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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Tuvan Theatre Nominated for the Most Prestigeous Theatre Prize

Opening for the 12th time, the Golden Mask festival presents its annual showcase of the best of the best in Russian theater.

It comes around now with the precision of a fine Swiss watch. It has become so predictable and so reliable that one might be excused for thinking it's just another element of nature; one of the little gifts that spring invariably brings -- like the first green buds or the last clumps of dirty snow. It is the Golden Mask, the festival that brings to Moscow an array of the previous season's top accomplishments in theater from all over Russia. In less than three weeks' time, the In less than three weeks' time, the whole gamut of Russia's theatrical riches is paraded before our eyes: opera, operetta/musical, ballet, contemporary dance, drama and puppetry. And since Russian art, God bless it, has never been very good at sticking to rules and regulations, there is even a separate classification for shows that don't fit the standard sizes and shapes -- the Innovation category. If you can't find anything of interest in this festival's 41 shows from 12 different cities, you just don't want to.

"There is no other festival like ours in Russia," said Maria Revyakina, the general director of the Golden Mask, at a recent news conference. "Ours is a competition festival that runs an entire season. Ours is not a festival of Moscow premieres, but a festival of all Russian theater." This year's festival, the 12th in all, features productions that premiered during the 2004-05 season. The delay in pulling these shows together at the same place and same time is a sign of the Golden Mask's scope. From the end of the season in summer, it takes months for two committees of experts -- one for dramatic theater and puppetry, another for the musical genres -- to evaluate all the shows that opened across the country in a year's time. Once the nominees are set, the painstaking work of organizing the performance schedule begins. This year, it involves 25 touring companies from as far away as Abakan in central Siberia and Kyzyl in the republic of Tuva near the Mongolian border. By the time this year's winners are announced on April 17 in a ceremony at the Bolshoi Theater, a total of 24 different stages will have been employed.

The festival competition kicks off on Wednesday with "Doors," a contemporary dance work by Sasha Pepelyayev's Apparatus Theatrical Project, and Kirill Serebrennikov's production of "The Forest" for the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater. The following day unveils two of the festival's biggest and smallest shows -- the Bolshoi Theater's sweeping production of Leonid Desyatnikov's opera "The Children of Rosenthal" and Ilya Epelbaum's tiny puppet show of "The Death of Polyphemus" for the Ten (Shadow) Theater.

The city of Omsk plays a prominent role this year in the large and small stage divisions of the drama category. Anatoly Praudin, a nominee for best director in 1997, is again up for that award with his large-stage production of Maxim Gorky's "Odd People" for the Fifth Theater. Yevgeny Marcelli pulled down two nominations for best director with his small-stage production of August Strindberg's "Miss Julie" and his large-stage production of Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard." Both shows were created at the Omsk Drama Theater. Mikhail Okunev, a best male actor winner in 1997, is nominated in that category for his performance of the nouveau riche former serf Lopakhin in "The Cherry Orchard."

"Miss Julie," a succinct and searing version of Strindberg's drama exploring social and sexual conventions, boasts nominees for both best male and female actor. They are Vitaly Kishchenko as Jean and Inga Matis as Christine, both of whom are servants drawn into a debilitating conflict with the haughty aristocrat Julie.

The competition for best female actor promises to be fierce at this festival. Matis is up against three of Russia's most beloved veteran actresses: Marina Neyolova in the title role of "Bashmachkin" at the Sovremennik Theater, Alla Pokrovskaya as the Woman in a Kimono in "Playing the Victim" at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, and Alisa Freindlikh in "Oscar and the Lady in Pink" at St. Petersburg's Lensoviet Theater. Pokrovskaya's is a supporting role in a fairly large-cast work, but both Neyolova and Freindlikh essentially perform one-woman shows. King Lear by Tuvan Theatre

Joining Okunev and Kishchenko in the contest for best male actor are Alexei Levinsky, for his performance of Professor Serebrennikov in the Okolo Theater's "Scenes from Country Life" ("Uncle Vanya"); Alexander Salchak, for his interpretation of King Lear for the Tuva Theater of Music and Drama; and Vasily Bochkaryov, for his handling of Pribytkov in "The Final Sacrifice" at the Maly Theater. The nomination of Bochkaryov, one of Moscow's most respected actors, forms a rare exception, for "The Final Sacrifice" is not nominated in any other category but best male actor. It has been a tradition, even a rule, that all nominations for individual awards are drawn from shows up for best production.

The Golden Mask, of course, is no stranger to controversy. There have been years when controversy was its biggest claim to fame. Revyakina tacitly acknowledged this when she noted, "Every year the list of nominations causes arguments, as do the results announced by the jury."

Surely one of the more curious quirks this year involves Pyotr Fomenko's production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" for the Fomenko Studio. While it pulled down nominations for best large-stage show and best director, not a single member of its cast was singled out for a possible award.

Still another show nominated for best production and best director (Lev Erenburg), but lacking a single nomination in the acting categories, is Maxim Gorky's "The Lower Depths" by the Little Drama Theater of St. Petersburg. Indeed, Erenburg's emotionally explosive rendition of this tale about life's sinners, losers, thugs and victims is a classic ensemble piece in which a large number of exceptional small contributions add up to a whole that is greater than its individual parts.

Joining Erenburg as first-time nominees in the directing category are Alexei Oorzhak ("King Lear") and Vladislav Pazi ("Oscar and the Lady in Pink," Lensoviet Theater, St. Petersburg). The field is filled out by perennial nominees Sergei Zhenovach ("Boys," Studio of Theatrical Art, Moscow), Andrei Moguchy ("Between Dog and Wolf," Formal Theater, St. Petersburg), Yury Pogrebnichko ("Scenes from Country Life"), Valery Fokin ("Bashmachkin," Sovremennik Theater/Meyerhold Center), and Kirill Serebrennikov, who, like Marcelli, is nominated twice -- for "Playing the Victim" and "The Forest."

The nebulous Innovation category offers an unconventional puppet show with three unorthodox dramatic productions. Epelbaum's "The Death of Polyphemus" uses one live actor and a host of tiny puppets to tell, in 15 minutes, the tragic tale of the giant who lost his battle with Odysseus. Ivan Vyrypayev's "Genesis-2," a production of Teatr.doc and Theater der Welt of Stuttgart, Germany, explores commonalities between a contemporary schizophrenic woman and Lot's wife from the biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Between Dog and Wolf" is an essentially wordless performance piece based on the surrealistic novel by Sasha Sokolov. "Undertold Tales," a production of the School of Dramatic Art, is a former student show staged by designer turned director Dmitry Krymov.

For the seventh year in succession, the Russian Case, a five-day festival-within-the-festival, will attract more than 100 producers, directors, critics and theater alexistrators from all over the world. Over time it has become one of the key events in Russian theater's calendar year, providing an important international forum for theaters throughout Russia. The Russian Case opens April 6 and runs to April 11.

Golden Mask festivities get underway even before the festival officially opens this week. In a tribute to Lev Dodin and the mighty Maly Drama Theater of St. Petersburg, the Golden Mask will host two performances of Dodin's famous dramatization of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "The Devils." This legendary production, running over nine hours in three parts, opened 15 years ago and continues in repertory at the Maly to this day. It will show at the Et Cetera Theater on Saturday and Sunday, with the curtain rising each day at noon.

"The Maly Drama Theater is an example of the mix of tradition and innovation of Russian theater," Revyakina said. "We feel this is a fitting way to open our festival this year."

The Golden Mask festival competition program opens Wed. and runs to April 16 at various venues. The closing awards ceremony takes place April 17 at 7 p.m. on the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theater. See the Calendar listings for the full festival repertory. For more information call 755-8335 or visit www.goldenmask.ru.

John Freedman, The Moscow Times
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