Today, being a theatre lover is easy, even if you live a thousand miles away. Social media allows us to follow our favorite troupes from any place of the world. Our experts from Facebook’s theatre-themed community recommend paying special attention to several theatres that, in their opinion, are doing especially well when it comes to grabbing digital audiences’ attention.
The Maly Theatre claims to be “safeguarding the traditions of the acting craft and the Russian culture”; it is described as a place “where actors value every word that is said on-stage, while directors cherish and respect their literary sources”. The repertoire is based on Russian and foreign classics. The theatre actively shares its daily highlights on social media, in addition to streaming events that are relevant to its activities (creative get-togethers, exhibitions, and more). The Maly Theatre troupe notes that “working with digital formats is an excellent opportunity to pique the interest of the new, modern audience and make it pay attention”; as digital technology allows the theatre to present itself to the broadest swathes of public regardless of location, and to find common ground with the younger generation, which tends to consume content digitally.
The Kvartet I comedy theatre was founded by a group of Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) alumni that studied at the variety theatre faculty: actors Leonid Baratz, Aleksandr Demidov, Kamil Larin, and Rostislav Khait, along with director Sergey Petreykov. Over the past years, the company has established itself as one of the most upbeat theatres in Moscow, managing to work in the “pure humor” genre. The theatre’s creative work primarily targets young, socially active people. Members of the Kvartet I always write the script for their productions themselves, even when they base their shows on a literary source created by a different author; they also collaborate with other theatre, radio, and television projects.
Praktika is an experimental theatre led by Marina Brusnikina. It is one of the few theatres focused on the production of modern Russian plays. The theatre serves as a training base for workshops run by a variety of theatre colleges, allowing young performers to unleash their creative potential and work in tandem with the best directors and set designers. At the moment, Praktika houses the Dmitry Brusnikin workshop, the Oleg Kudryashov workshop, the Viktor Ryzhakov workshop, and Yury Makeyev’s Teatr Vkusa (Theatre of Taste).
The theatre’s current development stage began with the arrival of a new creative team, headed by art director Yevgeny Mironov, People’s Artist of Russia and winner of multiple State Awards. The Theatre of Nations does not have permanent staff in a company or creative team which allows them to involve qualified and famous artists from different theatres into productions. Its goal is to collaborate with international theatres and invite global celebrities to its stage. Their repertoire includes such outstanding directors as Robert Wilson, Robert Lepage and Alvis Hermanis, who are the main contributors to the development of the European theatre world. To a big extent this is possible due to Roman Dolzhansky, Yevgeny Mironov’s assistant and art director of two theatre festivals, NET and “Territory”.
TEATR.DOC is a “documentary drama theatre” – an independent, non-profit, grassroots project. Most of TEATR.DOC’s productions are documentaries, based on real stories, interviews, and experiences of real people. Documentary theatre is a unique genre that crosses the line between art and social analysis of contemporary issues. The theatre’s creative groups stage productions on the most urgent, burning subjects of the day. Striving to build up a social media presence, the theatre also offers live streams of its one-time events.
The place always associated with academic, conservative and psychological aspects of a theatre opens its doors to a variety of new theatre formats – from visual and entertaining performances to social experiments with audience. Today BDT is an innovative theatre led by Andrey Moguchy, a director who was one of the first creators of a visual and entertaining theatre in Russia. Apart from working on productions, BDT also holds lectures and workshops and is committed to modern art (for example, the theatre’s team transformed a half of its historic building into a conceptual architecture project).
The Meyerhold Center offers theatre companies an open platform, and creators that follow the most diverse art movements use its convertible stage for cross-genre productions. Its Black Hall is an intimately small space for new drama and modern dance. The Kruzhki (Workshops) program lets the public experience the world of modern theatre first-hand. And the kids’ program features a collection of plays for the smallest theatregoers, staged by aspiring teams of young performers. The Meyerhold Center’s team intends to “entirely forgo all typography and switch to a purely digital format”.
The Dmitry Brusnikin Workshop evolved from a training course at the Moscow Art Theatre School. It was founded by Dmitry Brusnikin, outstanding actor from the Moscow Art Theatre, director, professor, Distinguished Artist of the Russian Federation, Distinguished Artistic Personality of the Russian Federation. This is a unique theatre experiment for Russia – Brusnikin was one of the first figures who invited directors to work with his students, taught students new theatre formats and prepared artists for a new theatre. The Masterskaya’s team is one of the few troupes brought up on new plays.
Today, the Mayakovsky Theatre is an academic space carefully transformed by director Mindaugas Karbauskis. It strives to maintain a delicate balance between the traditions of Russian psychological drama and the global art trends, with their new forms and texts. The troupe works with a boundless variety of material, from classical playwrights’ plays to documentary productions, from European intellectualism to new drama, from dramatic epics to first plays staged by students.
The Taganka Theatre is rich in history. This is where the most prominent figures of Russian art – Lyubimov, Efros, Vysotsky, Smekhov, and many others – worked on their creations. In 2016, Irina Apeksimova stood at the theatre’s helm, setting a new development trajectory. With each passing year, the theatre’s playbill gets expanded, thanks to the addition of productions of up-and-coming new directors; the productions become more diverse as well (for instance, the Taganka Theatre is now showing a number of musicals), and feature more and more modern tech. For instance, in November 2019, the theatre launched the Taganka Metamorphoses creative lab; as part of the project, the troupe presented the Screenlife show, which takes place in the physical and virtual reality at the same time.
The Post Theatre is an independent troupe that was founded by Dmitry Volkostrelov, alumnus of the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts, who rallied together a team of young actors whom he used to study with. The theatre works with modern playwrights out of principle; and in 2019, it put on a play based on a script that was randomly generated by a computer. When commenting on the theatre’s name, Volkostrelov explains, “It is very important for us to see the micro and macro motions within the universe and ourselves today. And today, according to Baudrillard, we live in a post-orgy world, a world where anything that could have happened has happened already. That’s a given. Nothing can surprise us anymore. This is what post means. Where can we go if we have already arrived? Is it even true that life is motion, or maybe all we need is to stop? This is what we are dealing with: post-motion, post-stop, post-life, post-drama, post-theatre”.
The core members of the Masterskaya (Workshop) troupe are graduates of the acting and directing course at the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts. The Masterskaya lives and breathes Russian psychological theatre, with the maximal focus on individuals, their actions and aspirations, and an unwavering faith in humanity. The creators from the Masterskaya team do not shy away from experimenting with drama, visuals, and different concepts.
In Russian, the theatre’s name is actually an acronym that stands for a Team of Modern Theatre Actors. The team was assembled in 2016, when working on the Lone Apostle show. It is also a play on jewelry casting. The troupe believes that together, these two meanings form the most accurate reflection of its approach to its “work, material, and the public”, and that they highlight the “value, beauty, and deep meaning” of the theatre’s production. The KAST Theatre refers to social media as “the shortest direct-to-consumer path”; it says that social networking, just as other digital platforms, can help “take theatre to places where it cannot be taken physically”. The troupe uses social media not just for chatting with their audiences but also for occasional livestreams of their rehearsals. The director, Aleksandr Minin, also curates a Facebook community, The Independent Theatres of Moscow, where he talks about the independent theatre companies across the Russian capital.
This is a theatre with an impressive history where Anatoly Efros, one of the main directors of the late Soviet era, created his best performances. The Malaya Bronnaya Theatre is currently among the top ten Moscow theatres by the number of visitors, and its art director, Konstantin Bogomolov, is considered one of modern Russia’s foremost directors. He aims to turn the theatre into a bourgeois space for a wide audience. It will still speak to the audience in a clear traditional theatre language, but at the same time will aspire to the highest standards of acting and directing.
The Pop-Up Theatre founded and led by Semyon Aleksandrovsky claims to be “a new type of independent theatre”: “We do not act inside a building out of principle; we use streets, bars, and fields as a backdrop for our productions; and soon enough, we will be introducing shows inside your smartphone. One way or another, we always work with documentary material, and almost always perform in a live environment”, Aleksandrovsky notes. The theatre works extensively with the audio format and plans launching audio projects and digital performances.
The CDR (Center for Playwriting and Directing) Theatre was founded for the purpose of helping young directors and playwrights flesh out the ideas that occur to them during their creative search. Striving to tell the broadest audience possible about their work, the members of the CDR team actively engage with the public in social media, in addition to managing a separate Instagram account on behalf of a character from their School of Sleep show. The theatre also uses the digital space for livestreams of its one-time shows, readings, and concerts that are not part of its regular repertoire. The CDR notes that digital platforms play a key role in theatre development: it “gives creators and audiences an opportunity to find new means of engaging in a dialogue and becoming closer to one another”.
The 18+ Theatre is a modern drama venue that helps its audiences learn more about contemporary texts, the new theatre technology, and relevant theatre events overall; it works in close collaboration with the local art community (artists and musicians). According to its own mission statement, the theatre targets “progressive audiences that are ready to see experiments with form and action; after all, the 18+ Theatre is the only place in the city where you can see a play that will take you on a journey along the streets of old Rostov, or experience a horror show inside an old warehouse, or see both yourself and your boss in a different show’s characters, or step onto the stage beside the protagonist”.
Even though its theatre studio bears the modest name Nebolshoi (literally Small), it is, nonetheless, a professional state establishment; and its director, Lev Borisovich Erenburg, used to study under none other than the great Georgy Tovstonogov (whose name has been immortalized by the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in St. Petersburg). The Nebolshoi Theatre’s social media community is offered not just useful information, but educational content as well: the Theatre is running a series of videos where actors casually and humorously teach viewers some tips and tricks of their profession, and share secrets and hidden pitfalls.
Gogol Center is a theatre project headed by Kirill Serebrennikov. The Gogol Center team calls itself a “city within a theatre” and a “land of freedom”. This is a unique space where all types of modern art coexist side by side; aside from productions by Russian and European directors, the public can also attend film screenings, lectures, debates, concerts, and exhibitions. Gogol center runs its own YouTube channel which serves in essence as their own media outlet.
The Bolshoi Theatre has always been one of the most symbolic paragons of Russian theatre art. It goes without saying that the core of its repertoire is made out of musical theatre masterpieces of the 19th and 20th century, with the legendary Swan Lake serving as its indisputable calling card. But even though it is so closely associated with historical productions, the Bolshoi is far from stagnating: its playbill is constantly being supplemented with modern productions. The theatre is highly dedicated to a digital transformation of its activities; this includes actively working on a social media presence. In addition, it also curates Bolshoi Ballet on the Big Screen digital project, which allows international audiences to see HD relays of Bolshoi productions in various cinemas around the world; for Russian viewers, some relays are available for free in the comfort of their own home at media.bolshoi.ru.
Mariinsky Theatre is one of Russia’s key theatre hubs. It was here where the development of Russian theatre began; and it was here where numerous masterpieces of music and opera saw the light of day for the first time. Over more than two centuries of history, Mariinsky has graced the world with countless great singers and dancers: Feodor Chaliapin, Sofia Preobrazhenskaya, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Today the theatre also nurtures many astounding artists: music director Valery Gergiyev and prima ballerina Diana Vishneva. Mariinsky productions often star world-class guest performers.
Stanislavsky Electrotheatre is a modern culture space that shapes its own philosophy and thus offers a new means of communication: an open dialog with the audience. The theatre works in the field of drama and music alike, and is one of the leading venues for experimental music. Its stages are easily convertible and boast the latest technical equipment, which allows to put on shows of unmatched complexity levels. The team believes that “digital platforms bring the public closer”. Aside from the playbill and information about what’s on, Stanislavsky Electrotheatre’s social media pages also feature live streams of meetings with production crews, trailers of upcoming shows, video relays of lectures and seminars, and longreads on the relevant subjects. Stanislavsky Electrotheatre even has its own Instagram masks, which it designs together with the Vova digital agency. The masks are inspired by the makeup and costumes of characters from the theatre’s shows. The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre Instagram Stories include behind-the-scenes photos and videos that show how actors put on their makeup and what happens backstage during the show, as well as feature questions to directors and actors. Furthermore, the theatre streams its shows live across various platforms. Its productions feature a wealth of technology; notably, the videos and set elements used in its Psychosis show, based on a play by Sarah Kane, were later adopted by the AES+F art group for its own independent VR project.
The Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre carries the name of P. I. Tchaikovsky and is one of Russia’s oldest music theatres. The construction of the building was initiated and funded by the local community. It was also the first regional theatre to go on tour to the Bolshoi in Moscow. From 2011 to 2019, the music direction of the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre was handled by the renowned conductor Teodor Currentzis. The quality of the Perm Theatre’s ballet and opera productions is so high that whenever something new premieres, the entire city turns into a major music hub. During the Golden Mask Festival, the Perm Theatre always gives many leading Russian theatres some serious competition.
Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is one of the largest musical theatres in Russia that preserves the traditions of Russian, global and Tatar music culture. It underwent reconstruction in 2005, and today the staged performances are made complete with complex state-of-the-art set designs and lighting effects. The theatre annually hosts two large-scale international festivals: the opera festival, dedicated to the signer Feodor Chaliapin, and the ballet festival, which bears the name of the world famous artist Rudolf Nureyev.