And because we are talking strong personalities, I think one can easily identify “whose” year is this year. “Rudnev’s year” in my opinion had three recognizable qualities: the higher number of the “text-centered” productions of the smaller physical scale in comparison with usually prevailing “visual” trend; the stronger focus on contemporary and documentary drama; the broader presence of the younger generation of artists.        


Tell us about this year’s curator, Mr. Rudnyev. What is his background? What elements (education, upbringing, the world that surrounds him, etc.) have most influenced his taste?

I’m not sure if I’m competent enough to psychoanalyze Pavel’s choices, but – from what I know – it’s the combination of the extremely strong schooling – theater critic is an actual discipline one can study at the Russian Academy of Theater Art after one goes through a highly competitive selective process; his creative upbringing within or very close to the New Drama movement; his art-directorship/creative management in places like the Meyerhold Center of Moscow or, currently, the Moscow Art Theater; as well as his permanent interest and participation in development of the “beyond the capitals“ playwrighting and theater. I believe his personality combines the qualities of the theater activist, critic, academic, and manager/promoter with the strong interest in language, in inter-influence of traditional and contemporary in Russian culture, and in the development of the “under the radar” movement around the country.    


How is contemporary Russia reflected in this year’s Russian case? In what ways might we see Russia’s current political, economic, and cultural realities reflected in the work we witnessed?

Since Soviet authorities were trying to exploit theater as an instrument of propaganda and “social change” in their understanding of the term, a lot of Russian artists have developed strong allergy to the political (or at least obviously political) in theater. Also, as you know, the current environment is far from comfortable for the artists to do politically provocative work. But this only makes it more important when theaters actually start playing on the political field or even close to it. One of the examples during this particular RC was the production of Sasha, Take Out the Rubbish produced by the Meyerhold Center of Moscow and presented at the Sovremennik theater. First of all, the Ukrainian playwright Natalia Vorozhbit is very articulate publicly about Russia’s invasion into Crimea and other parts of her country, but also the action of the play itself is developing in the war-environment. Russian audiences, well trained in reading between the lines, will certainly perceive this production as a political statement, even though it is not being verbally articulated from the stage.     



Our Thanks

The Trust for Mutual Understanding

The Trust for Mutual Understanding, a long-time supporter of CITD, is a unique and important player in Russia and Eastern Europe.  Set up as a trust by a single anonymous donor in 1984, the focus was “to support direct person-to-person contact between American and Soviet professionals working in the field of art and environment.”  A second gift was made in 1991, continuing the dual focus of art and environment, and opening up to Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe; the Baltic States; Central Asia; Mongolia; and Russia. They are now celebrating their 30th year continuing this essential work. 

Additional Thanks

CITD, Kellie Mecleary, and Yury Urnov would like to thank the following individuals for their support: Tavia La Follette, Lisi Stoessel, Jack Higgins, Alena Yankelevich, Elen Mikhaletskaya

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