From Merger to Acquisition: How the Theater Reform Is Proceeding in Moscow

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From Merger to Acquisition: How the Theater Reform Is Proceeding in Moscow
From Merger to Acquisition: How the Theater Reform Is Proceeding in Moscow
27 April, 09:28Culture
Theatrical Moscow excites. There is a process of merging theaters in the capital. The Department of Culture is on the defensive, but scandals make themselves felt every day.

Irina Mishina

A quarter of all theaters in the country are in Moscow. To be precise, there are 85 theaters of city and 12 federal subordination in the capital - a total of 97. But apart from budget theaters, independent groups also operate in Moscow. They are the hardest to calculate.

A few years ago, the Yandex company, as part of the special project I'm in the Theater, conducted a study and counted the number of theaters in Moscow. So, the experts managed to identify 380 theaters! Their full list can be found here. Of these, 245 are non-state, 97 are state. When broken down into other categories, there are also musical (20), ballet (16), student (9), children's (46), puppet (20) theaters, and even home theaters (10). Moreover, when counting, each theater was included in the list only once, even if it has several scenes.

It would seem that this can only be rejoiced at. But the theater requires budgetary funds. Yes, and the accessibility of the current theatrical art can be argued. Let's take the upcoming performances. Ticket in the stalls for "Master and Margarita" in the Moscow Art Theater. Chekhov Theater costs 12,600 rubles, the worst seats - from 5,100. The price of tickets for "War and Peace" at the Vakhtangov Theater, according to the information on the theater's website, is up to 12,000 rubles. The Bolshoi Theatre, the historical stage, La Traviata: a ticket in the stalls - 8 thousand rubles, in the amphitheater - 7,200. It is clear that theatrical art has long ceased to be mass, it is rather accessible to a very narrow circle of people.

“The fact is that Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov was very fond of people of art and never refused them. Dzhigarkhanyan will ask for his theater - the city will give the theater, he will ask the Babkin Theater - and she will have a theater, Ryumin will ask - and she will too. As a result, Alexander Kibovsky, having accepted the Department of Culture of Moscow, simultaneously accepted such a meaningless and unsupportable theatrical legacy. To open the theater, a word was enough, but to close it is a whole epic. In order not to close the theaters, they decided to unite them”, - Grigory Zaslavsky, rector of GITIS, explained Novye Izvestia.

In this difficult process of merging, theatrical histories evolved in different ways. There are also stories with happy endings. For example, the merger of the Taganka Theater and the "Commonwealth of Taganka Actors" theater, which happened more than a year ago, went smoothly. It was rather a reunion of two theaters. As you know, at one time the famous people's artist and public figure Nikolai Gubenko took away part of the troupe from Yuri Lyubimov, and when the property was divided, he received a new stage of the Taganka theater complex. After the death of Nikolai Gubenko in August 2020, the fate of the Taganka Actors Commonwealth Theater was a foregone conclusion. Yes, and the new director of the Taganka Theater, Irina Apeksimova, made a lot of efforts to ensure that the Taganka again became a popular and beloved theater.

But with the Theater of Satire and the former Theater under the direction of Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, it did not turn out quite smoothly. After the death of Dzhigarkhanyan, the actor and director Sergei Gazarov became the artistic director of his theater. The problem was complicated by the fact that Alexander Shirvindt left the post of head of the Satire Theater. The Moscow authorities, they say, went through many candidates for the leadership of the united theaters, but in the end settled on Gazarov. After the merger, the Dzhigarkhanyan Theater became, in fact, a branch of the famous and beloved theater on Mayakovsky Square. What exactly now connects the two theater venues, apart from a common leader, is a big question.

The merger of the Meyerhold Center (CiM) and the School of Dramatic Art Theater turned out to be almost a political scandal. The fact is that the liquidation of the Center. Meyerhold took place shortly after the start of the special operation in Ukraine. In this regard, theater director Elena Kovalskaya publicly expressed her disagreement with the special operation and submitted her resignation on February 24. Soon the artistic director of the theater Dmitry Volkostrelov was fired. Apparently, the TsIM received the stigma of "unreliable", and in many respects for this reason the decision was made to merge it with the "School of Dramatic Art". These two theaters are not united by absolutely nothing.

But the real scandal erupted in connection with the unification theaters "Sphere" and "Hermitage". It was decided to merge them without any apparent reasons and grounds, perhaps only on the basis of the territorial principle. Indeed, both theaters are located in the Hermitage Garden. True, during the reconstruction, the Hermitage Theater moved to a temporary building on Novy Arbat. But both theaters are independent, established groups, each with its own idea of beauty. Each of the two theaters has its own repertoire and its own audience.

The Sphere Theater team, realizing that it could be absorbed, recorded a video message to Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, in which he asked him to personally look into the situation with the merger of this theater with the Hermitage Theater.

“Our theater is absolutely unique in its form. The generation of Muscovites grew up on love for our theater and connection with it. At the same time, our theater is successful, standing on the positions of Russian realistic psychological prose. For us, unification means destruction”, - the actors said.

At the same time, the Sphere Theater got a powerful defender - actor-deputy Dmitry Pevtsov. And arguments are already being put forward about the different styles of theaters - it is mentioned that the Sphere adheres to the "traditional" theatrical language, and the Hermitage adheres to modernist aesthetics. So far, the situation with the Sphere and Hermitage theaters is uncertain.

The situation with the merger of the MOST theaters (youth student theater) and the Moscow City Council theater promises to be no less scandalous. Realizing that MOST would be swallowed up, its leadership also began to make desperate efforts to prevent this. So, at the disposal of our editors is the Address of the Director of the "Moscow Open Student Theatre" Irina Bolshakova. In particular, it makes the following arguments:

“The academic professional theater and the youth theater, which trains gifted students of non-core universities and forms a talented, unique troupe from them, do not coincide either in terms of the goals of their activity, or in terms of labor organization, or in terms of working hours. It became obvious that the MOST Theater as part of the Moscow City Council Theater is an extra link, and sooner or later it will be excluded. After all, having lost its legal entity, having become a “structural subdivision” of the Moscow City Council Theater, the former theater will be deprived of the right to make decisions that are fundamentally important for its preservation and development... And a natural question arises: why is this being done? For what purpose is this sacrifice made? To save money? But in terms of financial efficiency, the MOST Theater is among the most successful theaters."

However, there are other opinions in the theatrical environment.

“If we talk about the MOST theater, what famous premieres by director Evgeny Slavutin have we seen in recent years? Haven't heard of any. I haven't heard about premieres at the Film Performance Theater either. The theater, if it does something, it strives to show it to the professional community. For example, the Theater at the Nikitsky Gate shows premieres regularly, and it would never occur to anyone to close or join it”, - says Grigory Zaslavsky, rector of GITIS.

It is noteworthy that while the theaters are sorting out their internal problems, no one was interested in the opinion of the audience. However, in social networks, supporters or opponents of the process of merging theaters from among the audience are also not yet noticeable.

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