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NEWSNOTES on

SoviET and EAsT EuROPEAN DRAMA and THEATRE


Volume 3, Number I March, 1983
IMPORT ANT NOTICE
I would like to thank those subscribers who so promptly sent me their $1.50
annual contribution to the mailing and handling costs of NEWSNOTES. To
reiterate, this is not a subscription charge. The major share of word processing
and printing costs are borne by George Mason University which has been quite
generous. In order to continue this subsidy, the university must gauge the degree
of interest in NEWSNOTES by its readership. The simplest and best way of doing
this is by imposing a token mailing and handling charge. I therefore urge those of
you who have not yet done .so to send me the $1.50 for academic year 1982/83 at
your earliest convenience so that we may continue to expand and improve the
publication.
Many thanks to those of you who sent items for this issue of NEWSNOTES.
We have received quite a bit more than we could include. In fact, we already have
enough material for a good issue which will appear in May/ June, 1983. Therefore,
in case you do not see your submission in this number, please wait until the next
one appears.
Leo Hecht, Editor
I'EWSNOTES is a publication of the Institute for Contemporary Eastern European
Drama and Theatre under the auspices of the Center for Advanced Study in
Theatre Arts, Graduate Center, City University of New York with support from
the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Graduate School and the
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures of George Mason University.
The Institute Office is Room 80 I, City University Graduate Center 33 West 42nd
Street, New York, NY 10036. All subscription requests and submissions should be
addressed to the Editor of NEWSNOTES: Leo He<;ht, Department of Foreign
Languages and Literatures, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030.
ANf\IOUNCEMENTS
In September 1982, the Contemporary Theatre of Wroclaw, under the
direction of Kazimierz Braun, toured West Germany. They presented two
productions: Birthrate by Rozewich and Operetta by Gombrowicz. The
performances were in Mannheim and Esslingen. In October 1982, the company
participated in the Dublin Theatre Festival in Ireland, with Anna Livia, an
adaptation of James Joyce. Both tours were extremely successful and received
highly favorable reviews. In November-December Braun directed Shakespeare's
Twelfth Night in Esslingen. Braun's plans for the immediate future include the
direction of The Plague by Camus in his theater in Wroclaw. He will also again be
lecturing at the University of Wroclaw and the Wroclaw School of Drama.
Through an oversight, our Graduate Assistant for the first NEH Institute,
C. Peter Goslett, was omitted from the directory published in the last
NEWSNOTES. He can be reached through the Humanities Institute, Room 80 I,
Graduate Center, City University of New York, 33 W. 42nd Street, New York, NY
I 0036, (2 I 2) 790-4249 or 4464; (2 I 2) 353-90 I 8. I would also like to correct another
error: Spencer Golub teaches at the University of Virginia, in the Drama
Department.
In I 982 Russica Book & Art Shop acquired a large collection of books,
programs, and ephemera in the area of the Russian performing arts. Lists of
books, programs and ephemera will be sent to interested parties on request. All
correspondence should be addressed to Valery Kuharets, Russica Book & Art Shop,
799 Broadway, New York, N.Y. I 0003.
Kosmas - Journal of Czechoslovak and Central European Studies is a new
high quality publication of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences S V U ~
and will appear twice annually. It publishes articles and reviews. Subscription
requests (SIO for members- $15 for non-members) should be addressed to Frank J.
Marlow, Treasurer, SVU, 4271 Noble Ave., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403. Manuscripts
should be addressed to the editor, Professor John Bradley, Department of
Government, University of Manchester, Manchester MJ3 PL, Great Britain.
Dr. Roberta Reeder, a research fellow at Harvard Russian Research
Center, has put together a lecture-performance on "The Evolution of the Russian
Cabaret" based on Russia's three greatest cabarets: THE BAT, THE STRAY DOG,
and POET'S CAFE. The performance presents slides relating the cabarets to the
changing tends in Russian culture at the turn of the century through the
revolution. Poetry by great poets who appeared in the cabarets (Biok, Akhmatova,
Mayakovsky, etc.) are read in Russian and English. There are also songs by the
Russian cabaret composer Alexandr Vertinsky as well as other popular songs of the
period. For additional information please contact Dr. Roberta Reeder, 65 Mt.
Auburn, Cambridge, MA, (6 I 7) 497-5042.
The International Amateur Theatre Association reports, that the Annual
Meeting of their Central European Committee has been scheduled to be held in
Moscow I 9-22 May 1983, at the invitation of the Soviet Union.
The Russian and East European Center of the University of Illinois, 1208
West California Avenue, Urbana, IL 6180 I, (217) 333-1244, is again offering its
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partly subsidized "Summer Research Laboratory on Russia and Eastern Europe"
this summer. Those interested should write directly to the Center for application
forms and further information.
A panel, chaired by Philip G. Hill and entitled "Soviet Theatre: The Latest
Development," was included in the Program of the Annual Southeastern Theatre
Convention which was held March 2-6, 1983, in Savannah, GA. Papers were ready
by Rhonda Blair (University of Kentucky) "Hyperrealism: The Plays of Lyudmilla
Petrushevskaya;" Spencer Golub (University of Virginia) "Russian Themes: Soviet
Situations;" and Leo Hecht (George Mason University) "Film, Rock Opera and
Ballet: The Innovative and Trite."
HUNGARIAN STUDIES PROGRAM
SUMMER 1983
From June 13 to July 22, 1983, an intensive six-week Hungarian Studies
Program will be held in Ada, Ohio. Besides language instruction in Hungarian
grammar, composition, and conversation, there will be courses dealing with the
history, politics, culture, and society of East-Central Europe. The courses that
will be offered include: A History of Hungary, A History of Hungarian Literature,
Politics in East-Central Europe, Literary Selections, and Hungarian Folk
Customs. A special feature of the program will be the option of participating in
one week of field research (July 23-30) in the Toledo, Ohio, Hungarian community.
The program participants can obtain 12-1 5 college credits from Portland
State University for the six weeks and 2 additional credits for the week of July
23-30. The cost of tuition is $400 for the six weeks and an additional $45 for the
week of July 23-30. Housing of students will be available in student residence
halls on the campus of Ohio Northern University for $33 (double occupancy) or $50
(single occupancy) per week. The University will provide students with a .meal
plan for $36 per week ( 14 meals).
The instructional staff consists of native Hungarian speakers who are also
specialists in other fields (history, political science, literature, or folklore). The
principle of total immersion is followed throughout the program. Frequent group
contact enables the instructors to use Hungarian as the language of
communication as well as of instruction. The students in turn are encouraged to
use Hungarian among themselves.
The program also features weekly presentations of Hungarian films, invited
guests lecturing on special topics, and optional group tours to points of interest
nearby. Involvement in these and similar activities is encouraged on the principle
that language learning is facilitated by frequent opportunities (and need) for
practice.
A limited number of scholarships are available.
For additional information and/or application forms, please write to:
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Professor Andrew Ludanyi
Hungarian Studies
Department of History and Political Science
Ohio Northern University
Ada, Ohio 45810
PlELICATIONS OF TI-E INSTITUTE FOR
CONTEMPORARY EASTERN EUROPEAN DRAMA AND Tt-EATRE
Playscripts in Translation Series.
No. I.
No.2.
No. 3.
No.4.
Never Part From Your Loved Ones by Aleksandr Volodin.
Translated by Alma H. Law. $3.50
I, Mikhail Sergeevich Lunin by Edvard Radzinsky.
Translated by Alma H. Law. $3.50
An Altar to Himself, by lreneusz lredynski.
Translated by Michal Kobialka. $3.50
Conversations with the Executioner, by Kazimierz
Moczarski.
Stage adaptation by Zygmunt Hubner; English version by
Earl Ostroff and Daniel Gerould. $3.50
Soviet Plays in Translation. An Annotated Bibliography. Compiled and
Edited by Alma H. Law and C. Peter Goslett. The Bibliography includes all plays
written in the Soviet Union since 1956 (plus the dramatic works of Mikhail
Bulgakov, Yevgeny Shvarts, and Nikolai Erdman) which are available in
translation. In addition to providing a plot summary for each of the more than I 00
plays, and information as to number of characters, etc., the Bibliography lists all
translations available, both published and unpublished, and where they may be
obtained. It also contains a selected bibliography of articles and books on Soviet
drama and theatre published since 1956. $3.50
Polish Plays in Translation. An Annotated Bibliography. Compiled and
Edited by Daniel C. Gerould, Boleslaw Taborski, Michal Kobialka, and Steven Hart
(in preparation).
Polish and Soviet Theatre Posters. Introduction and Catalog by Daniel C.
Gerould and Alma H. Law. A catalog of 70 theatre posters prepared in
conjunction with the exhibition of Polish and Soviet Theatre Posters held at the
Graduate Center of the City University of New York from June 30-August 7,
1980. $2.50
Polish and Soviet Theatre Posters Volume Two. Introduction and Catalog
by Daniel C. Gerould and Alma H. Law. A supplementary catalog of 30 theatre
posters prepared in conjunction with the exhibition of Polish and Soviet Theatre
Posters held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York from
June 29-August 30, 1982. $2.50
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to:
The above publications can be ordered by sending a check or money order
Humanities Institute, Rm. 80 I
Graduate Center
33 W. 42nd Street
New York, N.Y. I 0036
SPECIAL NOTE
Professor Michael Heim of UCLA, who recently returned from a stay in the
USSR, sends us this short but interesting report:
The much:-hailed Soviet "theatre boom" has come in for some close
investigation lately. In a recent issue of the lively new periodical
Sovetskaia dramaturgiia the respected playwright Mikhail Roshchin
points out that filling theatres in Moscow is so easy mainly because
Moscow has fewer seats per resident that many other cities in the
country. When demand reaches such a pitch, the "demanders" lose the
ability to discriminate, and much of what people rush to see does not
warrant the interest shown it. Certain of full houses, the established
companies often fail to make the effort necessary for truly vibrant
theater.
Another rumble heard with increasing frequency in theatre
circles arises from the inflexibility of a strict repertory system.
Neither actors nor directors can move freely from one theater to
another. Exchanging forces for even a single production may cause
all but insurmountable problems. While outsiders envy Soviet theatres
their tight-knit companies, many Soviet theatre people have come to
look upon them as straight-jackets.
On the brighter side, an interesting new wave of playwrights
has begun to make itself felt. They include Arro (The Orchard, Look
Who's Coming), Chervinsky (M Ha iness), Galin (Retro, Delusion,
The Eastern Grandstand), Kazantsev The Old House, And the Silver
Cord Will Break), Petrushevskaya (Love, Cinzano), and Slavkin (The
Young Man's Grown-Up Daughter). In one way or another they all
treat what appears to be the issue of the day: the loss of ideals in a
society run on ideals.
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTES
Selected Plays of Aleksei Arbuzov, Ariadne Nicolaeff (translator), was
published in November, 1982, by Pergamon Press, Fairview Park, Elmsford, NY
I 0523. This volume contains The Promise ( 1964), Cruel Games ( 1978), The
Twelfth Hour (1958), Lovely to Look At! (1969), and Once Upon a Time (1970}.
There is also a "foreword" by Richard Cottrell, a "Translator's Note," a chronology
of Arbuzov's life and works, Russian and English cast lists, and a nomenclature of
Russian theaters. 336 pp., 27 iII us., $19.50 .
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Also to be published by Pergamon Press in April, 1983, is Can Theatre
Teach? by C. Redington.
The Golden Age of Soviet Theatre, edited and introduced by Michael
Glenny, has recently been published by Penguin Books, 625 Madison Ave., New
York, NY 10022. It contains The Bedbug by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Marya by Isaac
Babel, and The Dragon by Yevgeny Schwartz. 224 pp., $4.95
Witkacy: Stanislaw lgnacy Witkiewicz as an Imaginative Writer, Daniel C.
Gerould, Washington: 1981. This definitive work by our own Dan Gerould
received a superb review in the May 1982, issue of CHOICE. It is a must for all
those interested in this giant of non-realistic drama, since it is the only full-length
critical study of his writings in the English language. 362 pp., ill. bib!. index, $25
STUDY AID FILMS
The 1983 catalog of Films for the Humanities lists the following films of
possible interest:
Anton Chekhov: A Writer's Life, 37 minutes, b&w.
Chekhov: Un_cle Vanyo (third act), 47 minutes, b&w.
Stanislavsky: Maker of the Modern Theatre, 28-1/2 minutes, b&w.
The Birth of Soviet Cinema, 49 minutes, b&w.
Mayakovsky: The Poetry of Action, 22 minutes, color.
For information concerning rental or purchase, contact Films for the
Humanities, Inc., P .0. Box 2053, Princeton, NJ 08540 or call 1-800-257-5126.
Tt-E POLISH INDEPENDENT ACTORS' ASSOCIATION
The information contained in this report was taken from The Washington
Post and other news sources.
In December 1982 Poland's military authorities dissolved the independent
actors' association in an attempt to end a highly successful boycott of state-
controlled television and radio that was mounted as a protest against martial law.
The move against the association was one in a series of official measures
designed to end the boycott which had effectively stopped the preparation of new
drama productions for television. Actors supporting the boycott have been
harassed and several theater directors have been replaced.
The deputy prime minister in charge of culture, Mieczys.taw Rakowski,
accused actors taking part in the boycott of using techniques of "moral terror"
against their colleagues. In a recent speech, he complained that pro-government
actors had suddenly found themselves ostracized at work, while sales of a
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composer's works had plummeted after she joined the Communist-sponsored
Movement for National Rebirth.
The actors' boycott of television is generally recognized here as having
been the most effective protest against martial law. It owed its success to the
fact that, under the terms of their contracts, actors are free to choose whether or
not they appear on television. A large majority of the 2,000 or so registered
Polish actors were strong supporters of the independent Solidarity trade union.
After Solidarity was suppressed, most actors refused television and radio
contracts. The result was a fifty percent decline in the production of drama for
television-and endless reruns of old movies, plays and serials from other Soviet
Bloc countries.
An actor who supported the boycott explained: "We felt it was wrong to
identify ourselves with television when this is the medium that is leading an
untruthful propaganda campaign against Solidarity. For most of us, appearing on
television or radio is tantamount to collaboration with the regime."
The accumulating effect of the boycott is best illustrated by the fate of a
weekly radio soap opera about a Warsaw class family known as the
Matysiaks. The serial, which dated back to the 50s and enjoyed a huge audience,
rapidly degenerated after the imposition of martial law with one character after
another dropping out.
During the Solidarity era, the Matysiaks would avidly discuss current
events, including the rise of free trade unions. The actors' boycott, however, led
to drastic changes in the script with Mrs. Matysiak first being moved out of
Warsaw and later dying.
Mr. Matysiak was. sent to a sanatorium and his son went to work in East
Germany. Finally, after all the most popular characters had disappeared, the
series itself was abruptly cancelled.
At theaters in Warsaw, Solidarity supporters organized demonstrations in
the first few months of martial law to embarrass those few actors who had
appeared on television and endorsed the regime. Several actors had to give up
their roles after being subjected to continuous heckling night after night. Writers
who supported the authorities found piles of their own books deposited on their
doorsteps.
The actors' boycott was at first virtually ignored by the government, but it
seems to have become an increasing source of irritation. Last month Rakowski
called leading theater directors and other cultural figures to a meeting at which
he warned that stern action would be taken unles the boycott was called off.
At the same time, several actors supporting the boycott were mysteriously
beaten up while others had their cars vandalized or received anonymous phone
calls threatening members of their families.
The boycott was also criticized by the leader of Poland's powerful Roman
Catholic Church, Jozef Glemp. In a sermon, he said that "those of our brethren
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who as a protest have cut themselves off from performing in spefific institutions
ought to return. to them."
The church strategy has been to use quiet diplomacy to try to persuade the
authorities to soften their policies. Church officials have adopted a markedly
more conciliatory tone since a firm date was set for next June for a return visit to
Poland by Pope John Paul.
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE
The following biographical information on a leading Georgian theatre
director was submitted to us by Dr. Edythe C. Haber, Russian Research Center,
Harvard University. It was written by Alexander Sumerkin and translated by Dr.
Haber.
TIMUR DJORDJADZE
Director Timur Djordjadze, a native of Soviet Georgia now residing in the
United States, brings an unusually rich and varied theatrical background to the
practice of his craft.
When growing up in Tbilisi he developed a passion for the theater and
cinema and, before he was 20, he worked as assistant director and acting coach
for the film The Autumn of Georgian Balconies. The film was so at variance with
the officially accepted view of Georgian history and culture that, although the
recipient of several awards, it has never been released to the general public.
Djordjadze's film work sparked an interest in dramatic theory and history,
which he went on to study from 1964 to 1969 at the Georgian State Theater
Institute. At the same time he continued practical stage work, assisting in many
productions in various theaters. Upon graduation he participated in a project for a
film encyclopedia, published articles and reviews for a prestigious Georgian film
journal, taught theater arts, delivered many controversial papers at professional
symposia.
Djordjadze found analyzing the work of others not sufficiently fulfilling,
however; the urge to bring his own theatrical visions to life on the stage was
responsible for his decision to become a director. A member of an old, cultivated
Georgian family equally at home in Russian culture and the rich and ancient
culture of Georgia, he decided that he should now broaden his horizons and move
to Moscow. He was accepted into the rigorous directing program at the State
Institute of Theater Arts (GITIS), one of the world's best theater schools. During
his five years of study, he was the most outstanding directing student at the
institute, and graduated with highest honors.
While at GITIS Djordjadze studied with some of the most distinguished
directors and theater scholars in the Soviet Union: A Goncharov, Artistic
Director of the Mayakovsky Theater, Professors Boyadzhiev, Kagarlitsky, Diushen,
and others. Exploring Stanislavsky, he absorbed the lessons of the Moscow Art
Theater and, beginning in his second year, taught acting according to the
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Stanislavsky method. At the same time, he both studied Meyerhold theoretically
and had the unique chance to apply his methods in productions staged at the
experimental studio of the Mayakovsky Theater. Thus Djordjadze's art has its
roots in the two great Russian theatrical traditions, that of the realist
Stanislavsky and the experimentalist Meyerhold.
His range and versatility are demonstrated in his first two major
productions. When still a fourth-year student at GITIS, he was invited by one of
the most traditional Moscow theaters, the Mayakovsky Theater, to direct An Old-
Fashioned Comedy by A. Arbuzov, starring two of the most famous Russian
actors, M. Babanova and V. Samoilov. His next production, on the other hand,
Jean Anouilh's Becket at the popular Lenin Komsomol Theater, was highly
experimental.
What is especially striking about Djordjadze is his flexibility, his ability to
work well in both small theaters and large, to stage vivid and original productions
both in the experimental and realistic modes. Moreover, while in Moscow he
staged works by such masters as Shakespeare, Chekhov, Beaumont and Fletcher,
Arthur Miller, and Jean Anouilh, he also achieved impressive successes with
weaker plays put on in provincial theaters. For example, in 1979, in Vilnius,
Lithuania, with its unique language and culture, he managed to overcome cultural
and national barriers and score a very big hit with his production of Livenbuk and
Hait's Improbable Adventures in the Land of Multi-Pulti.
In April 1980, just as he was achieving recognition as one of the country's
brightest young directors, Djordjadze left the Soviet Union for the United States.
Here he was faced with beginning his career over again in an unfamiliar language
and theatrical tradition. His determination prevailed, however, and, scarcely a
year after his arrival, he was already directing his first play. A small Boston
theater, the Nucleo Eclettico, chose him to direct the American premiere of
Alexander Ostrovsky's social commedy, Balzaminov's Wedding. Despite his
working with no budget and a very uneven cast, Djordjadze was hailed as one of
the outstanding directors of the year by two Boston newspapers. The play,
translated and adapted by Edythe C. Haber, was also named as one of the best of
the 1981-82 season.
Djordjadze's difficult first step in the American theater did not go
unrewarded. It led to an invitation from the well-known Court Theatre in Chicago
to stage Sophocles' Antigone in February 1983. A production in New York of
Balzaminov's Wedding is planned for later in the 1982-83 season.
A PLETHORA OF SOVIET FILMS
In November, 1982, a two-week festival of contemporary Soviet films took
place simultaneously in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. A New York film
critic, commenting on Italian films, remarked that Italians can create either
magnificent works of art such as La Strada or total garbage like Hercules and the
Seven Dwarfs. Soviet film making can be described in similar terms--alas, Soviet
Stradas are extremely rare. Films of the quality of Rublev or Kalina krasnaia
appear no more frequently than once in a decade. Nevertheless, with all their
shortcomings, Soviet films are a must for anyone interested in contemporary
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Soviet culture. More often than not, the poor camera techniques and film quality
do not detract from the wealth of contemporary cultural information to be
gleaned, or from what may be incongruously missing. In this light, virtually all
new Soviet films are definitely worth seeing.
Eleven films were shown in Washington, D.C., as part of a program entitled
"Soviet Cinema Today," a presentation of the International Film Exchange, Ltd.,
in asociation with SOVEXPORTFILM. I shall give a very short description of
most, and spend a little more time on the more representative ones:
I. Easy Money, directed by Evgeny Matveev and starring Liudmila
Nilskaya, Elena Solovei, Alexandr Mikhailov and Yuri Yakoviev. This 1981 release
is a Victorian comedy. Philanderers of Moscow's fashionable society maneuver a
clumsy provincial businessman into marriage with a local beauty who believes her
bridegroom to be the owner of a rich gold mine. Toiling night and day to satisfy
his wife's highly capricious temper and expensive tastes, he soon becomes fed up
with his wife's extravagances and decides to take a firm stand.
2. Portrait of the Artist's Wife, directed by Alexandr Pankratov and
starring Valentina T elichkina, Nikita Mikhalkov and Sergei Shakurov ( 1980). The
long and happy marriage of an artist and his wife is put to a test during their
annual summer vacation when she is suddenly attracted to a younger man.
Following a violent confrontation, the wife leaves with her new acquaintance.
Yet, it takes just one day for both wife and husband to realize how lonely they are
in the company of strangers. At the end they return to each other's arms and
understand that love, tested by years of togetherness, must win out. This film
received the worst panning by American critics. Gary Arnold, for example, called
Pankratov a "drudge" and the film a "penny-dreadful 'Can This Marriage Be
Saved?"' It is screamingly apparent that the troubled union between a frosty
engraver of bird illustrations and his unhappy, acquisitive wife, can't and shouldn't
be saved, but the conventions of the genre dictate that the mismates reconcile
anyway. Nikita Mikhalkov, a matinee idol who is also a prestigious director (A
Slave of Love and Oblomov) turns up as the director of the delapidated, depressing
summer colony for artsy types and their dependents where the husband and wife,
Pasha and Nina, do the bulk of their moping about. The big daytime recreation is
mushroom gathering, but the pace picks up slightly after dark. Mikhalkov's
character is supposed to give the heroine a bit of an adulterous flutter, but the
atmosphere is too enervating for anything to get started. He takes her to the
middle of a lake in a speedboat but realizes the futility of it all and out for a
quick plunge in the water.
3. The Take-Off, directed by Sawa Kulish and starring Evgeny
Evtushenko and Larisa Kadochnikova (1980). This film follows the life of
Tsiolkovsky, one of the most important Soviet scientists, from 1880 to 1914, and
discusses his scientific achievements in rocketry and space exploration, his
personal philosophy, physical handicaps and family tragedies. Evtushenko, who
plays Tsiolkovsky, again proves that he can't act.
4. The directed and written by Ali Khamraev and starring
Alexandr Kaidanovs y, Anatoly Solonitsin and Gulchi Tashbaeva (1980). This
adventure film is set in Central Asia in the 1920's and is replete with shootouts
and chases, collapsing suspension bridges and narrow escapes. It follows the
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perilous journey of a mountain trapper entrusted to accompany a political prisoner
and his daughter, reputed to be a "devil goddess," to Red Army Headquarters while
being pursued by bandits and enemy forces. It is quite reminiscent of Kurosawa's
Yojimbo.
5. A Woman for Gavrilov, directed by Piotr Todorovsky and starring
Liudmila Gurchenko, Sergey Shakurov and Evgeny Evstigeev (1981). This comedy
is about a 38-year-old bride-to-be whose future husband fai Is to show up for the
wedding ceremony. Jilted, she sets off for a long walk around the port city of
Odessa where she ends up interfering in the affairs of many people who cross her
path-family, friends and strangers-before arriving at a happy ending. This is a
rather amusing film which shows off an extremely attractive heroine and a
beautiful city to best advantage. It has no deep messages or hidden meanings, but
is just good entertainment. It has a number of cameos of comical, cultural
interest. For example, near a store a large cart with boxes marked "Made in
Japan" is being pushed by a clerk. Immediately a long queue forms although no
one could possibly know what is in the boxes. It turns out to be worthless, ugly
pans which people, nevertheless, buy. In another scene, in an apartment, a
beriozka bag (hard-currency store shopping bag) is hidden away in a bathroom.
6. Valentina, directed by Gleb Panfilov and starring Rodion Nakhapetov,
lnna Churikova and Yuri Grebenchikov ( 198 I). A city police inspector is
transferred to a Siberian town where a tender confession of love from Valentina, a
pure-in-heart young waitress, makes him reevaluate his attitudes towards life.
The love, however, is challenged by a young bully who forces her into intimate
relations calculated to win her affection. The film ends with Valentina proudly
rejecting both suitors. Gary Arnold's critique considered the film to be
mercilessly static but a genuine stylistic oddity because of the apparent
disinclination of the director to move his cameras unless whimsically inspired to
do so. Adapted from a successful play, it is a chronicle of the long day's journey
into night of a group of professionally and romantically stymied exiles who
congregate arounod the porch of a small cafe in a remote lumbering outpost,
ordering occasional eats and repeatedly eating their hearts out over unrequited
passions. There is something almost humorous about Panfilov's affinity for
immobility. Having transposed a stage setting into a authentic exterior, he then
insists on shooting the scenes from static, inexpressive and sometimes ultra-
faraway angles. Instead of using the camera for a more intimate scrutiny of a
play, he perversely makes you feel as if you have a seat in the last row of the
third balcony of the theatre in the next town. Another unaccountably funny
touch: everything happens slowly in Valentina except the delivery of the
customers' orders which arrive with miraculous promptness from the cafe
kitchen. An inside joke, no doubt.
7. A Slap in the Face, directed by Henrik Malyan and starring Mger
Mktchyan, Sofiko Chiaurelli, Ashot Adamyan and Galina Belayaeva (1981). This is
an Armenian comedy. Adopted by a saddlemaker for donkeys, an orphan boy
inherits the trade upon the father's death and soon discovers that this profession
has no interest for potential brides. Even his mother's door-to-door attempts to
find a nice woman are rejected. In desperation he seeks out a newly arrived young
prostitute, a girl of angelic beauty, and decides to rescue her from her fallen
life-an act which outraces the townspeople of his small Armenian village.
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8. Carnival, directed by T. Lioznova and starring Irina Muraviova and
Yuri Yakoviev 0981). A young country girl travels to Moscow to fulfill her dream
of becoming a musical comedy star. This is a "two-series" film, which means that
it is twice as long as a normal film and requires double the ticket price. This film
reminded me of a riddle: Question: "Why do people eat olives?" Answer:
"Because they can't believe how bad the first one tasted." As the hours passed, I
could not believe how bad this film was. I became fascinated with it, expecting
something better to come up any minute. It never did. It was filled with
unattractive people with no talent, poor scenery, bad camera techniques and an
overworked, stupid plot. A film of this length and this subject could have
presented some very worthwhile music and performances. It never did. This was
the most agonizing film of the lot.
9. Vassily and Vassilisa, directed by Irina Poplavskaya and starring Oleg
Ostroumov, Mikhail Kononov and Natalia Bondarchuk (1981). The film is based on
a novel by one of the most talented Soviet "village writers,"--Valentin Rasputin.
It is a folk parable which traces the fate of a Russian peasant couple from youth
to old age. The man and woman are strong, but very different types whose search
for happiness parallels the dramatic changes in Russian life and society from the
thirties through the seventies. It is one of the better films of the II and is
recommended for any cultural historian.
I 0. 26 Days in the Life of Dostoyevsky, directed by Alexandr Zarkhi and
starring Anatoly Solonitsin, Yevgenia Somonova and Eva Shikulska ( 1980).
Dostoyevsky was forced to produce a novel within 26 days or face the loss of
rights to proceeds from his other works for nine years. To thwart his ruthless
publisher, he hires a stenographer to whom he dictates the novel, The Gambler.
The very young girl whom he hires is Anna Snitkina who soon thereafter became
_his second wife and who turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to
Dostoevsky. The film is permeated with scenes from his real life including his
passionate love affair wit Apolinaria Suslova which is one of the main themes in
The Gambler. The film is well done and relatively honest, considering that there
is now a "cult of Dostoevsky" in the Soviet Union. This is probably the most
interesting and worthwhile film of the lot.
II. To Remember or To Forget, directed by Jan Streich and starring
Liudmila Chursina, Girt Yakoviev and Dzidra Ritenberg (1981). Against her
doctor's orders a woman decides to have a baby in hopes that it will improve her
relations with her husband. When she is informed that her newborn baby has died,
she adopts an abandoned baby without her husband's knowledge and passes it off as
their own child. Of course, in the end, her deed is exposed. This film has all the
elements of "General Hospital," but nevertheless not badly done.
A few words must also be said about other new films which are now being
shown in the Soviet Union but have not yet made their way to the United States.
Again, very few are worthy of mention. The most touted historical epic, Yaroslav
the Wise, which has won a number of Soviet prizes, is one of the worst examples
of this genre I have ever seen. It, too, is a "two series" film, filmed with
disjointed battle scenes, poor camera techniques, poor acting, and a virtual
absence of a reasonable plot. Another new film of a completely different type,
The Girl and Grand, is certainly no better. This is a horribly poor copy of National
Velvet (Grand is a racehorse), not that the original was anything to write home
12
about. There is a whole series of idiotic comedies and World War II espionage
films which do not deserve discussion. There are also a number of propaganda
films which do not concern us. (An example is the current There are 130 Million
of Us which discusses the achievements of the trade unions.) Once in a while
there are half-way bearable musicals such as Soul, a newly released film starring
rock performers with a large following among the young, including the highly
controversial rock group "Time Machine." There are two films, however, which do
merit discussion.
The Irony of Fate- or- May Your Steam be Light! had the advantage of an
excellent director, Eldar Riazanov, who did extremely well with a highly
implausible plot. A young man is due to marry a girl the following morning. The
evening before his friends take him to a sumptuous Moscow steambath where they
commit the ultimate error--they finish off several bottles of vodka. In an
inebriated state they pour the bridegroom-to-be onto a plane to Leningrad. He
wakes up upon arrival, and still completely drunk, gives his Moscow address to the
Leningrad taxi driver. Lo and behold, this address does exist there. Not only that,
but the hero goes to the apartment number he has in Moscow, and it also exists in
Leningrad. The greatest surprise to the viewer is that his key fits. Of course, the
apartment belongs to an attractive young woman and the viewer can easily guess
the final outcome. Nevertheless the story is extremely well acted and the
language, the idioms used, is marvellously humorous but, alas, untranslatable.
Autumn Marathon, directed by Georgii Danelia from a screenplay by the
highly talented Alexandr Volodin, was the best film I saw in the USSR this past
year. The camera work was excellent, the casting equally good, and the quality of
the acting outstanding. The most important factor, however, was the
screenplay. The story concerns a decent, extremely well-educated man who works
as a translator and also as a professor at Leningrad University. He is one of those
persons who cannot say no to anyone and is therefore taken advantage of. His
colleagues impose upon him to do their work, receive recognition for it, while he
neglects his own and gets into difficulties because of it. A foreigner (Swede) is
working on translations of Russian literature into English and takes a great deal of
the hero's time for this purpose, since his knowledge of Russian is highly limited.
A neighbor, at a most critical time, invades the hero's apartment and insists that
he share one (or several) bottles with him. He cannot turn him down and suffers
greatly for it. He is middle-aged with a middle-aged wife who has increased her
girth and is no longer attractive to him. He therefore has a current affair with a
young woman who wants him to divorce his wife and marry her. He cannot get up
the courage to hurt his wife, although he knows that his wife is aware of his
infidelity. He runs back and forth from his wife to his mistress. He runs back and
forth from his job to the assistance he gives to others. He runs, jogs, every
monring with the Swede though he doesn't enjoy it. Life is a ratrace--a
marathon. But, in the end, nothing changes and nothing is resolved. The film is
"laughter through tears" is the best Chekhovian tradition.
One short additional note may be interesting. It is a fact that some films
are made but not released. One excellent example is Agony, about the monk
Rasputin, which was completed in 1974 and still has not been released. It is
occasionally shown to a select audience.
Leo Hecht
13
BYRON'S MANFRED IN HUNGARY
(This article was contributed by D. Peter Szafko of Lajos Kossuth
University, Debrecen, Hungary, who is now teaching at Indiana University on an
exchange program. We welcome his contribution.}
Written in 1816-1817, Manfred by Lord Byron was first shown on stage in
1834 in Covent Garden, London, which seems to have been one of those rare
events when theatre managers took the risk of staging this highly-romantic and
mystic self-revelation of a poet-genius. Most managers left Manfred to the
readers of the day. At the turn of this century, however, Manfred was produced in
Hungary in two theatres. These theatrical events seem even more unusual since
Hungary, as compared to Western European countries, has not had that long a
theatrical history and tradition. Actual theatre performances in Hungarian
started only in the 18th century and the first permanent theatre was built in the
thirties of the next century. Therefore, the productions of Manfred in Budapest
(National Theatre, 1877} and in Debrecen (Town Theatre, 1908) may well deserve
special attention. Analyzing the consequences of such theatrical rarity may
contribute to the understanding of the Hungarian theatre of the fin de siecle, as
well as to the impact of English literature on the intellectual life of Hungary in
that day.
At least three reasons may be attributed to the production of Byron's
Manfred in Hungary. First, the director in Budapest recognized an increasing
interest in English (and American} literature. For example, it was in the second
half of the 19th century that English novels, poems, and plays began to be
translated directly from English and not, as often earlier, from German. (Since
Hungary was part of the Habsburg Monarchy, Western literature was generally
introduced into Hungarian through German translations.) Moreover, translators
began to care more about the quality of their work. Such concern may best be
exemplified by Manfred, which was translated on three separate occasions by
three different persons; the last translation was done specifically for the National
Theatre production by Emil Abranyi, an eminent Hungarian poet of the turn of the
century. In Debrecen, Abranyi was invited to the premier where he delivered a
brief lecture on Byron and his work, with special regard to the autobiographical
references in Manfred.
Second, since the popularity of any theatre group depended on the so-called
"star-cult," which was emerging in Hungary towards the end of the 19th century,
potential leading roles were constantly sought out by several leading actors and
actresses. Their personalities and talents more often than not had a decisive role
in forming the repertory of the theatre. Real ensemble productions in a modern
sense were generally unknown. One of the leading actors at the National Theatre
in Budapest was lmre Nagy, who turned out an ideal Manfred. Along with roles
like Hamlet, Manfred was one of his best interpretations.
Moreover, it was a common practice of the country-town theatres to
produce the plays which were successful on one of the Budapest stages as soon as
possible, generally within a year. Since in a provincial theatre there were at least
200 various plays (and operas, operettas, etc.} staged during a season, the
audiences in any locality could see nearly the same works as were shown in the
capital, although the quality of the performances and the degree of success varied
14
. . .
from town to town. That is why it is so unusual that in Debrecen Byron's Manfred
was put on stage almost 20 years after the premiere in Budapest. (Debrecen was
the only country-town theatre to produce this drama.) It seems very likely that
the Debrecen premiere of Manfred took place simply because of the presence of a
young and talented actor: Bela Lugosi, who later became a well-known movie-star
in America. Lugosi was a member of a company led by Gyula Zilahy, who ran the
Debrecen theatre from 1905 to 1913, and who later served as a director at the
National Theatre of Budapest. Bela Lugosi began to appear in tragedies in 190 I
and his interpretations of Hamlet, William Tell, Othello were often praised in the
press of the time.
Third, the repertory pol icy of the theatres around the turn of the century
may have been instrumental in the production of Manfred. In the National
Theatre of Budapest and in Debrecen (or any other provincial theatre) directors
and managers regularly produced, first, the classical works of world drama, e.g.,
Greek tragedies, Shakespearean drama, Goethe's Faust, Schiller's dramas, French
and German romantic plays; second, Hungarian classical and contemporary plays,
such as Jozsef Katona's Bank ban, Madach's The Tragedy of Man, Vorosmarty's
Csongor and Tunde; and, finally, contemporary plays from all over the world, such
as the plays by Ibsen, Chekhov, Gorky, Heijermans, Wilde, and Shaw. Since
novelty was one of the major considerations of the repertory policy, the decision
to produce Byron's Manfred, which was already looked upon as a classic, fitted the
repertory policy of the day.
Both productions were unsuccessful in terms of the number of
performances: five in Budapest, three in Debrecen. The play was apparently too
complex and subtle to attract large audiences. Moreover, each production was
hastily put together and centered chiefly on the protagonist in keeping with the
star-cult system. Then, too, audience members generally Jacked sufficient
education, perception, and genuine interest in the British dramatic poem. For
example, the reviewer of the Debreczeni Fuggetlen Ujsag (Debrecen lndepedent
News) emphasized that Manfred is a closet-drama and as such is perfect but the
production was a failure because of the direction and the interpretation of
Manfred. The reviewer of the Esti Hirlap (Evening News), however, praised the
director, as well as Bela Lugosi, stating that the cause of the failure was "the cool
indifference and negligence" of the Debrecen audience. Other critics
supported this last viewpoint.
In spite of the failure in both Budapest and Debrecen, the productions of
Byron's Manfred should be considered as an important and courageous theatrical
event, which demonstrates that, at a time when light operettas, French drawing-
room comedies, and farces ruled the Hungarian stage, there were individuals
connected with the theatre who tried to achieve higher artistic standards.
ANDROPOV AND Tt-E INTELLECTUALS
It is a fact that the "old guard" in the Party leadership is viewed as
inefficient, anti-intellectual and corrupt. The regime of Leonie Brezhnev was
marked by self-indulgence, widespread abuses of power, and disastrous planning
practices in all areas of the economy, including agriculture. On the other hand,
the KGB, with its close ally, the military, has traditionally been taut, disciplined
15
and pragmatically efficiency oriented. Yuri Andropov is, of course, the
personification of this orientation as can be clearly concluded from his recent
appointments, dismissals and political initiatives. Andropov is also wise enough to
understand that such a massive reorientation of a nation is possible only with the
backing and cooperation of the highly visible intelligentsia of the USSR.
In a recent article (Washington Post, December 23, 1982), syndicated
columnist Joseph Kraft asserts that there seems to be a growing alliance between
Andropov and the Soviet intellectuals. Kraft attributes this not to elements of
"closet liberalism" in the Soviet leader, but in his attempts to introduce more
discipline and efficiency based on rational, logical thought processes. Kraft
discusses the protection which Andropov has afforded Yuri Liubimov, the director
of the T aganka Theatre, both as head of the KGB and as Secretary General of the
Party. Specifically, Kraft discusses the Taganka dramatization of Dostoevsky's
Crime and .Punishment. The standard Soviet treatment portrays the main
character, Raskolnikov, as a victim of the Czarist regime, with its repression,
corruption and plutocracy. He is driven to the murder of a usurous pawnbroker by
the pressures of life as a poor student amid the crowd of misers, lechers and bogus
philosophers. In that context, the murder becomes a justified act of revolt-a
curtain raiser to the Bolshevik Revolution.
So common is that interpretation that Soviet students write papers that
express sympathy for Raskolnikov and deplore only his apprehension and
confession. That attitude provides the basis for Liubimov's current production.
The L iubimov version runs explicitly counter to the standard
interpretation. On entering the theatre, the audience passes by a wooden desk of
the kind commonly used in Russian classrooms. Programs are piled on the desk.
Tucked into each program is a replica of a student essay exculpating Raskolnikov
as a victim of his times. In the opening scene, students come on stage and are
told they are going to sit in judgment of a murder.
The familiar cast of characters then goes into action. There are several
sophist philosophers and a rich lecher who abuses both a harlot and the sister of
Raskolnikov. They are all rather pallid figures, clearly secondary to the
protagonist.
Raskolnikov comes on as a cruel and vicious character with delusions of
grandeur. He turns his back on his mother and sister. He ridicules friends and
mocks religion. He thinks of himself as a superman and dreams he is Napoleon.
"Universal happiness is nothing," he says at one point. "The only reality is self."
The examining magistrate who tracks down Raskolnikov, and draws out his
confession of guilt, is the most sympathetic character in the Liubimov version.
He is a decent and intelligent man with a strong sense of responsibility. When
Raskolnikov confesses to the murder, the magistrate pronounces the unmistakable
judgment: "After all is said and done, evil cannot be called good." According to
Kraft, that hard ethic is a clear indictment of the corruption which Andropov is
attempting to eliminate. He can succeed only with the support of the profoundly
influential intellectuals who are slowly replacing the moribund "old guard" in
16
leading positions. Whether Andropov will succeed in a selective loosening of the
reins is yet to be seen.
REPORT ON THE SOVIET THEATRE
NEW PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS
Leo Hecht
(This excellent two-part article was contributed by Alma Law, Director,
Institute on Polish and Soviet Drama and Theatre. The second part of the article
will appear in the May 1983 issue.)
In this two-part review of the Soviet theatre, I'd like to survey the new
plays that are being talked about this season in Moscow and Leningrad and
introduce some playwrights currently making their theatrical debut.
Among the established playwrights, Viktor Rozov has just completed his
first new play in four years. Entitled The Back of Beyond, it has been accepted
for production at the Moscow Art Theatre. The play (based on an actual incident
in a small town not too far from Moscow) is about a man who kills his son in anger,
and the official cover-up that follows when it appears that the investigation will
expose a network of corruption among town officials.
Following the stormy success of his Cruel Games, Alexei Arbuzov has
returned to more familiar territory in his two most recent plays. Remembrances,
which Anatoly Efros has staged at the Malaia Bronnaia, presents one of Arbuzov's
typically quirky families confronted by a domestic crisis. In this case, it's the
departure of the husband who leaves his wife for another woman, and the arrival
of a disillusioned cousin, who through his brief involvement with the wife, again
finds meaning in his life. Arbuzov has also recently completed The Victorious
One, about a 50-year-old woman, who has made a successful career for
but has failed in her personal life.
Julius Edlis, whose play about Joan of Arc, Reguium for a Maid was staged
last season at the Mossoviet's Little Stage on Frunzensky Val, has a new play
entitled The Embankment. And Aleksandr Volodin's scenario The Blonde is
currently scheduled for production at the Gorky Theatre. Both of Volodin's
parable plays: Two Arrows and Little Lizard have enjoyed considerable success in
Moscow. The latter was also staged last season in Mexico City. Emil Braginsky
has a new comedy, The Room about a women, who, in order to prove the existence
of the faithful lover with whom she supposedly spends her summer vacations,
offers a room rent free to a single man who will agree to pose as the lover.
A long-awaited collection of Radzinsky's plays has come out. Included in it
are his two historical plays, Conversation with Socrates and Lunin, as well as the
very popular She in the Absence of Love and Death and Don Juan Continued.
Radzinsky's most recent play, and the third part of his historical trilogy, Theatre
in the Time of Nero and Seneca has also been published in the first issue of the
new journal Soviet Dramaturgy. This play had a very successful staged reading
directed by Dennis Scott as the O'Neill Playwrights Conference last summer, with
Kevin Kline playing Nero. It marked the first time that a Soviet play has been
17
done at the Conference. Aleksandr Goncharov is rehearsing this biting duel
between tyrant and intellectual at the Mayakovsky Theatre this season.
At the Vakhtangov Theatre, Roman Viktiuk is staging Mikhail Roshchin's
adaptation of Anna Karenina with Liudmila Maksakova as Anna. And at the
Moscow Art Theatre, Efremov is working on Mother of Pearl Zinaida, Roshchin's
new satirical comedy about a writer named Aladdin. The "Sovremennik" has
announced that Roshchin is also writing a play to be staged there this season.
Aleksandr Gelman's Alone Among Many can be seen at the Moscow Art
Theatre in a not-to-be missed production by Oleg Efremov. Efremov himself gives
a brilliant performance as Andrei Golubev, the head of a construction project, who
in ignoring safety rules to meet a scheduled completion date, is indirectly
responsible for an accident in which his son loses his hands. The two-character
play is set in the Golubev apartment the night before Andrei and his wife Natalya
are to bring their son home from the hospital. Gelman has written this
psychological drama in the form of a searing confrontation between husband and
wife precipitated by Natalya's learning the truth about her husband's role in the
accident. Alone Among Many can also be seen in the little rehearsal hall at the
''Sovremennik" directed by Mikhail Ali-Hussein. Gelman's latest play, The Bench
(whose scheduled performance at the O'Neill last summer had to be cancelled
when the Soviet delegation was unable to come) is currently in rehearsal at the
Moscow Art Theatre.
Liudmila Petrushevskaia's Three Girls in Blue is awaiting its premiere at
the Lenin Komsomol Theatre in Moscow where it has been in rehearsal for over a
year. The production, directed by Mark Zakharov, features lnna Chirikova in the
role of Ira, another one of Petrushevskaia's unforgettable portraits of
contemporary Soviet women. Ira, who has a low-paying teaching job at a
university and no husband, rents half of a dacha for the summer. She soon finds
herself caught between responsibility to both a sick child and a mother who insists
she is dying, and involvement with a married man, a high-level ministry official
who is quick to take advantage of Ira's plight. Petrushevskais's one-act play, On
the Stairlanding is also in the repertory plan for this season at the Ermolova
Theatre where her Love was given a very sensitive staging two years ago by Anna
Kamenskaia, a young director from Minsk. At the Youth Theatre in Leningrad,
Vladimir Malyshchitsky is presenting Petrushevskaia's Cinzano and Smirnova's
Birthday, under the title Girls, Your Little Boy Has Come.
Kamer Ginkas has directed Sergei Kokovkin's new play, Five Corners at the
Mossoviet's Little Stage. Set in a Leningrad apartment at an intersection where
five streets come together, it tells of an aging ballerina, Lola, with a husband, a
waiter named Rostik, who is 16 years her junior. A naval captain who has left his
family visits Lola, with whom he'd once danced as boy. She quarrels with her
husband and moves in with the captain. While she's gone, Rostik gets involved
with a 20-year-old housepainter named Galka. In this chain of misalliances, all
are looking for freedom from responsibility, for that "fifth" corner.
Of the current crop of works by new playwrights one of the most
interesting is The Club Car by Nina Pavlova (not to be confused with Olga
Pavlova, the author of The Passion According to Varvaro). The play, an
adaptation by Pavlova of an article she wrote for Molodoi kommunist, is about
18
some teenage girls who have beaten up their girlfriend. This revealing picture of
today's Soviet youth can be seen on the Little Stage at MXAT in a production
directed by Kama Ginkas. Ginkas has staged Pavlova's play in the form of a court
trial with the audience sitting right in the courtroom. Pavlova has also written
another play, The First Season of the Year.
Another play about teenagers, Roman and Yulka, is an adaptation by Galina
Shcherbakova of her story I Didn't Dream About You Either (Yunost, No. 9,
1979). It is enjoying great success at the Leningrad Lenin Komsomol Theatre in a
production directed by Vadim Golikov. In a rather interesting departure, the
production includes a practicing sociologist, Sergei Cherkasov, who as "a man
from the audience," comments to the actors and spectators on the action. In this
1980s version of the Romeo and Juliet story, the hero's parents attempt to
separate the young lovers by sending their son off to help an ostensibly ill
grandmother. When Roman discovers that he has been deceived, he seeks freedom
by jumping out the window. He dies, just as Yulka arrives to be with him.
According to Golikov, the producton has elicited an enormous response from young
people who closely identify with these two teenagers in their struggle to live their
own lives without parental interference.
Both Evgenii Siminov at the Vakhtangov Theatre and Aleksandr Dunaev at
the Malaia Bronnaia have staged Equal to Four Frances by Aleksandr Misharin who
is perhaps best known for collaborating with Andrei T arkovsky on the scenario for
Tarkovsky's film, The Mirror. This play, the first one Misharin has written without
Andrei Veitsler as co-author, was also published in the inaugural issue of
Contemporary Dramaturgy. A fire has broken out on an enormous container ship,
the Cheliuskintsa, causing it to go out of control. The patently-contrived central
conflict of the play revolves around the debate in the offices of the Regional
Party Committee (kraikom) as to whether the ship should be allowed to send out
an S.O.S. It presents a rather timely picture of contemporary party leaders
wrestling with the problems of creating a new breed of industrial managers.
Also included in the Vakhtangov Theatre's repertory this season is Gennadii
Mamlin's The Bells, a play about a sensitive young woman and a dedicated film
director who makes her his wife and the star of his new movie. Mamlin's
Greetings, Dinosaur! about a 27-year-old woman and a teenage boy premiered last
season at the Komissarzhevsky Theatre in Leningrad.
The Mossoviet Theatre has staged Funeral in California, a Western set in a
small gold mining town, by the Azerbaijan playwright Ruston lbragimbekov
(directed by Sergei Yurskii).
Also planned for this season at the Mossoviet is a production of Roman
Solntsev's Black Man of Vladimir Rokachev. This play has been highly praised, as
has his Years of Our Youth (The Scoundrel), which the Moscow Theatre of Young
Spectators is staging. And the Lenin Komsomol Theatre in Leningrad is planning
to do his pair of one-act plays, Confesion for Two Cents. Solntsev, who studied to
be a physicist at Kazan University, began writing plays about six years ago.
Among the dozen plays he has written are, and Then What Will You Say, Red on
White, about the chairman of a collective farm who commits suicide, and
Collective Complaint.
19
Simon Zlotnikov, an athletic coach and journalist turned playwright, is
beginning to gain recognition of his uniquely absurdist vision of Soviet life. His
tragifarce A Man Came to a Woman, which was recently criticized in the press as
"cheap sensationalism," is currently in the repertoire of the Pushkin Theatre
where it was directed by losif Raikhelgauz. The play takes place in the course of
several hours one night in the apartment of a telephone operator, Dina, where she
and Viktor, a pharmacist, make love and talk. Other plays of his include: The
Fourth Round, On the Fourth Day After the Disappearance, Triptych for Two, The
Commission, and The T earn. The latter, about a team of women handball players,
has been included in the repertory of the "Sovremennik" this season.
The Le_ningrad playwright, Aleksandr Galin, was suddenly thrust into the
spotlight last season with the premiere of Retro, staged by Leonid Khaifits at the
Maly Thatre in Moscow. This is a very heart-warming play about an old man
whose move from the provinces to Moscow to live with his daughter and her
husband proves to be a disaster for everyone. When the husband sets out do a
little matchmaking by arranging dates for his father-in-law with three elderly
women, the father up and invites all three of them to return with him to his home
in Kursk. Retro, which was actually Galin's fourth play, is scheduled to have its
American premiere next season at the Missouri Repertory Theatre. His earlier
plays include The Migratory Birds Are Flying, which was presented at the
Experimental Theatre of the Leningrad VTO, and Delusion, which was staged at
the Maly Dramatic Theatre in Leningrad several seasons ago. The latter can also
be seen this season in Moscow at the Malia Bronnaia Theatre. It tells the story of
a reformed drunk who has moved in with a railroad conductress, and the conflict
that ensues when his wife tries to get him back. Another of Galin's recent plays,
The Last Meeting, about an old war veteran, has been staged at the Theatre of the
Soviet Army; and at the "Sovremennik," Leonie Kahifits will be directing his
Eastern Grandstand, about a muscician who returns to his hometown to look up his
former classmates.
Scheduled for this season at the Moscow Art Theatre is I Never Was
Never Belonged Never Took Part by another young playwright, the journalist
Yuri Makarov. This play is about a successful 35-year-old man, Sergei Nechaev,
who discovers one morning that he has lost his Party ticket. The search for it
starts Sergei thinking about and reevaluating his life which is turns out harly lives
up to the words on the Party ticket: "Mind, honor and conscience of our time."
This play will also be seen this season at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow.
A production at the Mayakovsky Theatre by Boris Morozov of Vladimir
Arro's Look Who Came is enjoying considerable success. This reworking of the
Cherry Orchard then opens with the arrival at a famous writer's dacha of a
flamboyant world champion hairdresser who is intent on purchasing the property
from the writer's widow. The play promises more than it delivers, but it does
offer a wonderful picture of the new bourgeoisie intent on buyig its way into the
world of culture. Another play by Arro, The Garden, has been staged at the
Theatre of the Soviet Army, and his comedy Five Songs in an Old House has been
accepted for production at the Malaia Bronnaia Theatre. It's about a man who
shows up at a Leningrad apartment and tries to prevent its occupants from making
any alterations to it. It turns out he's been researching the apartment for the past
five years because it once belonged to a famous poet. Though the play as a whole
is disappointing, Arro has a very good ear for dialog and the opening scene is
especially funny.
Alma Law
Dept. of Foreign Langs & Lits
George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
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