Theater Culture in Russia

On March 27 was the World Theater Day.  From early childhood, I love theaters. In past, I lived in front of theater and always watched crowds and actors to go in and from work and went to almost every play. I also played in school theater (of course-who doesn’t).Theater is a big part of Russian culture, and I really miss it in the United States. Of course, if you are in New York or San-Francisco, you probably will have enough to feed your theatric curiosity, but not everywhere in the US. When I go to St. Petersburg during summer, on the second day after arrival I run to theater booths and buy program to read about new and old performances and start planning trips to different theaters to catch up. All foreigners know about Russian ballet or opera. Moscow Bolshoy Theater and Mariyinskiy in Saint-Petersburg are always in tourists’  must see list. But I am personally fond of drama theaters as well.  Usually in summer, I go to theaters 2-3 times a week -I carefully choose what to see and even if performance is not the great one-I still consider that I had a good time.  I want to share a little theatrical sketch that happened last summer: There is a theater in Saint-Petersburg, called Masterskaya (translation: “workshop”). It’s a relatively new one full of good young actors).  For two summers I was going to see their famous performance “Quite Don”.  I knew that play was going for 8 hours.  Eight hours. I was curious, but couldn’t find time and courage to go.  Finally, last summer I wasn’t able to wait any more. First, I was looking for company. “Do you like theaters?” – I asked all my Petersburg friends, inviting them to go with me. The theater was loved by everyone, but, alas, there was still no one who wanted to join me for 8 hours straight. For the sake of justice, I must say that despite the fact that I love the theater passionately, and I really miss it here in Atlanta, I also was hesitated. But I already decided that I would go and I went alone. The play consisted of 4 acts and came with three intermissions (one was 40 minutes for lunch). The audience was wonderful, a lot of theatrical youth. It was easy to recognize them: bright, young and beautiful.

After the first act (the most musical and fun), I leave the hall for the first intermission and came to a table with a Kazak snack: black bread with lard and spring onion, pickled cucumbers, kvass and water. It turned out, it was a free treat due to the end of theatrical season for the summer. I tasted the cucumber, drank kvass and asked: “Why did you pour so little water in glasses, even less than kvass?” ” It’s not water,” – answered the girl who served the food, – “It’s vodka.” I did not believe: “???Come on,” I said, “vodka???” “Yes, really, – Please, help yourself))”. While I was thinking about the rhetorical question “To drink or Not to drink”, the young guy behind me reached out his hand, took a glass, knocked it over, and, reaching for the second, loudly announced to everyone: “It’s good!” After this simple call, the people actively reached for the table. After this intermission break, the second act passed with a cheer: easily and imperceptibly.

…The performance ended at around 11 pm. Surprisingly, no one left, I noticed only two empty chairs. I would like to say about the acting. They played this famous epic Kazak saga with inspiration and in one breath: songs, dances, love, passion, war and revolution. Currently, all dramas about the war and the revolution look quite different then during Soviet times, and “Quiet Don” is not an exception. Societies, governments and events are changing … however, no one cancel love, passion and family ties even through the prism of crashing history… The actors were called to bow several times – naturally, there were many flowers and applause. Eight hours flew unnoticeable. I caught myself thinking that it was almost like a flight in an airplane from America to Europe (everyone has their own associations) and all this time the actors acted in such a passionate and realistic way that, I think, even Stanislavsky would believe.

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