The State Theatre Of Nations: Innovative Practices in Contemporary Russian Theatre

Rich cultural history of Russia and it’s literary heritage are the reasons why theatre arts have always been a very well developed sphere in this country. Nowadays there is a multitude of theatres and art spaces that provide their stages for different kinds performative acts. Russia’s capital alone has more than 250 theatres. Although, there is one peculiar establishment, that stands out among the wide variety of places you may go to on a Friday evening to enjoy a play – The State Theatre of Nations.

This theatre with a strong reputation now occupies the building of a large private drama theatre, that was established in 1880’s by a lawyer and theatre enthusiast Fyodor Korsh. It staged comedies, dramas, and love plays. It was also Korsh, who introduced the practice of morning performances, which allowed people to see plays for less money and increased the number of viewers.

Over the course of years, this building became a house for many projects, acting groups, and directors. It has also undergone several changes in concept and repertoire. The new stage of it’s history began in 2006, when a new team came to the Theatre of Nations, the one that still occupies it today. Yevgeny Mironov, a Meritorious Artists of Russian Federation and an accomplished master of theatre craft, became an Artistic Director of the establishment. The new team led by Mironov weren’t afraid of searching for the innovative ways theatre can connect and communicate with the viewer, and were interested in introducing changes to the way a contemporary theatre works. These changes brought several interesting developments.

Currently The State Theatre of Nations is the only major Russian theatre that has no fulltime actors and creative team. Every production that is to be staged in it’s walls is treated as an independent project, and this project is build from scratch. The development of a production lies on the shoulders of its’ own team of professionals and collaborators and has its’ own dynamics of formation and growth.

Such system that employs no full time workers promotes the idea of connecting with new people, inviting various professionals and entrepreneurs to work together. If you think of it, it is also a great way to make sure that your projects will always be diverse and the viewer won’t loose interest for he never quite knows what you’ll do next. One day it’s a surrealistic absurd play with Mexican music based on Russian fairytales, the other – Burgess’ Clockwork Orange with a text rewritten with the use of Google Translate.

What is more, this theatre is very attentive to the creative environment and it’s evolution. In the last years, they have contributed extensively to providing the opportunities for the aspiring performance artists and creators, giving them a chance to be heard and seen by the crowds. They have constructed a Small Stage – a platform for the young directors, choreographers and musicians to present their act to the public.

Another interesting initiative of the Theatre of Nations was the establishing of a New Space that was opened in 2016. This New Space was intended as a place that will connect and unite contemporary artists, who work with movement, dance, literature, and performances. Apart from plays this space hosts poetry readings, music nights, performative events, and movie screenings.

Another thing that the Theatre of Nations has always paid great attention to, is bringing in professionals from other countries into their productions. They know the major notions in modern theatre and keep up with them easily. Their active collaborations with foreign playwrights and directors results in creation of international projects that astonish people with how bold, fresh, and fascinating they are. Among those who worked within the walls of the theatre are Thomas Ostermeier, Alvis Hermanis, Robert Lepage, Robert Wilson, Eimuntas Nekrošius, and Javor Gardev.

Each of their projects is created with meticulous care for quality and they never cease to surprise the audience. So this theatre is certainly one of the highlights of Russian contemporary culture.

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