Unlike previous summers when the vibrant theatre life full of premieres, jubilees and all sorts of goings-on usually gets quieter, last summer Russian Theatre Union implemented a number of projects. Each one can be spoken about using the phrase “for the first time in Russia.” Those projects included an Internet competition of theatre posters, the publication of Internet catalogue of the works for musical theatres and the World Festival of Puppet Schools.
The authors of the idea of the Internet competition Russia’s Best Theatre Poster intended to gauge the viability in Russia of the genre of the theatre poster as a special form of graphic arts.
In the recent past the poster created by an artist as the impression of his/her vision and comprehension of a theatre production was a conditio sine qua non for those living the theatre life. In Russia, the genre of the theatre poster reached its apex in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was bad style not to order an author’s poster for a stage production. Posters decorated theatres‘facades and foyers, becoming part of cities’ landscapes, featuring arts exhibitions.
Unfortunately, all this remained in the past. At present theatres commission artistic posters but very rarely, satisfying themselves with photo collages designers make up of a number of a production’s scenes and portraits of actors with heedless off-the-wall sequences of fonts.
The situation prompted Russian Theatre Union to launch a nationwide Internet competition with an eye to comprehend the viability of theatre poster as a work of fine arts. They found it was alive, and the ultimate proof was a selection of 150 posters the competition participants sent in from Russia’s different parts. It was held in several stages, with 6 finalists selected. Three posters were chosen by Internet voting, the rest being the panelists’ choice (it is worthwhile to say that the preferences of the Internet voters and those of the professional panel of judges were never the same. But in line with the contest rules the last word belonged to the Internet users.)
The winners were announced on July 5, 2010. The results of the Internet voting gave the top prize to Sergei Popkov of St. Petersburg for his sequence of posters for the Takoi Theatre’s production of Ivanov (1st prize, 2131 votes) and Cain (3rd prize, 1631 votes). The second prize was given to Anna Khokhlova for her poster for the production of The Old Man and the Sea (1774 votes) at St. Petersburg’s Dzampano Puppet Theatre.
As a form of a prize, the works of the winners will be published by the professional journal Scena. Sergei Popkov is also entitled to holding a personal exhibition in Moscow at the halls of Russia’s Theatre Union.
The photos of the finalist posters alongside with those of the winners can be found at www.stdrf.ru/vote.
Both the theatres and artists were excited to participate in the contest, so to all appearances, it will become a regular event.
Another Internet-based project the Theatre Union was involved in was the publication of a catalogue of works for Russian musicals and operetta theatres.
The catalogue can be found at www.muzkatalog.ru, and its authors explain its appearance as follows:
“The problem of formation of a company’s repertoire is always a top priority, whereas for music theatres and operetta theatres, with the lion’s share of their bills being occupied by works of contemporary composers is the uppermost priority. The assistance to music theatres’ search for material whose ideas and aesthetics are what they themselves believe in is exactly the goal our project pursues. Practitioners of the music theatre can find on this website both new works and compositions that already have a theatrical life of their own, but still worthy of being performed at one or two stages. We also plan to publish information about foreign musicals and operettas, still unknown to the Russian audiences, whose librettos have Russian translations.”
Information about the works in the catalogue embraces the following:
The compositions in the catalogue are broken down into rubrics:
So far www.muzkatalog.ru is a pilot project in a blog-like format available in Russian only, but we think its potentialities will be significantly extended in the future.
And before the end of the summer there happened one more unusual for the Russian theatre life event. As on if its organisers, the RF Theatre Union had everything to do with it – Russia’s first Festival of World Puppet Schools.
The venue of the festival running from August 26 to September 4 was St. Petersburg, attended by people from 16 puppetry schools of Britain, Germany, Croatia, Israel, Finland, France Poland, Ukraine and Russia.
It is common knowledge that the notion of “a school” has no distinct parameters in puppetry. Methods of training puppeteers are most diverse, from the secret traditional ones rooted deeply in old centuries when the master gives its knowledge to a disciple, all the way up to institutions for would–be students of many aspects of the puppetry at large. The picture was quite fickle, but that was what the organisers of the festival had drove at. They wanted to see and understand the situation of the puppetry schools were in on the whole. The students’ productions were discussed in either narrow circles or at “round table” discussions.
The Commission on Education of the International Union of Puppeteers (UNIMA) held several sessions within the framework of the festival.
Training and education was the topic that topped the festivals agenda that also had a number of special programmes that were chiefly addressed to St. Petersburg’s children. The programme “Theatre First Aid” sent actors to children’s hospitals where they performed before sick children. “Trust Yourself” was one of the plays for children from broken families or disabled children and their production of “A Lesson of Theatre” for first-graders.
The festival’s bills also featured “Petrushkas in St. Petersburg”, a programme of outdoor performances for the city’s residents that for several hours gathered in St. Petersburg’ downtown crowds of spectators near their booths to watch theatres from different parts of Russia perform their versions of the traditional Russian Petrushka comedies.
The St. Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy (SPATI) for the first time ever played the festivals’ part of its own, both as a participant and the institutions of one of Europe’s leading puppetry schools. One of the festival’s days was given exclusively to its presentations.
The specialised puppetry department in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was established in1959 on the initiative of Mikhail Korolev, still a cult name for puppeteers not only in both Russia and elsewhere. Mikhail Korolev was the founder of a trend of his own; whose experience and work methods laid the foundations of organisation of many European puppetry schools.
The time when the USSR puppet theatre blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s it has its bearing upon this name, too, as his disciples of the movement of experimentation in the area of puppetry. Their search and findings were infrequently ahead if that their colleagues at drama theatre achieved.
Quite like in the times of Mikhail Korolev, the St. Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy continues to train professional stage directors, actors, designers and technical personnel or the puppet theatres. The official website of the Academy is www.tart.spb.ru.
All the materials of the St. Petersburg’s International Puppetry Festival complete with photos, participant dossiers and descriptions of its programmes and acts are available as a booklet on the www.stdrf.ru/sites/default/files/puppets-web.pdf.
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