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Russian Theatre Union Holds 4th International Summer Theatre School

Starting from May 29 till June 26, 2010 the Russian Theatre Union holds the annual International Summer School in Zvenigorod in the suburbs of Moscow. The event will be held for the 4th time, featuring this time 85 actors from 30 countries (Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Ossetia, Ukraine, the United States, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).

The history of establishment of the international summer theatre school in Moscow can be viewed as “an echo” of big politics. The break-up of the multinational Soviet Union in the late 20th century became a genuine drama for many of its former citizens who, even still connected by family ties, friendly and professional relations, now found themselves at the opposite sides of state borders; dozens of millions of Russians were turned into émigrés against their will.

When in the late 1990s the leaders of the new states were charting their political courses, the plight of “the émigrés” became especially hard. It also affected the multitude of Russian-speaking theatres in the former Soviet republics.

In a bid to make the life of their kinsfolk and colleagues-in-trade a little better, the RF Theatre Union decided to seek help from the Russian government. Its initiative was appreciated and in 2004 the Centre for the Support of Russian Theatres Abroad was established on the base of the RF Theatre Union. The then Russian president Vladimir Putin took upon himself the patronage over funding and implementing the Centre’s programme.

The International Summer Theatre School is one of the programme’s projects. Its educational segment is addressed to young professional actors. The basic prerequisites for participation in it are age under 35, employment in a professional theatre and good command of Russian. Tuition is free of charge. All expenses linked to their stay in Russia (the educational programme, boarding, food, and the cultural programme including visits to Moscow theatres) are shouldered by the project organizers.

The tuition course lasts for four weeks based on a very tight schedule, including daily classes on a number of stage disciplines, lectures on theatre history and master classes of leading Russian producers and actors.

A sizeable portion of the programme is given to rehearsals, as the principal result of the process of tuition is its final productions. In line with tradition, the school stages four performances classed into different types of theatre. According to plans two dramas, one plasticity performance and one puppet show will be staged in 2010.

Premieres of final productions will be shown at different stages in Moscow and the suburban cities of Zvenigorod and Serpukhov.

The School’s artistic director is Alexander Kalyagin, the chairman of the RF Theatre Union.

Holding summer theatre schools is quite common for the world’s theatre. But it is new experience for Russia, its first events proved more than successful. This large-scale educational project run by the Theatre Union has drawn much attention; the number of applicants for the classes of the school is many times bigger than the first time. Geography of member countries has also grown. Aside from the countries that once were the republics of the USSR, attendees of the 4th International summer theatre school in 2010 will include young actors from Bulgaria, Costa-Rica, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mongolia, Mongolia and the United States.

Of course, the best commentators on the attraction of the School are the young actors themselves. Here’s an excerpt of one of the participants:

When the artistic director of the third international summer theatre school Alexander Kalyagin made a speech of welcome, he said: “My dear ones, we have done all we could to make you happy all this month.” I could hardly believe my ears... Days and nights of strenuous study and rehearsing of four shows were in store for us then (events that could last till midnights and even the small hours of the night). And the range of theatre disciplines! We would listen and learn as fast as we could the craftsmanship of acting, the history of foreign and Russian theatres, the history of the Russian costume, studying fencing, stage movement, stage fight and theatre rhythmic, perfecting stage speech, singing and so forth. How was I to understand what the renowned and master of theatre and cinema so loved by many had in mind talking about making us happy?!

But after a month of studies that flew by as the twinkle of an eye, I comprehended his meaning. Despite the strain of the educational programme and rehearsals that lasted till very late at night, that month we were the happiest people in the world. 85 young actors were busy doing what we all loved the most – theatre, and nothing else! Was it not happiness?!

We had everything we needed at the enchanting heavenly place named “Zvenigorod”, Theatre Union’s house of rest and creativity, lecturers of the leading theatre professionals from Moscow and St.Petersburg, master-classes of such eminent stage directors and actors as Leonid Heifetz, Lev Dodin, Mikhail Kozakov, Sergei Yursky and Valery Zolotukhin. We had a unique opportunity to listen to lectures and give our own arguments to such brilliant theatre researchers as Boris Lyubimov, the rector of the Shchepkin Institute, Aleksei Bartoshevich, the Dean of the History of Foreign Theatre Chair at the Russian Theatre Arts Academy and Anatoly Smeliansky, the rector of the MXT studio/school.

I would like to express my profound gratitude to the people who had made this school run. My praises to all these noble people!

Andreas Raihert,
Theater Schule Solomon Plyars, Germany
June 14, 2009

The comments of the attendees of this school show that they would like to come to it again and again. The travelling classes are slated for January 2011 to take the school outside Russia, to Dresden. The RF Theatre Union and the Union of Russian Theatres of Germany have signed an agreement on the joint work on this project.

The website of the school will provide information about the work of the next International Summer School that will take place from May 29 to June 26, 2010.

www.schoolstd.ru (Website in Russian only).

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