Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a three-part series from Jennie Franks of the Telluride Playwrights Festival, which takes place over a week in July. Jennie went to Moscow this spring to check out the theatre scene in caviar country. Read on about Day Two: Mask Theatre Festival.

After a quick visit to the Red Square and Lenin’s tomb, I was pumped to see “Two In Your House” at Theatr.Doc, a small independent theatre where the play was directed by Mikhail Ugarov and Talgat Batalov.

“Two In Your House” is a docudrama based on the recent house arrest of the Belarusian opposition and presidential candidate Vladimir Nekyaev. After the elections, he and his wife were put under house arrest. The writer had chosen not to make political statements (still a wise choice in Russia today). Instead, he wrote a comedy of the three KGB-like security guards who lived with them for four months. The play’s finale has the three security guards washing down all traces of their having been there, mountains of soap suds covering the stage. Since I was in the front row, all traces of recent Moscow mud were neatly erased from my boots too. A fun and optimistic ending, where, as the program notes stated: “In unison with Moscow during the recent rally against Putin.”

Spring wasn’t quite in the air yet or in the snowy streets, but the smell of optimism definitely was (and is), with much discussion about the state of the theatre. Literally “The State,” as it’s the state that finances and supports theatre companies, although underground theatre companies are now springing up, self-financed and in the case of Theatr.Doc, and doing political theatre, all fueled by the December 4th movement, where over 8000 people spontaneously marched against Putin’s rigged elections. (Within five days, the group of protesters had grown to over 15, 000 thanks to Facebook. )

Facebook is a new phenomenon in Russia and very exciting to everyone involved in theatre. At long last, a little crack in the armor of the Sate. Perhaps now theatre can be produced without having to adhere to what the State says should be produced. Helped by the West, especially America, where Philip Arnoult is instrumental in bringing new Russian plays to this country, there is a cautious feeling of hope.

Even more exciting for me is the fact our Telluride Playwright’s Festival has invited Yuri Urnov, one of the young Russian directors, to come and direct a reading and talk about Russian theatre. And Yuri accepted. Finally Telluride gets political not just on the streets or in town council, but on the boards.

The Festival will kick off in June with a showing of “Goodbye Lenin”  June 26, at the Wilkinson Public Library.

Keep watching out for news of the Telluride Playwrights Festival, this year, July 9 – July 15, at the historic Sheridan Opera House.

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