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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MARQUEE: Forum Raises Funding Issue

The recent national forum, "Theater: A Time of Changes," brought thousands of directors, actors, administrative personnel and politicians to Moscow from all over Russia.

Organized by the Union of Theater Workers and the Culture Ministry, it was hosted by the Moscow mayor's office. Mayor Yury Luzhkov, opening the forum last Monday, called the present a "time of loss of intellect" and suggested it is the mission of the arts to "turn around" that trend.

The forum's central task was to call attention to the problems of theater organizations and suggest possible solutions.

Key proposals included a so-called law on theater that would codify the responsibilities of government to theater workers and organizations; changes in the tax laws that would stimulate financing from the private sector; and the creation of other forms of budget and nonbudget financing.

Most controversial was a proposal to create a system of regional funding, grants that would be distributed to theaters or individuals for specific productions or projects.

The article's original wording stated that the funding should derive from nonbudget sources as well as those already designated in local budgets for culture.

The first vote appeared to pass the proposal, but an immediate outcry forced its reconsideration. Largely under the influence of a speech by Maly Theater artistic director Yury Solomin, the proposal was rejected on the third vote, even though the article's wording was changed to refer only to nonbudget sources.

Solomin argued that since most theaters do not receive much of the money they are due under budgets, funds created out of budget money would be no more likely to reach their destination.

His comments served to trigger, while not addressing specifically, fears common to many that such funding merely provides bait for bandits.

Some forum participants viewed the proposal's defeat as rejecting an attempt by a coalition of independent directors to achieve fair access to funds.

A last-minute appeal by Genrietta Yanovskaya, artistic director of the Moscow Theater Yunogo Zritelya, to draft an address condemning the recent rise of fascist activity in Russia also stirred controversy.

Despite some complaints that the forum had no business engaging in politics, the proposal was eventually passed.