Saint Petersburg State Youth Theatre (the Theatre or the Youth Theatre, for short) is one of Russia's oldest theatres for children. It was founded in 1922 in Petrograd (as Saint Petersburg was then known) by the USSR Meritorious Artist Aleksandr Bryantsev, a famous stage director and teacher, who would lead the Theatre for four decades.
The Theatre was created in accordance with a decision by the Central Pedagogy Council at Petrograd Governorate's Department of People's Education. It was opened with a performance of Pyotr Yershov's The Humpbacked Horse, which is still present in the repertoire of the Theatre.
The names of many wonderful writers, dramatists, actors and stage directors are associated with the Youth Theatre. Works by Samuil Marshak, Valentin Katayev, Yevgeny Schwartz, Konstantin Paustovsky, Mikhail Roshchin, Bulat Okudzhava, Nikolay Pogodin, Vladimir Tendryakov, Lyudmila Razumovskaya, Grigory Oster and by many other well-known writers were staged here for the first time. Such outstanding actors as Nikolay Cherkasov, Bruno Freindlich, Boris Chirkov, Pavel Kadochnikov and Vitaly Politseymako worked here. Here, creative individualities of many brilliant masters of the Petersburg and Moscow stages were shaped; among them were Rem Lebedev, Nina Mamayeva, Nina Kazarinova, Georgy Taratorkin, Nina Drobysheva, Yury Kamorny, Olga Volkova, Antonina Shuranova, Aleksandr Khochinsky, Tatyana Bedova, Tatyana Shestakova and Nikolay Lavrov. Here, most famous stage directors such as Boris Zon, Leonid Makaryev, Pavel Weissbrehm, Semyon Dimant and Lev Dodin created their shows.
From 1962 to 1986, the Theatre was headed by Russia's People's Artist Zinovy Korogodsky, one of one of the notable masters of Russian children's theatre. Staged by the Youth Theatre, many productions of works by Aleksandr Pushkin, Anton Chekhov, Aleksandr Ostrovsky, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Jean-Baptiste Moliere, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and Felix Salten have entered the history of Russian theatre.
However, it was Bryantsev who developed a programme of the so-called "special purpose theatre", with the main statements of this programme being useful even today. The Youth Theatre was conceived as a theatre of three generations, this being the reason why its repertoire contains productions that are of interest to children, teenagers and young adults alike. Moreover, many of the productions are enjoyed even by senior spectators.
Bryantsev created the Youth Theatre as a universal theatre that would unite most disparate genres and trends, those related to music, to drama, and to grace and fluidity of stage movement alike. The Theatre's repertoire is focused on tales, classics as well as quality, model works of the literature of Russia and other countries. The repertoire is built in the way a good library is built, where one collects the best pieces of the world's artistic thought. The goal is to introduce young spectators to the world of classics as well as to develop their artistic taste and their sense of beauty.
In April 1980, the Theatre received the name of Bryantsev, its founder.
From the very moment it was founded, the Youth Theatre has kept a tradition of training its actors in the Theatre itself. Among the graduates of the studio are many actors and stage directors, well-known in Russia. Today, the company of the Theatre includes such acknowledged masters as Russia's People's Artist Nikolay Ivanov, Russia's Meritorious Artist Igor Shibanov, Russia's Meritorious Artist Valery Dyachenko, Russia's Meritorious Artist Liana Zhvaniya, Russia's Meritorious Artist Sergey Nadporozhsky, Russia's Meritorious Artists Antonina Vvedenskaya and Natalya Borovkova. In today's repertoire of the Theatre, much is decided by the creative youth, graduates from the Theatre Arts Academy.
In November 2000, Grigory Kozlov' Studio (the Studio, for short) was opened on the Small Stage. The Studio's young stage directors produced such successful shows as Misters and Misses (staged by Galina Bysgu and based on plays by Nina Sadur), Potudan (staged by Ruslan Kudashov and based on Andrey Platonov's The River Potudan; nominated for the Golden Mask Award in 2001), The Decameron (staged and played by stage directors of the Studio; the head art director of the production was Kozlov; based on novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio), Romeo and Juliet and My Poor Marat (staged by Natalya Lapina; the latter based on Aleksey Arbuzov's The Promise), On the Other Side of Sense (staged by Aleksandr Kladko and based on Tamara Petkevich's book Memoirs of a Gulag Actress) and others.
At present, the repertoire of the Youth Theatre contains around 30 productions. Everything may be found here: shows for the very little ones, shows for teenagers and young adults as well as productions suitable for spectators of all ages. Many times, the most vivid works by the Youth Theatre received awards from Russia and other countries.
Currently, the Youth Theatre is involved in several types of activities: education, art and international activity. In 1998, the Assembly of Delegates (first created at the initiative of Bryantsev and Nikolay Bakhtin in 1924) started functioning at the Theatre again. Having joined the Assembly, teenagers study the history of Russian and world theatre, the foundations of theatricology, and master the basics of many theatre-related professions. Courses on teenage psychology and world view are organised specially for actors, discussions with spectators are arranged, surveys are held and festivals and long-term projects are conceived. The Youth Theatre has participated in international festivals in Great Britain, Bulgaria, Belgium, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Turkey; it has taken part in the Lion Biennial Festival for Young Audiences (1991), in the Bonn Biennale Festival (Bonn, Germany, 2002) and in the Schone Aussicht Festival (Stuttgart, Germany, 2002).
With the premiere of Pinocchio (November 1998), staged by the Italian stage director Mariano Paturzo, the Youth Theatre opened a theatrical anthology called The Tales of the World. As part of this project, it is planned to introduce Saint Petersburg's spectators with myths and legends of various peoples, with the history of the world and with age-old theatrical traditions. Directors from various countries such as Japan, Sweden, Italy, Germany and others stage their national tales at the Theatre. The "creative relay" of the Italian stage director was continued by Hajime Horiguchi, the head art director of Tokyo's Seinen-Gekijo Theatre, who in July 1999 released a show called Bekkanko Oni, which united various genres of Japanese dramatic art and traditions of Russian dramatic school; the Swedish stage director Finn Poulsen who presented his philosophic parable Heavy Grass (based on a play by Tomas von Bromssen and Lars-Eric Brossner) to the judgement of the Saint Petersburg audience. In April 2000, the German stage director Manuel Schebel released his show The Star Coin (based on works by the brothers Grimm).
Since 2002, the Youth Theatre has participated in Magic Net, a large international project that was initiated by the Theater an der Parkaue (formely known as the Karusell Theater), a theatre for children and young adults; the project involves 15 European theatres. The leader of the project is Dirk Neldner (the president of EUnetART, a European association of professional art organisations that work for children and young people). The estimated project duration is 3 years. The project's purpose is to study stage-directing methods and acting schools as well as techniques useful for adapting classical works when creating shows for older teenagers (16 or 17 years old).
Since 2000, the Rainbow International Theatre Festival has been held every year by the Youth Theatre. The festival was named after the famous show Rainbow Winter (staged by Zinovy Korogodsky and based on the play by Mikhail Roshchin). The festival's "rainbow palette" has included stage works of most various genres and aesthetic qualities. Among the participants of the festival have been theatres from England, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Israel, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, France and Scotland. Shows are selected by an independent body called the Expert Council. From 10th to 17th May 2002, the 3rd Rainbow Festival was held; besides Russian productions, the festival presented works of theatres from Sofia (Bulgaria), Berlin (Germany), Glasgow (Scotland), Krakow (Poland), and Vilnius (Lithuania). In the main award categories, the winners were: The King Stag (based on the play by Carlo Gozzi; staged by Marius Kurkinski, the Vasov National Theatre, Sofia; the Best Foreign Production Award), A Gentle Creature (based on the novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; staged by Aleksandr Galibin, the Globus Academy Youth Theatre, Novosibirsk, Russia; the Best Large-Stage Production Award), The Diary of a Provincial in St. Petersburg (based on the book by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin; staged by Grigory Kozlov, the Bryantsev Youth Theatre, Saint Petersburg, Russia; the Best Small-Stage Production Award) and Kashtanka (based on the short story by Anton Chekhov; staged by Vyacheslav Kokorin, the Youth Theatre, Yekaterinburg, Russia; the Best Small-Stage Production Award).
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