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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MARQUEE: Theater Rises Above Politics




Thursday's opener of the Third Chekhov International Theater Festival with "Six Characters in Search of an Author" by Boston's American Repertory Theater will mark the first time in recent memory that a major U.S. theater has performed in Moscow. That the ART is bringing two other shows besides -- Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin's "When the World Was Green" and Carlo Gozzi's "The King Stag" -- is an added indication of the importance of the U.S. presence for the festival.


But in light of this week's political sensations, I can't help but think back to the beginnings. It was in October 1992, one of the bleakest stretches in the post-perestroika era, and only 11 of the 14 theaters originally advertised for the First Chekhov Festival managed, some just barely, to perform.


Two Georgian theaters refused to come as a protest against alleged Russian involvement in the armed conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia. A Lithuanian theater backed out at the last minute, claiming its show wasn't ready. Two other theaters barely arrived in Moscow. The Armenian Sundukyan Theater was held at the Yerevan airport for three days before it could fly out, while the Akhorun Theater from Tajikistan came in five days late because a coup in Dushanbe had closed down all flights out of that country.


It was a time when many thought the holding of a theater festival was unnecessary, if not unconscionable. Valery Shadrin, the festival president, believed otherwise. He said then -- and he repeated the thought at a news conference last week -- that cultural events in periods of economic and political difficulties can only bring good.


That first Chekhov Festival was a skimpy affair that featured as many snags as good shows. But it sent a message that theater and culture can rise above politics. The current festival, with over 50 shows playing in two and a half months, is a resounding confirmation thatShadrin was right.


That said, the first bad news of the current festival is already in: Kama Ginkas' Helsinki production of "Macbeth" will not be coming as originally announced due to a lack of funds.


See MT Out each Friday for schedules. Tickets and information are available at the International Confederation of Theater Unions, 21/1 Leontyevsky Pereulok. Tel. 929-7070.