At the end of 1913 the group of Moscow students created a Student Dramatical association. Evgeny Vakhtangov, a thirty year old actor and director of The Art Theatre, who had already made himself a reputation of the best teacher within Stanislavsky’s school, was the one who agreed to guide the steps of the studies in the new-born studio.
Vakhtangov had a dream of having his own small and cozy theatre. “Faces pleasant to gaze upon. Kind eyes. Tremulous feelings. One is a friend to all. Tenderly, carefully we step into the soul of everyone. Honest and loving. With a sense of sanctity. Nothing rude and nothing rough.” This is what Evgeny Vakhtangov imagined his theatre to be.
On the 13th of September 1920 Evgeny Vakhtangov’s studio was accepted by The Art Theatre as his Third studio. The premiere of “The Miracle of Saint Anthony” by Maurice Maeterlinck, which Vakhtangov had put on stage became the day of birth of the theatre.
At the beginning of 1922, Carlo Gozzi’s “Princess Turandot”, a veritable phenomenon of the 20th century, drew thunderous applause around Moscow. A sunny, cheerful performance, directed by Evgeny Vakhtangov as he neared his own death in the cold and foodless year of 1922, proclaimed life, love, and kindness.
Stanislavsky had highly appreciated the work of his follower. After the performance was shown, he turned to those who worked on “Princess Turandot” and said: “The Art Theatre was founded three years ago and since that time there were not so many victories like this one. You finally found what other theatres were so hardly looking for”. “Princess Turandot”, in some respect, became the school of acting for all forthcoming generations of Vakhtangov’s theatres.
“No feast – no performance”, Vakhtangov proclaimed in his famous article “The artist has to answer!”. This motto has defined the creative life of the theatre ever since.
Evgeny Vakhtangov never created a system, as Konstantin Stanislavsky did, moreover, he could not create it as that would mean a top-stone and a closure. However, Vakhtangov, basing upon Stanislavsky’s system, created the new beginning that has no ending whatsoever, as the essence of his work concludes in the experience of achieving harmony through actor so that a human being becomes the true creator.
When we speak about Vakhtangov’s art we deal with the mystery that Vakhtangov took away after lifting a veil for a moment. It will take us eternity to riddle his mystery, for this reason Evgeny Vakhtangov will remain present forevermore.
EVGENIY BOGRATIONOVICH VAKHTANGOV
The history of Theater named after Evg.Vakhtangov began well before his birth. At the end of 1913 a group of very young students from Moscow organized a Students’ Dramatic Studio, having made their decision to pursue theater arts by Stanislavskiy’s method. EvgeniyBogrationovichVakhtangov, a thirty years old actor and director of the Arts theater, who has already got the name of the best educator by Stanislavskiy “method”, agreed to become a chief of the classes.
They decided to begin with a performance – they chose B.Zaitcev’s stage play “Manor of Lanins”, which was written in gentle Chekhov’s tinges. The Studio didn’t have its own premise, every day they gathered in a new place: now in tiny rooms of small studios then in a living room of some private flat rented for an evening. Everything seemed romantic. Three months later, on the 29th of 1914 “Manor of Lanins” was performed in Hunting club.
The performance was staged in “clothes” – it became fashionable that time and there was no money for special decoration. They bought a cheap bagging painted in a loden colour, several pots with property-room lilac represented a terrace. In order to enhance the sense of spring charm the whole scene was perfumed by cologne “Lilac”. However they played with diffidence, humbly, it was impossible to hear some actors. But happy actors even didn’t notice their failure – they went to restaurant to celebrate their first performance, then they walked along Moscow nightlong together with Vakhtangov, and in the morning, when they bought fresh newspaper, laughed at slashing reviews.
After such disgrace the directorate of the Arts Theater forbade Vakhtangov any work on the side and the Studio decided to “go underground”. In autumn 1914 the Studio has already settled in a small flat in Mansurovskiy side street on Ostozhenka (then it was named — “Mansurovskaya”).
Vakhtangov’s relations with the Studio resembled love – with jealousy, endless sorting out of relations, impatience, tragic breach and new rapprochement. The most horrible day for him was the day when in 1919 twelve gifted Studio members left the Studio. Vakhtangov was heartbroken, you know, it was his house.
In 1917 when it emerged from the «underground» former Mansurovskaya was called “Moscow Dramatic Studio of E.B.Vakhtangov”. Young people from other studios came, enrollment for the first year of the school was declared – B.Shukin and C.Mansurov appeared in such a way, then R.Simonov, A.Remizov, M.Sinelnikov, E. Alekseeva followed.
Rehearsals continued. Meterlink’s “Miracle of saint Antony”, performed as early as in 1918, was renewed in new cast, in summer Vakhtangov put on stage Chekhov’s “Wedding”.
On the 13th of 1920 E.B.Vakhtangov’s Studio was admitted to the family of the Art Theater named after its Third studio. On the 29th of January 1921 first performance of the second version of “Miracle of Saint Antony” was shown.
On the 13th of November 1921 a permanent theater of the Third MHT Studio was opened at address: “Arbat, 26” (in the place where Theater named after Evg. Vakhtangov is still located). Berg’s mansion was obtained by the Studio for itself as early as previous summer and a profound repair has been made for the past time. In the honour of its opening “Miracle of Saint Antony” was performed. This date is considered to be the date of birth of Vakhtangov’s theater.
On the night of twenty third / twenty fourth of February 1922 the last rehearsal of “Princess Turandot” took place. Vakhtangov rehearsed in a fur coat with a head wrapped with a wet towel, he felt algor. He himself set the light, induced the actors to stay for a long time in the same mise en scene. At four o’clock at night he gathered all actors and gave a command: “The whole stage play – from the beginning to the end!”
When he came back home towards morning he lied and didn’t get up. On the 31stof May Vakhtangov was buried – his students and friends carried the eternity box with his body in their arms from the Studio to the Novo-Dyevitchiye cemetery.
The Followers (1922—1939)
After the death of Vakhtangov many had some doubts as to the survival of the Studio. On the third of September a new art committee was formed. Zaslavsky, Zakhava, Turaev, Kotlubay, Orochko, Tolchanov, Laudaskaya, Elagina, Glasunov and Basov became the members of it.
Vakhtangov’s followers one by one tried their hand in stage directing.
Boris Zakhava’s debut (Ostrovsky’s comedy “Truth is Good, but Happiness is Better”) opened a new self-reliant life at the Studio. The first show took place on the 8th of March 1923. Zakhava called it with a bit of diffidence somewhat a “student” work. The performance was superficial and unripe and though it abounded in funny tricks neither the audience nor critics liked it. The failure of the first performance had heated the air in the Studio.
In order to improve the situation Nemirovich-Danchenko designated thirty-year-old Yury Zavadsky to be the manager of the Third Studio. He considered Zavadsky to be “the most convincing figure for public opinion.”
Staged by him Nikolay Gogol’s “Marriage” was the second premiere at the Studio after Vakhtangov’s death. The performance was a failure and it was soon taken off the repertoire which aggravated the difficult situation. After lengthy talks Zavadsky was compelled to leave his post.
At this critical time at the Studio appeared Aleksey Popov, Evgeny Vakhtangov’s friend. They had worked together at the First Studio attached to the Moscow Art Theatre. But he too was to be supervised by the board of the Studio.
Popov’s first work as a stage director was the “Comedies of Merimee”. He took four little plays-parodies from “Clara Gazul’s Theatre” (Th??tre de Clara Gazul). His admirers readily proclaimed the performance a continuation of the “Turandot” line.
The next premiere of was expected in December, it was the first large work of Ruben Simonov based on the old-fashioned vaudeville “Lev Gurych Sinichkin” written by Dmitry Lensky. Again the show had close resemblance to”Turandot” – it was a light and festive old fairy-tale cunningly hinting at the present.
The XII Congress of RCP (b) passed a resolution on propaganda, agitation and press demanding from theatres a revolutionary repertoire. Popov had to give up the idea of staging “The Uncle’s Son” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. He had long ago planned doing it together with Vakhtangov and Mikhail Chekhov.
A play, dedicated to the Revolution, was absolutely necessary and Popov decided to adapt for the stage “Virinea” written by Lydia Seyfullina.
“Virinea” was in fact one of the first performances from the famous pleiad of revolutionary shows – the very first and therefore unexpected. At the time when the form was inventive, eccentric and blazing Popov found another approach and created a simple, clear and restrained performance.
The next season of 1926-1927 began with the play “Zoika’s Apartment” by Mikhail Bulgakov. The actors were marvelous, Mansurova with her devilishly lifted eyebrow personified Zoika, Simonov played a shifty adventurer Ametistov, Tolchanov – a wizened ugly Chinese Gan-dza-lin and Goryunov as an insidious Cherub.
The season of 1937-1928 gave two ideologically significant performances: “Badgers” – the first notable work of Boris Zahava and “The Break” staged by Popov.
NEP was on the way out. Since the spring of 1928 the Government began to speak about “the inner enemy” louder and more often. At that time Vakhtangov’s Studio was rehearsing the play “On the Blood” (staged by Simonov), an adventurous chronicle about the break-down of the SR party terror during the first Russian revolution.
At the special request of the Studio Yury Olesha made an adaptation of his famous story “Envy” and entitled it “The Plot of Feelings”. In the psychological tangles of this ambiguous and paradoxical play one hears the yearning for dying “individual” feelings (love, jealousy, envy) and anguish born by a steadily approaching colossal “kitchen-factory”. The play was staged by Aleksey Popov. Its vividness, rhythm and dramatic merits were established matchless, while Aleksey Popov was recognised as the best director.
In March, 1930 Valentin Kataev’s “Avant-garde” was released. It happened to be Aleksey Popov’s last performance in this theatre and his first complete failure. The relations between him and the administration of The Theatre had become so tense that he couldn’t work there any longer.
On the 12 of May the Literary Newspaper informed the readers: “Due to disagreement on questions of artistic and ideological guidance stage director Aleksey Popov is no longer works at The Evgeny Vakhtangov Theatre.”
Just before his resignation Popov began to work on a sketch play “The Tempo”, which was the first attempt of a young journalist Nikolay Pogodin in playwriting. It was in 1930 when Aleksey Popov left “The Tempo” to The Theatre. The work was continued under the guidance of a group of directors, these were Oleg Basov, Konstantin Mironov, Anna Orochko and Boris Shukin with set designer Sergey Isakov. This performance has always been widely regarded as the outstanding achievement of The Theatre.
In April 1932 a resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist party of the Soviet Union “On the restructuring of art and literary organizations” eliminated numerous groups, schools and associations in all fields of art. The campaign against “formalism” was just about to start. And at this uneven time The Vakhtangov Theatre launched Akimov’s audacious “Hamlet”. Official directors were Pavel Antokolsky, Boris Zahava, Joseph Rapoport, Ruben Simonov and Boris Shukin. Yet the actual director and set designer was one and only man – Nikolay Akimov. This performance went down in history as Akimov’s play.
“Hamlet” was on for almost a year but it was then taken off. They needed a glaring example of “formalism” and Akimov’s play was just the thing to pin this label on.
The season of 1932-33 was the most successful in the thirties with “Egor Bulychev” and “Intervention” onstage.
Maksim Gorky’s play “Egor Bulychev and Others” was staged by Boris Zakhava and designed by artist Vladimir Dmitriev, who worked at The Theatre for the first time. He showed that he was capable of amazing transformations. Paying tribute to the harmonious and concordant work of the troupe, to the mature and thoughtful work of stage director, all first and foremost praised Shukin in the character of Bulychev. Some even called his acting the work of a genius.
The second release of this season was “Intervention” written by Lev Slavin and directed by Ruben Simonov in collaboration with Joseph Tolchanov.
Two successful performances of that season had revealed two notable trends in the work of The Theatre – the blazing spectacular quality believed to be the legacy of Evgeny Vakhtangov and more serious, psychological and realistic manner. The two conflicting trends were performed by the same actors and existed side by side while under the same roof were working two Vakhtangov’s studs – Ruben Simonov and Boris Zakhava.
The season of 1935-1936 opened with Aleksandr Afinogenov’s play “The Remote” staged by Joseph Tolchanov in collaboration with Isaac Rabinovich (set design). Critics pointed out that the performance made another step towards realism on the stage. These words were significant at that day. On the 6th of January 1936 the last stage of the struggle against “formalism” began.
The first performance of the season 1936-1937 was “Much Ado About Nothing” directed by Joseph Rapoport. This light and lively comedy was a quintessence of what they called Vakhtangov’s principles.
The last performance in that season echoed the tragedies of 1937. Vasily Kusa with Boris Shukin’s help was working on Vladimir Kirshon’s play “The Big Day”. The play was “a defense one”, as they called it then, on the theme of “if war comes tomorrow…” The best actors were engaged in the play, these were Boris Shukin, Oleg Glasunov, Joseph Tolchanov and Boris Shukhmin. But very soon after the premiere thirty-five-year-old Vladimir Kirshon, former head and ideologist of RAPP (the Russian Proletarian Writers’ Association), was expelled from the Communist party, arrested and in less than a year executed by shooting. The performance was panned by the critics and immediately taken off.
In autumn 1937 the 20th anniversary of the October Revolution was triumphantly celebrated. All the theatres were preparing special performances up to this date. Tireless Vasily Kuza locked Nikolay Pogodin in his study and literally under the lash demanded that he should finish “Man with a Gun” in time. Simultaneously Leniniana stepped in to the screen. Mikhail Romm was shooting “Lenin in October”. Boris Shukin was about to play the part of Lenin both in the film and on the Vakhtangov stage.
Set designer Vladimir Dmitriev had built a long corridor from the very depth of the scene. Lenin was striding along it – swiftly, headlong, with a newspaper in his hand, deeply in thought. The audience all at once gasped, stood up, and a great ovation drowned Shadrin’s first words “Mister, can I have a cup of tea somewhere here?” Shukin had to wait several minutes till the ovation subsided so that he could answer the soldier.
The further life of The Vakhtangov theatre was becoming more and more uncertain. The success came unexpectedly. Andrey Tutyshkin together with some young actors staged Eugene Labiche’s vaudeville “Straw Hat”. This joyful performance had never been planned and was essentially the student work. But it was funny, musical and lively. The play turned put to be such a huge success that it was straightaway included in the repertoire.
RUBEN NIKOLAEVICH SIMONOV
the theatre’s Principal Director (1939–1968)
In 1939 Ruben Nikolaevich Simonov was appointed the Principal Director of the theatre. For many years after Vakhtangov’s death he had worked together and on par with Boris Evgenievich Zakhava. Now the time of joint leadership was over. The new leader’s personality greately shaped the theatre’s future.
The Theatre’s first production of 1939-40 was Gogol’s « The Government Inspector » staged by Zakhava with the participation of A. Remizova. The part of the District Police Inspector was rehearsed by Boris Shchukin, but before the dress rehersal on October 7 Schukin died. That was the hardest loss of the theatre after Vakhtangov’s death.
In 1939 the theatre undertook the production of the tragedy in verse «Field-Marshal Kutuzov» by V. Solovyov. N. Okhlopkov was invited as a production director. The wise ironical Kutuzov played by M. Derzhavin was really good. A. Goryunov, who played Napoleon, was noted for striking similarity in appearance with the French emperor.
The last pre-war production was Lermontov’s « Masquerade»-it premiered almost the day before the war broke out-June 21, 1941 (staged by A.Tutyshkin).
During one of the first bombings the theatre’s building was hit by a bomb. One of the theatre’s best actors-Vasily Kuza was among those killed. The building was badly damaged, a lot of scenery was destroyed. It was decided to evacuate the Vakhtangov Theatre’s company to Omsk.
On October 14, having packed in a hurry for 24-hours, the company headed for the east. They also took senior students of the Shchukin Theatrical School with them, having included their names into official documents as members of actors’ families. But there was not enough time to inform all actors of the departure-N. Plotnikov had to get to Omsk by himself. Glazunov (his real name was Glaznek, he was considered German, though he was Latvian), who had not managed to leave with the theatre was soon arrested and accused of awaiting the Germans.
The time in Omsk remained in the Vakhtangov Theatre’s history as one of the brightest periods of its «creative biography». From November 1941 to August 1943 the stage of the Omsk Theatre accomodated three performances played by the Omsk Theatre’s company and four performances played by the company of the Moscow Theatre named after Evgeny Vakhtangov a week. This fact laid the foundation for a long-lasting friendship between the two theatres.
It was in Omsk that Alexey Dikiy, former actor and stage director of Mkhat-2 (the Moscow Art Theatre), arrested in 1937, joined the company. After his return from exile he was invited to join the theatre’s company by Ruben Simonov and by February he was already engaged in «Oleko Dundich » by A.Rzheshevsky and M. Kats. The premiere of «Oleko Dundich» took place on the 22nd of February, 1942.
The group of actors of the Vakhtangov Theatre headed by A. Orochko, A. Remizova and A. Gabovich had gone to the front before the theatre’s first premiere in Omsk. Among the actors of that group there were I.Solovyov, V. Vasilieva, A.Grave, A.Kotrelev, I. Spektor, T. Blazhina, A. Danilovich, V. Dancheva, A. Lebedev. The front-line «branch»of the theatre reached Berlin with the active army and did not return to Moscow until June 1945.
After «Dundich» Dikiy launched the permiere of the play «Russian People» by Konstantin Simonov with E. Korovina and A. Abrikosov starring to commemorate the first year of the war.
On November 6 «Front» by A. Korneichuk premiered. The play about the war was needed both by the theatre and the audience. The army was retreating, so, everybody awaited a performance that would raise the fighting spirit.
N. Okhlopkov conducted rehearsals of «Cyrano de Bergerac» by E. Rostan. Its premiere was shown on the 20th of November. And again the marvellous couple : Simonov and Mansurova were the stars of it.
On the 19th of November, 1942 the Soviet troops attacked the enemy at Stalingrad. The horror of endless defeat was over. The strain of the early years of the war which made the people stuck together to support each other releaved.
Young actors of the Vakhtangov Theatre rehearsed joyous comedies : first « The Servant of Two Masters » by K. Goldoni staged by A. Tutyshkin and then the musical « The Blue Scarf » by V. Kataev staged by Sidorkin were launched in spring of 1943.
Pre-war and post-war years replenished the Vakhtangov Theatre’s company with new wonderful actors : L. Tselikovskaya, L.Pashkova, N. Gritsenko, A. Kazanskaya, Y. Lyubimov, V.Osenev, V. Schlesinger, V Etush, G. Zhukovskaya, E. Izmailova, V. Dugin, A. Grave, E.Korovina, E. Fedorov.
After the Battle of Kursk in summer it became clear that it was time to return to Moscow.
The first post-war production was the tragedy in verse « The Great Tzar » by V. Solovyov staged by B. Zakhava, scenery by V. Favorsky.
The season of 1945/46 was closed with the most unexpected production in the Vakhtangov Theatre’s repertoire-Sophocles’ «Electra» staged by E. Gardt, scenery by architect G.Golts and famous sculptor V. Mukhina.
In August 1946 the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) issued the Decree «On the Journals «Zvezda» and «Leningrad» which condemned «the spirit of servility towards the modern western culture». Then it was followed by the Decree «On the Repertoire of the Drama Theatres and Measures for Its Improvement». Now theatres were obliged to release at least two or three «new performances of high ideological and artistic quality on modern Soviet topics» yearly which would, in fact, ban the lyric and comic repertoire loved by the Vakhtangov Theatre’s company.
In the atmosphere of an empty and meaningless repertoire, dulling theatrical mind and loosening the discipline of actors, a heavy about realistic profoundness of Boris Zakhava’s staging produced an air of a serious work about the theatre. His version of The Red Army (Molodaja Gvardia) Vakhtangov Theatre produced in 1948 after a monumental Okhlopkov’s version.
The most famous « anticapitalistic » version of the theatre has become The plot of the doomed by N. Vitra about the strugle with the nazi’s plot in a fictional european state. It’s surprising but these « supressed » years have brought to the Vakhtangov Theatre a real success – the melodrama The White-Haired Girl byYan Jinxuan and Din Ni. Sergei Gerasimov directed the production of a modern legend at the theatre (during the times of anti Japaneese war of China). The work was exquisit, almost strict. The decorations were very delicately styled by Ryndin.
Back in 1951 they resumed, Yegor Bulychov which came down from billboards after the death of Shchukin. Then Zakhava introduced Sergei Lukyanov for the leading role. And the whole play, with each episode, as in former years, was well done, with many of the same performers: E. Alexeeva, D. Andreeva, N. Rusinova, V. Koltsov and beautiful new Shura – a naughty, cheeky, intelligent G. Pashkova. The play was alive and great.
1954 began with the reconstruction of Before Sunset which was not on after Glazunov’s arrest. Now Michael Astangov was in the center of A. Remizova play.
That same year,by the November holidays, Ruben Simonov restored The Man With a Gun. Lenin was now portrayed by Plotnikov.
The same year, in the spring of 1954, came out probably not the greatest, but perhaps the happiest of theater productions in recent years: young Eugene Simon, son of the director,put up a fairy tale by S. Marshak, He who fears difficulties won’t see happines.
This was the third play of Simonov junior. Arriving at the theater, he brought with him his peers and after his first play – Summer Day (1950), Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona in 1952 he brought on the scene all the young people of the theater : U.Lyubimova and N Timofeeva, A. Gunchenko and A. Parfanyak, W. Etush and M. Grekov.
Perhaps, in the fifties Vakhtangov’s troupe was the strongest in Moscow. It was formed only from their own college graduates – the best in the capital.
Since the late forties to early sixties, one by one from the school into the troupe came all the young actors that formed the elite, which later was named by the analogy with the second generation of the Moscow Art Theater – The second generation of Vakhtangov Theater. In 1948 Yevgeny Simonov came, the next year – his classmate Yuri Borisov, in 1950 – M. Ulyanov, in 1952 – Yakovlev, in 1958 – V.Lanovoy, in 1961 – L. Maksakova. W. Etush and M. Grekov who returned from the war were a little older than L. Pashkov and N. Gritsenko who had appeared earlier in the troupe, but they were also attributed to the famous Second generation that flourished with the “Thaw”. In those same years came A. Katsynsky, A. Gunchenko, A. Parfanyak, N. Timofeev, M. Dadyko, G. Dunts, G. Abrikosov, E. Dobronravova, N. Nehlopochenko, T. Kopteva ; after them – V. Shalevich, E. Raikina, A. Peterson, J. Volintsev. All of them after the school went through their acting school already at the theater, mostly – in the plays of A.I. Remizova.
Thanks to A. Remizova such names as Dostoevsky and Chekhov came into the repertoire tof the theatre.
In 1958 A.I. Remizova put up one of her best performances – The Idiot (the staging by U.Olesha after the Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same name.) It was a serious, not a superficial reading of Dostoevsky’s novel. Prince Myshkin was performed by Nikolai Gritsenko, Nastasya Filipovna – Yuliya Borisova, Rogozhin – Mikhail Ulyanov. The cast also played: L.Tselikovskaya, E.Alekseeva, N.Pajitnov, V.Pokrovsky, A. Dugin, A. Grave.
In 1960, Chekhov was performed- Platonov (The Play Without a Title).
The production of Gorky’s Foma Gordeev which R.N. Simonov released in 1956, discovered young Gregory Abrikosov in the part of Foma.
Ruben Simonov loved music so much that in the theater they joked that The Living Corpse in 1962, he made just for gypsy singing: a guitar virtuoso Sorokin came specially for each performance from Leningrad. In The Living Corpse young L.A. Maksakova was very lovely, playing Masha.
December 23, 1956 came the premiere of “Filomena Marturano” Eduardo de Filippo directed by Eugene C. L. Simonov with C.L. Mansurova and R.N. Simonov in the leading roles. The show designer Saryan.
In 1957, Eugene Simon put up his third youth play – The City at the dawn. The city at the dawn in many respects preceded the future famous Irkutsk Story. Young people took the central part in the play: an open and vigorous Kostya Belous (M. Ulyanov), passionate, impulsive, Oksana (L. Pashkova), trusting, helpless, but tough inwardly Venya Altman (Yuri Yakovlev), a funny and touching dreamer Zjablik (M. Grekov played the same role 17 years ago in the Arbuzov studio).
In January 1958 Zahava produces Hamlet starring Michael Astangov.
1959 gave the final chord of “collective” comedy of late forties – The cook by A. Sofronov. The play enjoyed such a sincere and ingenuous sympathy among the audience that Sofronov wrote a sequel, and in two years The married cook again gathered full halls.
By the new, 1960, Eugene Simonov had staged the famous and wonderful story – a play by A. Arbuzov, Irkutsk Story. The author dedicated it to U. Borisova.
The 1960/61 season began with the first night of the comedy The Ladies and Hussars by A.Fredro produced by A. Remizova. This witty musical performance traced back to a vaudevillian tradition of Lev Gurych Sinichkin.
Still in 1962 Evgeny Simonove was offered to head the Maly Theatre, but he did not give up also productions in this theatre. L’Assommoir, a staging of ?mile Zola’s novel (produced in 1965 together with V.Shlezinger) was his real director’s success.
In 1963, by a 100-year-old anniversary of K. S. Stanislavsky and an 80-year-old anniversary of E.B.Vakhtangov P.N.Simonov renewed The Turandot Princess. This time the piece was played not by timid apprentices as once, but by splendid widely recognized actors: Yu. Borisova – a capricious arrogant princess, V.Lanovoy – goodlooker Kalaf, L. Maksakova – passionate Adelma, E.Raikina – naiv Zelima.
In 1965, R.Simonov gave the first night of The Diona, a comedy by Leonid Zorin closed to a political pamphlet by its ganre, and in 1966 – The Konarmia (The Horse Cavalry) based on I.Babel’s stories and V.Mayakovsky’s poems.
During a short, deceitful and dangerous happiness of the 60-s the wonderful actors made a reliable core for the theatre. This period gave two duo-performances that met new times realistically : The Two On the Swings by William Gibson (D. Andreeva’s production) and The Warsaw Melody by Leonid Zorin (the last production by Ruben Simonov).
In the middle of the 60-s the Vakhtangov Theatre again became so popular that it was quite difficult to get a ticket. The spectators loved Remizova’s perfomance (The Millionairess by B.Show) decorated by Akimov, it was played very often during almost 15 years.
By the end of 1968 A.Remizova gave the first night of A. N. Ostrovsky’s comedy Every Man Has a Fool In His Sleeve. It was the last work by Nikolay Akimov, the artist, he even could not manage to see his decoration on the stage. The performance was loved by spectators and was awarded with the State Prize.
One of the most favourite performances being on the repertoire for a long time was Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Moli?re – a fun, nice and joyful one – produced by V.Shlezinger.
Chief Director (1969–1987)
Ruben Simonov passed away on the 5th of December 1968. The Evgeny Vakhtangov Theatre suggested Evgeny Simonov to lead the way of the troupe. He left Maly Theatre and since January 1969 officially became Chief Director of The Vakhtangov Theatre.
The rise of The Vakhtangov Theatre at the turn of 1960s owes much to Evgeny Simonov. He was an easy, light-hearted and amiable man, who perfectly knew poetry, who was in love with music. He was a visionary and an amazing storyteller. Simonov was an adept of the idea about the poetic, elevating theatre, which, unfortunately, he didn’t fully bring to life.
Evgeny Simonov ruled The Theatre for almost eighteen years. He regularly put up performances, but the life of the troupe was fading. Simonov tried to stage something big and important, but it never brought any artistic success.
However these years brought success to many actors of The Theatre.
In 1968 Larisa Pashkova did a brilliant part of Melania in Maxim Gorky’s “Children of the Sun” staged by Evgeny Simonov.
Yuliya Borisova played in the performance “Antony and Cleopatra” directed by Evgeny Simonov. Huge success was awaiting her.
In a Croatian drama “The Glembays” by Miroslav Krleza (directed by Miroslav Belovich) starred such actors as Grigory Abrikosov (old man Ignat), Yury Yakovlev (artist Leon), Lyudmila Maksakova (sleek and thrifty baroness), Vasily Lanovoy (confessor Zilberbrant), Evgeny Karelskikh (evil legal adviser), Vladimir Osenev (cynical Fabrizio) and Vladimir Ivanov (young Oliver).
The performance “Grand Magic”, which was the second performance put on by Miroslav Belovich, lent ?clat to several actors: Yury Yakovlev played the part of a na?ve kidult, who loves to philosophosize, Vladimir Etush embodied “the wizard” Marvuglio, Lyudmila Maksakova played his extravagant and enchanting wife Dzajra and actors Alla Kazanskaya, Elena Dobronravova and Vyacheskav Dugin played the Di Spelta family.
Among artistic triumphs of Vasily Lanovoy most notable are the parts of Protasov in “Children of the Sun” (1968), Octavian, who craved for power, in Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” released in1971 (this role became one of the best appearances of Vasily Lanovoy) and Ognev in the performance “The Front” (1975).
In those years Shakepeare’s Antony became the significant part for Mikhail Ulyanov. A sort of a variation on that character was the figure of Vasily Shukshin’s Stepan Razin in the performance directed by Ulyanov. But the strongest work of Mikhail Ulyanov in those years was Shakespeare’s Richard III in the cognominal play staged by Armenian director Rachya Kaplanyan in 1976.
In the end of 1960s and in 1970s new actors joined the troupe, among them were Irina Kupchenko, Marianna Vertinskaya, Valentina Malyavina, Victor Zozulin, Evgeny Karelskikh, Yury Shlykov, Aleksandr Pavlov, Oleg Forostenko, Eleonora Shashkova, Nina Ruslanova, Vladimir Ivanov and Aleksandr Galevsky. All of them were involved in the core repertoire.
The audience adored comedies. In the performance “Hearse of Worse”(“A vos souhaits!”) by Pierre Chesnot (1983) in a light and graceful manner played Vladimir Etush, Marianna Vertinskaya, Vladimir Ivanov, Veronica Vasilieva and Agnessa Peterson. A lot of young incoming actors appeared in the performance “Old Russian Vaudevilles” (1980). Among them were Vladimir Simonov, Sergey Makovetsky, Olga Chipovskaya, Aleksandr Ryshenkov. The stars of the theatre – Vasily Lanovoy, Lyudmila Maksakova and Lyudmila Tselikovskaya – kept rejoicing the viewers.
“Three ages of Casanova”, based on the plays by Marina Tsvetaeva “Adventure” and “Phoenix”, was a great success with the public. It was a romantic performance that showed Casanova consequently when he was young (Evgeny Knyazev) with Henrietta (Elena Sotnikova), middle-aged (Vasily Lanovoy) with Mimi (Olga Chipovskaya) and old (Yury Yakovlev) with juvenile Francesca (Olga Gavrilyuk).
In the wake of restructuring critical articles, reconsidering the history of recent years of The Vakhtangov Theatre, began to appear one after another. The underlying anxiety started to grow.
Distemper was the sign of that time. With pangs and tortures the Mosow Art Theatre was dividing in two, passions around Ermolova’s Theatre were raging and The Moscow Young Generation Theatre was in a bustle.
On the 25th of December 1987 The Theatre was saying vales to Evgeny Simonov. As he left, he said that he was born in the theatre, that he loves it and harboures no grudge against anybody. The mood was heavy and nobody knew what would happen next. Mikhail Ulyanov, who was about to become the new Artistic Director, pointed out, that the resignation of Evgeny Simonov was a fearful move, but the time indisposed one to charity as The Theatre needed a new beginning.
Artistic Director (1987–2007)
When Ulyanov came to The Theatre he was not going either to stage by himself or cut the troupe as he had worked with them for years and tried to avoid barbarity; he was determined to call outstanding directors and playwrights. Three celebrated directors were admitted to the team of The Theatre, these were: Pyotr Fomenko, Roman Viktyuk and Arkady Katz.
The first opening show carried out after Simonov’s resignation was “The Rookie” (“Kabanchik”). Adolf Shapiro, a well-known director from Riga, was invited to stage the play written by Viktor Rozov.
By the end of 1987 the opening night of the “Treaty of Brest-Litovsk” by Mikhail Shatrov had taken place – this documentary play had been at a dead calm for twenty five years. The new version was half-true but daring: it was the first time for such characters as Trotsky (Vasily Lanovoy) and Bukharin to appear onstage. Robert Sturua, a Georgian director, was putting onstage a performance about Lenin’s effort to end war promptly in no support of his companions. Ulyanov played Lenin in a passionate manner with no stage make-up. This severe and ascetic play was heavily censored (as it used to in those days), but well-known revolutionaries appearing in black coats like ravens, coming from the back of the stage together with tragic music by Giya Kancheli did make a strong impression.
The theatre in those years was interested not only in new directors, new themes, but also in new exquisiteness produced by performances.
The staging of Eugene Scribe’s comedy “The Glass of Water” personified this idea. This bright performance directed by Aleksandr Belinsky with Joseph Sumbatashvii’s set design was contemplated to become the benefit performance of Jury Yakovlev. Yuliya Borisova unexpectedly showed Queen Ann as a poor and piercingly naive creature. Duchess Malborow was a volcanic female general in Lyudmila Maksakova’s interpretation, while Maxim Sukhanov played lieutenant as a fool dresses up as a guardsman.
The youth came to the theatre just from school. In the 1980’s these were Sergey Makovetsky, Olga Chipovskaya, Aleksandr Ryshenkov, Vladimir Simonov, Mikhail Semakov, Evgeny Knyazev, Elena Sotnikova, Mikhail Vaskov, Olga Gavrilyuk and then Maksim Sukhanov, Yuliya Rutberg, Marina Yesipenko, Lydia Velezheva and Natalia Moleva.
In 1989 Gariy Chernyachovsky put the idea of his student work “Zoika’s Apartment” onstage with a slightly changed cast. This play brought Maksom Sukhanov (in the role of Ametistov) to public notice: he turned out to be a flexible, cheerful ubiquitous and vulgar chameleon. Yuliya Rutberg made an impressing debut in the character of Zoika.
In 1989 Roman Viktyuk entered the team of The Theatre. He appeared here as early as in 1983 with his staging of “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. It was the moral aspect of the novel, not the love story that came to the fore in Viktyuk‘s interpretation. The performance stood out as a really challenging one.
1990 was the year when Roman Viktyuk staged the English melodrama “Lady without Camellias”. Lyudmila Maksakova again had the stellar role.
“The Master’s Lessons” written by David Pawnell was one the most significant works produced by Roman Viktyuk about the Soviet history. Within the black and white space created by artist Vladimir Boer were the characters of the political farce – Stalin, Zhdanov, Prokoviev and Shostakovich. Ulyanov played Stalin undauntedly: with abrupt changes, brutality, cruelty, sensuality and tragic temper. Zhdanov was the quintessence of fulsome flattery and impudence of feeling independent, he was disingenuous and cynical in his revelations. Philipenko was so eccentric in this part: it was a figure of a demon, inquisitor with criminal ambitions. Prokofiev as acted by Yakovlev personified fear and, as the critic Svobodin noticed, endeavour to retain dignity of the representative of the intelligenzia even when it was impossible. Shostakovich in Makovetsky’s interpretation seemed extremely young. This part turned out to be the breakthrough for the young actor, although he had worked in The Theatre before.
Roman Viktyuk staged the most democratic performance at The Vakhtangov Theatre (just before leaving it) where he expressed his admiration for the art – that was “Darling, I Do Not Know You Anymore”. The performance demonstrated the play of such actors as Lyudmila Maksakova, Sergey Makovetsky, Yuliya Rutberg and Mariya Aronova.
In March, 1991 Arkady Katz released “The ides of March” based on Tornton Wilder’s epistolary novel. It was a story about the last days of Caesar (Ulyanov played his part). There were Yuliya Borisova, Irina Kupchenko, Marina Yesipenko and Vladimir Ivanov among the actors.
Soon after “The Ides of March” there appeared the performance directed by Pyotr Fomenko “Sire You Are Our Father…” – scenes taken from Gorenstein’s play “The Filicide” about Peter the Great. “The Trial” (1988) written by Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin was the first play staged by Fomenko at The Vakhtangov Theatre. His next work – staging of Ostrovsky’s “Guilty without Guilt” became the best Moscow performance of season 1992/1993. It is still running at The Vakhtangov Theatre.
In a year the play “Dear Liar” written by Jerome Kilty went out. Yuliya Borisova had the part of Stella Patrick Campbell and Vasily Lanovoy played Bernard Shaw. Adolf Shapiro managed to make a truly good choice of space and actors. Borisova acted the way her own fate was shown through: we saw her rapacious appetites for talent, her conscious and subtle mind, bitterness about the years passing. Bernard Shaw in Lanovoy’s interpretation was not so much a brilliant writer of paradoxical mind as a man of theatre – he demonstrated mischief of an actor and stubbornness of a director, his reckless readiness to fall in love, to conceive a passion for something and appear to be defenceless.
The Theatre brought in fresh blood in the 1990s: Mariya Aronova, Yury Kraskov, Nonna Grishaeva, Anna Dubrovskaya, Oleg Makarov, Pavel Safonov, Olga Tumaykina, Aleksey Zavyalov and Oleg Lopukhov. All of them are the leading actors of The Vakhtangov Theatre today.
The last decade of Ulyanov’s work in The Theatre is mostly connected with bringing in such directors as Pyotr Fomenko (“The Queen of Spades”), Vladimir Mirzoev (“Cyrano de Bergerac”, “King Lear”, “Don Juan and Sganarelle”), Sergey Yashin (“Dedication to Eve”), Grigory Dityakovsky (“The Stag-King”), Rimas Tuminas (“The Auditor”), Aleksandr Gorban (“If you run after two hares…”), Dmitry Petrun (“Last Summer in Chulimsk”) and Mikhail Bychkov (“The Beauty Queen”).
The actors of the theatre also staged a lot: Vladimir Ivanov (“Imperial Hunt”, “Uncle’s Dream”, “Mademoiselle Nitouche”), Vyacheslav Shalevich (“Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”), Yury Shlykov (“The Dog in the Manger”) and Pavel Safonov (“The Seagull”, “Caligula”, “Deep Blue Sea”).
On The 26th of March, 2007 Mikhail Ulyanov passed away.
(from 2007 up to the present day)
At the beginning of the season 2007-2008 Rimas Tuminas took the helm of The Evgeny Vakhtangov Theatre. Mikhail Ulyanov invited him to the position of the Artistic Director. Ulyanov felt that Tuminas was a kindred spirit, a talented and extraordinary person, capable of taking the reins of the theatre.
The new leader did not immediately start rehearsing. He looked through the repertoire and as the majority of actors were not involved in any performances he suggested them to choose the directing and the drama by themselves for a non-scheduled work. This idea had been received with enthusiasm. Six months later several works were shown, and though none of them were included in the repertoire, Tuminas uncovered the potential of the actors and discussed all pros and cons with them. This measure turned out to be very useful later on.
Rimas Tuminas wanted to get to know the troupe better. He invited director and ballet master Angelica Kholina to stage the performance “Women’s Shore”. It was an experiment, as for the first time the music, not the drama, lied at the heart of the performance. Marlene Dietrich’s songs served as a plot. The meaning was expressed in terms of plastic, gesture, dance and energy – but not in terms of the word. Actors of different generations acquired unusual directing method, which gave full scope to their artistic potential.
In October 2008 the performance “White Acacia” was shown on the main stage. It was a graduation work of The Boris Shukin Institute course, directed by Vladimir Ivanov (he was the master of the course). Sixteen actors, involved in the play, joined the troupe. The performance stayed in the repertoire for two seasons.
Rimas Tuminas chose one of the most complex Shakespeare’s plays “Troilus and Cressida’ to be his debut work. The idea was to create the play, the main advantage of which was that the actors would form a single whole. Director managed to bring together actors of different ages. The play was a significant achievement.
Rimas Tuminas cares about the upbringing of well-educated actors and their acculturation. Therefore he invited experts in art, music and literature, who spoke about the ancient history during the work on “Troilus and Cressida”, about the romantic era that is shown in the performance “Masquerade”, and about the theatre of the absurd in “The Wind in the Poplars”.
In recent years the atmosphere of the theatre has changed a lot. The creativity of the troupe has grown. The initiative and critical attitude to oneself and to the profession has emerged. There is no place for self-complacence and indifference.
Prior to the jubilee season Rimas Tuminas suggested the troupe to search for new plays and directors. He motivated the people of the theatre not to be afraid of trying something new and through inevitable mistakes reach success.
In the theatre there are always actresses whose acting career encounters hardships despite their talent. It is hard to find a play about the women of a certain age. Yet Vera Novikova, Olga Chipovskaya, Agnessa Peterson, Irina Kalistratova and young actress Ekaterina Simonova took an interest in the play “The Farewell Tour” by Juliu Edlis. Under the direction of Oleg Forostenko they told a touching, ironic and slightly sad story of middle-aged actresses, whose life is somewhat similar to their own.
Within the context of independent works, one of the most notable is Jean Anouilh’s “Medea”, directed by Mikhail Tsitrinyak with Yuliya Rutberg in the leading role, who strikes the audience with dazzling dramatic depth of her talent.
Fourteen performances had been released in four seasons. Collaboration with the best directors, such as Vladimir Ivanov, Yury Butusov, Vladimir Mirzoev and Adolph Shapiro, was interesting and fruitful.
The prestige of the theatre increased. The troupe successfully tours around Russia and abroad – Yaroslavl, Saratov, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Saint-Petersburg, Samara, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Kiev, Kharkov, Minsk, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Torun, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Madrid, Gdansk, Prague, Plzen and so on. International tours align with participation in prestigious theatre festivals.
“The Russian Newspaper” described Rimas Tuminas as the “chosen one”. It said that “the blood of the true director is in his veins. He breathes life into the stage, imbues it with will and sense, converts the performance to a separate planet”. Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”, staged by Tuminas in September 2009, became the champion of different awards and prizes.
The 90th anniversary of The Evgeny Vakhtangov Theatre birth is celebrated on the 13th of January. The idea to release “The Haven” came to Rimas Tuminas. It is the performance, which pays tribute to those actors, who devoted their lives to the stage of The Vakhtangov Theatre. They are the ones who stood at the roots of the theatre, the ones, who glorified it.
In this unusual performance, which includes the pieces from different plays and epochs, each actor has a solo. Yuliya Borisova, Lyudmila Maksakova, Vkadimir Etush, Yury Yakovlev, Vasily Lanovoy, Vyacheslav Shalevich, Galina Konovalova, Irina Kupchenko, Evgeny Knyazev and Sergey Makovetsky – all these actors have their personal significant parts in the play. The rest of the troupe is keeping them company.
“The Haven” is a performance in memory of those who are no longer here. It proclaims love, talent, respect and faith for the future.