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Ostrovsky Theatre, Ostrovsky Moscow Regional Drama Theatre (Moscow)

121 Volgogradsky Avenue, Moscow (tel.: +7 495 378-65-75, +7 499 786-21-41, +7 499 786-21-30), Metro station: "Kuzminki".

Map

http://www.oteatre.ru

Every phase of the history of the Ostrovsky Moscow Regional Drama Theatre (the Theatre or the Ostrovsky Theatre, for short) succinctly reflects distinctive features of the corresponding epoch.

The Theatre was founded as the 4th Collective and State Farm Mikhaylov Theatre, based on the theatre "brigade" of the Frunze House of Education Workers. The brigade was led by Sergey Sverchkov, an actor at the Gorky Moscow Art Theatre. Everyone who wished to join the brigade was required, as it was put officially, "to be a trade union member, to pass an entrance examination that would determine his or her theatrical talent, and (once admitted) to assist in evolving and strengthening the brigade."

On 18 January 1935, the fourth collective- and state-farm theatre of Moscow Region was opened in the town of Mikhaylov, Moscow Region, with the performance of Nikolay Shapovalenko's play "Albina Megurskaya". At that time, the Theatre employed 14 actors, the head art director and a theatrical technician.

In the first six months, the new company performed at their own site and also toured around Mikhaylov District, Zakharovo District, Serebryannyye Prudy District, and Bolshoye Korovino District; these performances were watched by 14,500 collective-farm members, workers and public servants. At that time, the Theatre's repertoire included the following: Aleksandr Ostrovsky's play "At the Jolly Spot" (which was sent to the All-Russian Review of Collective-Farm Theatres) and Anton Chekhov's "The Festivities", "The Proposal", "The Witch and The Night Before the Trial" (then, as it is still now, Chekhov's one-act vaudevilles were extremely popular among the Russian theatres and spectators).

After each performance, the actors conducted a discussion with spectators.

During the very first years of its existence, the Theatre received a prestigious Soviet-era award, the Transferable Red Banner for Collective-Farm Theatres, while its actors and stage directors were more than once awarded with various diplomas.

Even though these first years were mostly the time of experiments for the Theatre, by 1938 it had already become one of the strongest companies supervised by the Directorate for Theatre and Entertainment Enterprises at the then government of Moscow Region, Moscow Region Executive Committee. The Theatre performed up to 250 times a year. A significant step in the evolution of the Theatre's mastery was the production of Jean-Baptiste Moliere's "Scapin's Deceits" (performed as many as 135 times!). At that time, the Theatre's repertoire contained works by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, Maxim Gorky and Konstantin Trenyov.

In January 1940, the Theatre celebrated its fifth anniversary. By then, the Theatre had visited 300 towns and villages of Moscow Region, Tula Region, Ryazan Region and had performed 20 premieres.

While Europe had been already consumed by the fire of war, which would soon become a global war and would cross the borders of Russia.

In the first days after the Nazi invasion, the Theatre changed its repertoire. In part, it was related to the fact that several actors left, joining the active army. The main reason was, however, a different one: the repertoire had to be enlarged with productions that would be resonant with the time. The performance of Trenyov's play "Lyubov Yarovaya" was renewed. Later, the Theatre's posters included productions of Aleksandr Korneychuk's play "Partisans in the Steppes of Ukraine" and of the play "The Immortal One" by Aleksey Arbuzov and Aleksandr Gladkov.

It was at that same time that the Theatre organised a so-called "front-line brigade". It included the actors P. Kuleshov, F. Sevastyanov, G. Sorokin, A. Pleskachevsky and others as well as the bayan-player V. Tsvetkov and the stagehand N. Nazarov; they gave 213 concerts and theatrical performances on the Kalinin Front and the Karelian Front. These included not only agitprops or playful and satirical shows, but also serious and profound productions.

On 25 June 1943, the Executive Committee of the Moscow Region Council (the government of Moscow Region) expressed an official gratitude to the Theatre.

For all this time, the Theatre's structure as well as its management had changed. The cast of the Theatre had been updated, and the Theatre itself was renamed (on 12 September 1942) the Ostrovsky Moscow Regional Collective-Farm Drama Theatre.

The front-line life was remembered by everybody in his or her own way. There were horrible episodes as well as those that were later recalled by the members of the front-line brigade with merry laughter. As usual, life was transformed into an infinite number of actor's anecdotes. And it may well be that in time these anecdotes will serve as a basis of a show telling how the actors went to war.

It is not by mere chance that the Theatre bears the name of the great Russian dramatist and one of the reformers of Russian theatre. At the Theatre's origin were such masters of the renowned company of the House of Ostrovsky at the Maly Theatre as Vera Pashennaya, a wonderful actress and teacher.

In 1930s, two processes, seemingly mutually exclusive, were going on in Russia's theatre world. Small companies were being merged. So-called "roaming companies" (many of which remained since the times of the 1918–1923 Russian Civil War and the first post-war years) were being, as it was put, "stationised", or attached to particular towns or cities.

This way, the "homeless" companies were receiving their own buildings as well as some kind of certainty and prospects for the future. However, at the same time new theatres were being created; the task of these theatres was to, as it was put, "serve the backwaters". Several of such companies were created in the area around Moscow; even having their own rehearsal rooms, they were largely conceived as theatres focused on touring. For endowing these theatres with a serious creative level from the outset, they were "strengthened" or supervised by grand masters from renowned theatres. This was how one of the Moscow-area companies, created in 1935 with the support of Pashennaya and other masters from the Maly Theatre, and the 4th Collective and State Farm Mikhaylov Theatre, founded at the same time, were later merged into one company that received the name of Ostrovsky.

Today, it is hard to imagine this endless "life on wheels". Performing on ill-fitted stages. Preparing for performances in cold corners hidden from the audience and canteens with folding-screens or even simply with rags. Sometimes, one had to apply make-up and change into a costume of one's character in one's theatre bus directly. And what kind of buses these were!

These old junks constantly required repairs. It would be much later, almost two decades after the end of the Second World War, under Minister of Culture Yekaterina Furtseva, that the so-called "Furtseva's buses" appeared; these were something like ordinary minibuses that had their rear part separated and turned into a cargo compartment for stage sets.

Nevertheless, even in such conditions (long before the Ostrovsky Theatre, together with other regional theatre companies, moved to the huge building of Moscow Regional House of Arts situated in Moscow's district of Kuzminki) wonderful masters of the stage worked in the Theatre. Among them were such well-known, then and now, stage directors as Georgy Tovstonogov, Feliks Sakalis, Efim Tabachnikov, Roman Viktyuk and others as well as no-less famous and brilliant actors of the past such as Alla Tarasova, Lyudmila Arinina, Mikhail Zharov, Lev Borisov, Georgy Balandin, Svetlana Korkoshko, Svetlana Bragarnik and others.

Usually, the consciousness of people does not perceive changes in a country as an ordered, logical sequence, but rather as a series of episodes that chaotically follow each other. However, in relation to a fate of a single person and, moreover, in relation to a history of a theatre an old truth is valid: "We did not start it nor will we finish it." During Leonid Brezhnev's stagnation, during the chaos of the perestroika and during the post-perestroika years, the Ostrovsky Theatre continued changing, evolving and communicating with new generations of spectators. Reflecting hopes and disillusions, misbeliefs and insights of their contemporaries, this life and work were meaningful, though not always straightforward and clearly understood even by the participants themselves. By the time of its 70th anniversary, the Theatre had been updated in many ways: the repertoire, the stage-directorship, the management and the cast.

All this did not just happen by itself, but was rather a result of the previous phase. For the thirty years from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, the Theatre had staged both famous classical and foreign works such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Village of Stepanchikovo and Its Inhabitants", Ostrovsky's "Without a Dowry" and "The Late Love", Lope de Vega's "La moza del cantaro" (known in Russia as "The Girl with a Jar"), Pierre Beaumarchais's "The Marriage of Figaro"; favourite children's stories; as well as works by Russia's best contemporary writers such as Aleksandr Schtein, Grigory Baklanov, Aleksandr Volodin, Vladimir Tendryakov, Vаlentin Rasputin, Aleksandr Vampilov, Vasily Shukshin, Leonid Zhukhovitsky, Aleksandr Galin, Ion Druta, V. Dvoretsky and others.

These productions had been made by such now-notable stage directors as Iosif Reichelgaus, Vladimir Portnov and others. The cast of middle- and old-aged actors had shaped; these actors now make up the core of the company.

And the Theatre itself obtained its present "shelter", the Moscow Regional House of Arts, in Moscow's district of Kuzminki.

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Ostrovsky Theatre, Ostrovsky Moscow Regional Drama Theatre



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