Editor’s Note: For the past two days, Jennie Franks of the Telluride Playwrights Festival, this year,  July 9 – July 15, has blogged about her spring trip to Russia. This is the final installment of her “Theatre Tales,” but stay tuned to Telluride Inside… and Out for more about the upcoming festival.

Towards the end of my Russian adventure on the Russian Case Theatre trip in Moscow, we were whisked off and taken on a surprise visit to the Moscow School of Dramatic Arts, to see  Dimitry Krymov’s colorful and striking “Ta- Ra Ra-Boom-De-Boom.”

“Ta- Ra Ra-Boom-De-Boom” is a celebration of the 150-year anniversary of Anton Chekhov, an hour and a half of a high-spirited performance, much like a mad May Day parade. The evening featured 80 energetic actors, ranging from small boys to octogenarians, all charging down a runway at full speed, dressed as the Red Army or an old man in ballet shoes playing a soloist from the Bolshoi ballet and other characters from Chekhov in vignettes of Checkhov’s work.

A hot rumor is the production will next be seen in Los Angeles. Keep your ear to the ground and your eyes peeled if you live in the area. Don’t miss the show.

The Moscow Arts Theatre is extraordinarily beautiful and modern. It was built for Dimitry Krymov and designed by Anatoly Vaslilev who says of the structure: “I dreamt of a building, a city-laboratory with squares, streets, lights and airy auditoriums where the eye would meet no obstruction and the guest’s inquisitive gaze would only be stopped by the sky.”

There are more rehearsal rooms at the School of Dramatic Arts than auditoriums. Productions sometimes take years before they are performed in front of an audience, if at all. Before the performance, I wandered around the airy building, getting a glimpse of actors getting their costumes from a big hall filled with tables of hats and props.

In addition to the theatre itself, I was treated to many discussions surrounding the state of theatre in Russia. Not only were the seminars about theatre, they themselves were rather theatrical in nature. I particularly want to thank a gentleman from Estonia, who managed to liven things up towards the end of one talk by declaring in a loud, deep voice in Russian, (impeccably translated through my earpiece):  ‘I disagree’.  From then on, the discussion took off.

That wasn’t the first time I had witnessed someone disagreeing and frankly it was a joy to hear because disagreements are always a catalyst for the delightfully heated discussion that would soon follow. There would be no hard feelings, no treading gently on toes, just passionate and articulate opinions clearly expressed.

Theatre in Russia today is at an exciting crossroads. Everyone can see an opening in the state-run censorship of the past. Everyone senses a breath of fresh democratic air seeping in through cracks and reaching the artistic community in a way that was totally denied in the past. Whether the change produces better theatre in Russia remains still to be seen.

In July, the Telluride Playwrights Festival plans to concentrate on a Russian theme, thanks to the help Philip Arnoult of the Center for International Theatre Development. There will be a reading of a new Russian play, plus a talk about the state of Russian theatre and how it compares to American theatre currently. Yury Urnov who is presently directing at Wooly Mammoth in Washington D.C. will be part of the festival company. He will lead the discussion. And with luck, it will be as lively as the ones I experienced in Moscow. I am hoping at least one person shouts out “I disagree.”

In closing, we want to thank our sponsors and supporters: CCASSE  Colorado Creative Industries, and Silverstar Properties, whose generosity makes it possible for the show to go on.

For more information, please ‘Like’ the Telluride Playwrights Festival on Facebook and check out our website to get in touch with us about auditioning, volunteering, and attending.

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