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New Theatre Magazines

Amid the crowded line of periodicals on theatre and its problems, there appeared a magazine that will no doubt catch the eye of foreign readership interested in getting more information about developments in the Russian theatre.

This magazine is ITI-Info review published by the Russian National Centre of the International Theatre Institute (ITI). What makes the new magazine especially attractive is it is the only Russian theatre magazine giving full information in both Russian and English.

As ITI President Worldwide Ramendu Majumdar stated in his letter of address published in the first edition of the magazine:
“I am glad to hear that Russian Centre of ITI is bringing out a new magazine, which would be circulated among all the ITI centres and theatres in Russia. This will be a unique opportunity for the Russian theatre makers to know about the activities of different ITI centres and major international happenings in the field of theatre. The magazine will also be a vehicle of projecting the vibrant theatre scene of Russia to the world. I, on behalf of ITI, welcome the publication of the magazine and extend warm greetings to the editorial and publication team and the readers”.

ITI-Info #1 2010, Cover Art

Alongside information about the activities of the ITI, the first edition of the magazine is broken down into rubrics covering the most interesting developments in the life of the present-day Russian theatre, its practices and history. Some of them are: Festival, Workshop, Alma Mater, Russian Stories, Actual Name and Playwright.

So, the section Workshop in the first edition of the magazine focuses on the phenomenal work of Dmitry Krymov, a set designer, graphic artist, painter and director, whose every production in Moscow becomes something of a sensation.

The section Playwright is about Vassily Sigarev, the author of plays known both in and outside of Russia - “Plasticine”, “Ahasuerus”, “The Phantom Pains” and “Volchok”, which have earned him a number of international prizes, including the British award “The Evening Standard 2002” in the nomination “the most promising playwright.”

The section Alma Mater has an interview with Boris Lyubimov, rector of the Mikhail Shchepkin Higher Theatre School, one of Russia’s oldest educational institutes based in 1809, about the methods of classical theatre education and the problems those engaged in it face.

ITI-Info #2 2010, Cover Art

The main theme of the second issue of the ITI-Info is the contemporary dance theatre. This branch of the visual arts is becoming more and more popular in Russia. One of the facts is the large-scale Russian-European project “Intradance” initiated by French, German, Italian, British and Portuguese representation offices in the Russian Federation that deal in cultural issues, which was chiefly funded by the European Union.

The principal goal of the project is to give an opportunity for direct contacts between Russian dance groups and European contemporary choreographers. The 2009 competition’s participants included 120 choreographers from 18 European countries and 38 Russian theatres.

7 European choreographers and 7 Russian companies participated in the project. The project culminated in the festival “Intradance” in May 2010 in Moscow.
The answers to the questions like what the productions were all about and what questions they arose are given in Ekaterina Vasenina’s article titled “Just Smile and Wave.”

As she writes: “As a result, the European contemporary dance understood that everything in Russia is not as hopeless as it seemed, and Russian one understood that everything in Europe is not as rosy as it appeared. The new combinations of common advantages and disadvantages can now be created directly, on a private level. Productions created within the framework of “Intradance” remain in the theatres’ repertories and the European Union plans to take them back to Europe (the grant didn’t plan for these expenses) in order to test the viability of those productions on its own public and see whether it is worth to continue supporting the choreographers”. Therefore, the project “Intradance” may well have continuation.

The personalities in the second edition of the ITI-Info include British choreographer Mathew Bourne, whom the Moscow spectators know for his productions of “The Swan Lake” with males playing the parts of females, and “Dorian Gray”, in which Oscar Wilde’s protagonist is a photo model (the article “Romeo & Romeo” by Natalia Kolesova).

The section Legendary Names presents a creative portrait of Russian ballet dancer Vladimir Vassiliev, and Russian Stories carries an article about Isadora Duncan.

As Yan Shenkman writes, the dance legend of the late 19th century was engaged in what we now call “modern dance.”
ITI-Info #3 2010, Cover Art“In reality it was not quite modern. Dance exists as long as the mankind. However before the emergence of the classical ballet dance was not fully considered an art form. Isadora did not really invent anything. She just returned dance to its origins, into the realm of life. The secret of her dance was: getting rid of all conventions and becoming oneself. It is possible to express everything with dance: love, hate, the rush of the wind, revolution, death, separation and even such an odd biography that Isadora Duncan chose for herself”. (Yan Shenkman “Inventing Heaven and Hell”)

ITI-Info is distributed by national ITI centres in more than 90 countries. Subscription to it can be made by contacting its editorial staff on rusiti@bk.ru. Editor-in-Chief is Alfira Arslanova. At present the magazine is working out its web site. ITI-Info’s third edition is to come out of the press by late November and will be devoted to the theatre for children.

Another noteworthy event was the publication of the first edition of the magazine TEATR (Theatre), presented at the RF Theatre Union last October. The publication cannot be called “a new one”, because the monthly TEATR magazine was published in the USSR since 1930. It was viewed as the principal and most authoritative publication dealing with theatre life in this country. The apex of it popularity was in the early 1980s, when it was published in 50,000 copies, then a record-breaking figure for periodicals covering events in the cultural field.

In the wake of the break-up of the USSR and the follow-up economic transformations TEATR lived through a sad time, left without state funding and the subscribers’ network. The country that was in the process of changes in the new political, economic and social phases did not think much about theatres to say nothing of theatre-focused publications. The magazine could no longer be a periodical after its latest moment of silence lasting for more than two years.

Thinking that to loose this periodical was inadmissible, the RF Theatre Union took it under its wings. A new editorial staff was formed under the Moscow-based theatre critic Marina Davydova, and quite soon the first edition of the revived publication was on sale.

The upgraded TEATR is significantly different from its original “academic type” both in its concept and the form of material presentation. The magazine does not use the same amount of comments on theatre performances theatre publications are prone to have, fixing its sights on the themes that have to do with the theatre as one of the components of the life of a human being.
The editorial in Russian can be found at www.openspace.ru/theatre/projects/17605/details/18068/

In line with this concept new authors of the magazine came up with a proposal of having three main sections in it, including “On Stage”, presenting the entirety of theatre-related genres complete with the genre of a detailed comment; “Off-Stage”, focusing on sociological aspects of the life of the theatre; and “Beyond the Stage” that deals with general issues of culture studies.

Given the new magazine’s sections, the first edition of TEATR had materials commemorating Pina Bausch, an outstanding German dancer and choreographer, Aleksandr Sokolyansky’s article “Russian Theatre In-between Brezhnev and Putin”,an analysis of the main Russian theatre production features in the1980s-1990s, the history of renditions of Mozart’s “Don Juan” presented by arts analyst Iliya Kukharenko and Aleksandr Popov’s article “The School of Migrants” whose author is dubious about the pathetic strivings to retain the Russian “repertoire theatre”. The full text of the article in Russian can be found at www.openspace.ru/theatre/projects/17605/details/18256/

Aside from the above articles the first edition of TEATR carries quite a few interesting publications, in particular a photo collage memorizing Anatoly Efros, Aleksei Paperny’s play “The River” and the magazine’s “yellow pages.”
The magazine devotes its “yellow pages” to statistics and answers to the questions like “what Russian theatre school students know about Anatoly Efros,” “what impressed Moscow’s theatre critics the most in the 2009-2010 theatre season”, “which cities and regions were the winners of the Russian National Award “The Golden Mask” and “how many long-lasting theatre productions there are in Moscow?”

As it has turned out, the top everlasting Moscow’s production is “Blue Bird” staged by theatre MXT 102 years ago. Another ever-green production is “The Small Scarlet Flower” by the Pushkin Theatre staged 61 years ago. The famous Moscow’s Taganka Theatre boasts of about half of its productions as theatre rarities. According to the magazine’s data, very many Moscow theatres survive thanks to their all-time productions.

“No other world’s capital can have such a picture, TEATR magazine’s analysts stress, “even in those countries that continue to stick to the like of the Russian theatre’s repertoire system.” On the one hand this is something to be proud of (given that only Russian theatre-goers have a chance of watching this or that legendary production some ten, twenty or even thirty years after its debut). On the other, it gives food for thoughts about the quality of these “canned productions” from the vantage point of discussions on whether theatrical arts can principally remain unchanged for such a long time.

Presumably, the forthcoming editions of TEATR will answer these questions. Meanwhile its first edition is quite sizable (170 pages), covering a spate of subjects. The editorial team is now working on creating its web site www.oteatre.info.

Comments & Add-ons

Dmitry Osipenko

2012-01-22 02:26:24
As a follow up to this InFocus article we are happy to provide our readers with a direct link to the complete ITI-info magazine archive: the combined Russian-English language issues of ITI-info are publicly available in PDF format at rusiti.ru.

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