There is a place in downtown Moscow, which metropolitan theatre-goers call “unique.” It is the Theatre Centre NA STRASTNOM, and its uniqueness is accounted for by the fact that it is the first Moscow’s stage that right from the start was designed for non-commercial projects. Independent theatre companies, beginner directors, designers and students of theatrical schools act there. The centre was initiated and is now owned by the Russian Theatre Union.
Building of the Centre Na Strastnom was erected eight years ago to meet all the requirements of present-day theatre. It has a large stage with the sliding proscenium and loading dock-lifting platforms for sets, which can be transformed and lowered level with the auditorium’s floor. Advanced lighting and sound equipment, a film screen the size of the proscenium opening, and a pseudo-surround sound film projector. All these technical features make the stage a welcome venue for performances of different types and genres.
To add to this an auditorium with the orchestra stalls seating 300 spectators and a balcony, five large dressing rooms, the foyer where various displays, small-form performances, master classes and lectures can be arranged. There is also a wardrobe and a café that can be easily transformed into a place for various presentations. Photos of the Center’s exterior and interiors can be seen at nastrastnom.ru/about/photo/.
When given the floor at the Center’s stage entry-level theatre groups, young directors and actors think themselves lucky. Not all are given such a chance, though Expert councils with their sets of strict selection requirements act at Na Srastnom and special target programmes are in place to form the Center’s basic activities. These include two annual international festivals, YOUR CHANCE and one-man shows festival SOLO.
YOUR CHANCE! Moscow International Theatre Festival of Graduate and Student Performancesis habitually held in May after school year’s end, when graduate students prepare for defending their diplomas.
The participants of 6th festival in 2010 included Russia’s leading theatre schools from Moscow, St.Petersburg, Yaroslavl and Samara.
Theatre schools of Germany, Poland, France, China, Italy, the United States and Switzerland joined their Russian colleagues at the festival.
They were: Berlin Ernst Busch School for Performing Arts, Hamburg Theatre Academy, Shanghai Theatre Academy, Harvard University, Ludwik Solski Drama School in Krakow, Strasbourg National Theatre School TNS, Prague Academy of Performing Arts, Florence Theatre Academy, Academy for Physical Theatre (Dimitry Theatre School, Vercio).
All told, 25 productions were shown at the festival in 2010.
YOUR CHANCE is a competition festival for the Russian contestants. The festival’s Grand Prix is unusual, entitling its winners to perform their production at the Centre Na Strastnom for the whole year until the next festival.
The winning production of 2010 was “The Mammoth’s Story” staged by director Ekaterina Granitova at Oleg Kudryashov’s class (Russia’s Academy of Theatrical Art, Moscow).
Oleg Kudryashov’s students won the festival’s Grand Prix for the second year running. In 2009 they received it for their production based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Insulted and the Injured.” Having every reason to believe that this student group can become an interesting new company, on top of giving them a chance to extend the life of this diploma-level production at the stage of the Centre, the festival organizers allotted 1 million roubles for the group to stage a new production.
Certainly, Your Chance is not only stage productions and discussions. Its bill has master classes, displays, concerts, various acts and students’ parties, all creating its festive atmosphere.
The next, 7th festival will be held in Moscow May 15 through June 5, 2011.
The International Festival SOLO
SOLO is another outstanding event at the Centre. As is known, average theatre-goers are not so willing to watch one-man shows unless they are known for their cinema roles. Nevertheless, one-man shows are a growing trend in Russia, which prompted the Na Strastnom theatre centre the idea of holding a festival devoted to this type of performances.
As chairman of SOLO festival’s organizational committee, Konstantin Raikin, the leader and actor of the Moscow-based theatre Satirikon views the format of a one-man show as “the most courageous” theatrical genre where the performers do their act face-to-face with the audience. As for Konstantin Raikin himself, at the SOLO-2010 his was the one-man show “The Double Bass” based on a Patrick Suskind’s play.
All told, 16 “soloists” from Russia, Italy, Germany, Greece, Israel and Ukraine appeared at the festival which was held in Moscow for the third time from October 20th to November 1st.
The festival was opened by “Eremos”, a show directed by Theodoros Terzopoulos with Italian actor Paolo Musio.
“The genuinely great texts are especially significant for me in this epoch of spiritual poverty,” Terzopoulos said at the festival. “They have globally important ideas and a conflict. It can be a conflict between Man and God, Man with himself, and Man with the society. Our epoch lacks the grandeur of the conflict. I sense a dialogue inside of me, a fight with myself, which means I am still alive, fighting on with the world that
is about to enslave me. Present-day people lack this inner struggle. They are passive, bending to money. And that means the end of everything.”
Theodoros Terzopoulos is one of the world’s best experts on ancient Greek tragedies, so the 55 minutes of his production in the language spoken by Heraclites and Aeschylus with excerpts from the dissertation of Italian philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter “Persuasione e la Rettorica” became a genuine present for Moscow theatre-goers and ancient theatre experts.
It should be noted that “Eremos” and two other Italian productions – “Esse di Salome” with Sonia Bergamasco and “Gli Romani in Russia” with Simone Cristichhi received the support of the Italian Institute of Culture in Moscow on the eve of 2011 that is announced to be the year of Italian culture in Russia.
Aside from festivals the Centre Na Strastnom executed the programmes and projects for the entire community of theatre-goers. These include displays of the works of designers and photographers, concerts, shows of the retro-category films, many of which were never shown to the general public, encounters with arts figures or lectures on the theatre history.
The Centre is especially proud of it project titledGolden Lecture.
The project is a cycle of public lectures about theatre involving both Russian and foreign experts.
All told, the Centre held 12 such lectures. The themes they covered were wide – from “the dramaturgy text in the present-day theatre space”, Meyerhold’s biomechanics and theatre photography all the way to Yakut guttural “kylysakh “guttural singing” and Japanese Taiko drumming.
The Moscow audiences are always eager to gather for another lecture at the Centre Na Strastnom, enjoying them all the more so that they are for free for all.
This year Centre tested one more project unusual for Moscow. It was named “Theatre Insomnia” aiming at inviting theatre-goers, mainly young people, who spend their nights in Moscow’s downtown.The first Theatre Insomnia was timed to International Theatre Day on the night of March 27 and 28. The second one was the October 9 to 10 night.
The hardest challenge the organizers faced was to find actors who would agreed to work through the night as well as make visitors of night clubs at this time of the night, interested. And there are lots of night clubs near the Centre Na Strastnom.
In October Russian Engineering Theatre AKHE from St.Petersbourg said they were willing to work the night at the centre Na Strastnom. This independent theatre company is one of Russia’s most interesting ones, created by painters and designers, whose every production turns into an unusual eye-charming act or an experiment. See: www.akhe.ru.
Their help made Theatre Insomnia more than a success, at least up to the moment when the final bell rang, it was clear that those who wanted to spend the night at the theatre outnumbered the chairs at the auditorium hall.
So theatre nights at the Centre Na Strastnom can continue to become a good tradition.
The web-site www.nastrastnom.ru has detailed information about the programmes and activities of the Centre.
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