Theater Plus: John Freedman presents a stimulating critique of Russian theatre with regular reviews of stage performances.

New Yorker Brings Yekaterinburg Play to Moscow

By John Freedman
Nicole Kontolefa is a New Yorker born and bred. One might say, however, that at least part of her heart lies in Moscow. She was a resident of Moscow for four years while she studied at the Moscow Art Theater School and she is a member of the Art Theater's Studio Six, which is based in New York.

Russia and Crimea 160 Years After Tolstoy

By John Freedman
Leo Tolstoy wrote famously about his experiences in the Crimean War in the mid-1850s. His book, "The Sevastopol Stories," has been a source of great cultural pride for some Russians over the last century and a half.

Twenty Years of the Fomenko Studio in Print and Pictures

By John Freedman
Everybody knows what happens to the best laid plans devised by men and mice. They go awry. Robert Burns taught us that. John Steinbeck reminded us of it. And life itself brings down the hammer on that one daily.

Back to the Future in Russia

By John Freedman
What a week. What a mess. What farces! What tragedies! For your information, my appetite for irony is at zero. Don't read anything into those exclamation points except what grammar blandly intends.

Hanging Tough in Russia

Hanging Tough in Russia
By John Freedman
I could have written about any number of things this week. For example, how theatrical was ice skater Yevgeny Plyushchenko's "retirement"? Why lace panties may be banned from production or import beginning July 2014, and what that means for Russian culture and politics. Or, why, according to a new poll, 60% of Americans have a negative attitude towards Russia, and why the feeling among Russians these days is pretty much mutual.

Shared Fame and Shame at the 2014 Winter Olympics

By John Freedman
I once wrote most of what I planned to be a book about Russia. I got as far as sending chapters out to publishers. One of the few editors who was kind enough to reject me personally explained why my proposal wasn't of interest. It was "too worshipful" of Russia, she wrote.

Independent TV Rain Under Attack

By John Freedman
Let's admit it. Ever since the Dozhd television station, also known as Rain TV, appeared in early 2010, many of us have wondered how long it could last. We now may know.

The Artistic Community Responds to Events in Kiev

By John Freedman
When the going gets tough, as we have seen repeatedly in recent years, the tough take to Facebook. At least that's what they do in this part of the world.

When Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy Brought America to Russia

By John Freedman
Now, I may be jumping the gun a little bit with today's blog. It is prompted by a show — "The Gin Game" at the Sovremennik Theater — that I won't review until Thursday's issue. But I'm not actually writing about that today; I'm just using it as a springboard to a few half-forgotten memories. So I don't think I'm spilling any important beans here.

Theater News All Day and All of the Nite

By John Freedman
Theater is a world unto itself. Sure, there's Russian theater and American theater and theater from England, France and Japan and Bali, and they're all different.

Remembering Igor Popov

By John Freedman
I was not here to see Igor Popov's great early work. I am not able to provide a personal, rounded account of his accomplishments. I did not know him. I cannot provide insights into his character or his biography.

A Christmas Gift from Fyodor Dostoevsky

By John Freedman
I don't think it is a hoax. Although I haven't found much hard proof to back it up, either."It" is a Christmas poem that goes by one of two titles — "God's Gift" or "An Angel-child on Christmas Eve."

This (Approximate) Date in Russian Cultural History

By John Freedman
I am taking the day off, for reasons that will be made clear near the end of this text. As such I am cobbling this blog together a few days in advance.

The Taganka Lives!

By John Freedman
You must accept my apology in advance. I have written several blogs and articles in a row about theater scandals. Yes, the topic is getting old. But it is also heating up. I don't invent these things, I just follow them.

Controversies Dog the Taganka and the Moscow Art Theater All Week Long

Controversies Dog the Taganka and the Moscow Art Theater All Week Long
By John Freedman
If Russian theater is a mirror of Russian society — and most any Russian theater artist will tell you that is true — then Russia is in turmoil.

A Week of Controversy in Russian Culture

By John Freedman
It's been a rocky week in the sphere of Russian culture. A couple of big names, such as President Vladimir Putin and St. Petersburg director Lev Dodin, can attest to that.

Golden Mask Nominees Announced

By John Freedman
The Golden Mask Festival has announced award nominees for the 2012-2013 season. Officially the festival will run from January 25 to April 17, 2014, in order to include many hard-to-schedule productions, usually in the musical categories.

The "Russian" Element of American Culture

By John Freedman
As I flew across the Atlantic yesterday on my way back to Moscow from the United States I had the unexpected pleasure of watching one of my favorite movies of recent years — Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."

Khodorkovsky, Tolokonnikova Enrich Russian Literature

By John Freedman
About halfway through an evening of readings organized by the Andrei Sakharov Memorial Center on Friday, one of the readers added a few words of her own. "I have the sense that this is a funeral memorial of some sort," she said.

Turning Lives Around With Theater

By John Freedman
"It turned my life around," Yevgeny Lyapin told a crowd of 700 people at the Pushkin Theater last Monday, "because now I want to work in theater. I had thought about singing or TV hosting and other possibilities, but theater has now entered my life. I never realized theater could be such an interesting thing."

A Benefit Theatrical Marathon for Vladimir Ageyev

By John Freedman
When the news surfaced in social media at the end of September it seemed unreal. Vladimir Ageyev, one of Moscow's most prolific directors of the last 15 years, had been diagnosed with bone cancer.

What Ruth Maleczech Taught Me About Theater

By John Freedman
Long ago in Boston I got a one-two shot of Ruth Maleczech that I never forgot. In early March 1988 I saw her perform in Peter Sellars' production of Velemir Khlebnikov's avant-garde poem "Zangezi." Two months later I saw her do a one-woman performance of a single chapter from Vasily Grossman's epic novel "Life and Fate."

Russian History Through Russian Drama

By John Freedman
Russia can boast of many new play festivals. But Moscow has a new one with a new twist - the Reading Cycle of Historical Plays by Contemporary Authors will present nothing but historical dramas.

"New Russian Plays" in English

By John Freedman
Readers of this space know the name of Noah Birksted-Breen. He actually wrote a few guest blogs here a few years ago when I was on vacation — the only person I've ever entrusted my blog to. More importantly, however, I've written about Noah's important work in detail or in passing many times.

Putting Money Where Your Russian Is

By John Freedman
Decades ago in a moment of insane hubris I told someone I might someday attempt to create a new translation of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

A Russian Road Play Hits the Brooklyn Streets

By John Freedman
A couple of weeks ago I received a request to write a small text. I often receive such letters and I'm not always able to respond positively. This one, however, was different.

If It's September It Must be Lyubimovka!

By John Freedman
The first letters in the Moscow theater season for the last decade have been precisely these: L-y-u-b-i-m-o-v-k-a.

Whither the Taganka Theater?

By John Freedman
This isn't a prediction, but it is a sneaking suspicion. I think that in the relatively near future there will be some big news concerning the Taganka Theater.

The Russia That Is and the Russia We Wish For

By John Freedman
Okay, so Edward Snowden is out of Sheremetyevo and into Moscow. And some U.S. politicians are unhappy about that.

St. Petersburg Theater by Numbers

By John Freedman
Some time ago I put together an unorthodox picture of Moscow theater using numbers of various kinds. It's a hit-or-miss way of looking at a broad topic and it has no pretensions of providing a fully rounded portrait.

Is Gogol Center Destined for Greatness?

By John Freedman
My annual Moscow Times theater awards won't be published in print and online until next week but I can lift the curtain on one secret now: Gogol Center is going to be generously represented in that list.

Russian Literature Not Lost in Translation

By John Freedman
This week I am thinking about translation. More specifically I am thinking about those translators who were there for me Ч and several generations of people like me Ч when I became interested in Russian literature last century.

Radical Changes in Moscow Theater

By John Freedman
My grandmother used to say of small towns, "Blink and you'll miss it." That's rather what I think about the†changes hitting Moscow theater of†late.

St. Petersburg, City of Literature

By John Freedman
St. Petersburg is the city of literature. Most of its streets are as straight as an arrow, laid out on a fanned grid like books neatly placed on a shelf. But there are anomalies, too. Its curved, tapered streets lined by beautiful old buildings that hug narrow, wending waterways can actually look like an open book if you look hard enough. At least they always have to me.

Yekaterinburg, the Capital of Constructivism

By John Freedman
It has been almost four weeks since I was in Yekaterinburg, but the city still clings to my memory. I had been there before but I must say I only really saw the place for the first time last month.

Leo Tolstoy Off and Online

By John Freedman
I always wanted to own the 90-volume set of Leo Tolstoy's collected works. But I never have.

Living in Dmitry Krymov's World

By John Freedman
I kept running into a woman I have known in Moscow for 20 years or more. She had an enigmatic smile on her face, as if she was squinting to look into the distance and was finding something of interest there.

An American Critic on Nikolai Kolyada

By John Freedman
I promised last week I would have more to say about a recent trip to Yekaterinburg and here I am to honor that pledge.


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Author's Bio
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John Freedman has been the theater critic of The Moscow Times since its inception in 1992. His work at the paper, as well as his books, translations and writings for other publications on four continents have made him a leading international authority on Russian theater. For more information, visit his website.

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