Nov. 7 will mark the Broadway debut of Moscow's Sovremennik Theatre, a company that has played the United States only once -- for six weeks as part of Seattle's Goodwill Games. The troupe will play five performances of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters and three performances of Eugenia Ginzburg's Into The Whirlwind at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Sisters premieres Nov. 7 and continues Nov. 11, 12 and 13. Whirlwind, which was the Goodwill Games offering, runs Nov. 15 16.
Sovremennik Artistic Director Galina Volchek, who directs both plays, was quoted as saying, "As a director, I seek to communicate to audiences the relevance in a play... [The way it] addresses the issues of the times, in terms of the society it reflects." She feels this is the ideal time to present Into the Whirlwind in America because of the realistic threat that communism may return to Russia.
The Sovremennik Theater of Moscow ("sovremennik" means "contemporary" in English) was founded in 1956 to oppose the restrictive art policies of the Soviet regime. As if to show how times have changed, this engagement was endorsed by the Moscow government as the official opening of a Russian Arts Festival to celebrate the 850th anniversary of the founding of the city of Moscow.
Three Sisters and Whirlwind, performed in Russian with simultaneous English translation via headset, will feature a company of 70 performers and technicians.
Into the Whirlwind is adapted from the late Eugenia Ginzburg's autobiographical account of her eighteen year imprisonment in a Siberian Stalinist Gulag. Ginzburg was one of over six million Soviet citizens "repressed" during the great purge of 1937-38. Her book, "Into The Whirlwind," was published in 1967, but the author died in 1977 without seeing her story published in her native country. The astonishing thing about the current production is that it features Paulina Myasnikova, born in 1910. Myasnikova was a cellmate of the imprisoned author in Yaroslav in 1937.
Trained as an actress and elected to the Russian Parliament in 1955, Volchek became a director with the company in 1962 and has staged Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Mikhail Roschin's Echelon for Sovremennik.
Volchek's first Three Sisters was in 1982. In 1978, she was invited to Houston's Alley Theatre as the first contemporary Russian director to stage and direct a play (Echelon) in the United States.
In between the two Russian plays at the Lunt-Fontanne, Sovremennik will travel to Bally's Grand Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to present George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, Nov. 9 and 10. Although the sets for Three Sisters and Into The Whirlwind will return with the troupe, Sovremennik will leave the Pygmalion set behind and donate it to "an American cultural institution." According to press representative Denise Robert, theatres and museums are heartily invited to come down and take a look.
Information on that production, performed in Russian only, is available by calling (800) 338-7937.
Sovremennik Theater is presented by Marina and Rina Kovalyov, President and Vice President of People Travel Club, Ltd. -- the only mother/daughter producing team on Broadway. "They've produced a number of art shows in New York and around the country," explained Denise Robert, "but this is their first theatre venture on Broadway. Marina has long loved the Sovremennik Theatre. She met [director] Volcheck and they became fast friends. Because there is American and Russian support for the project, she sees bringing the production here as a way to strengthen cultural alliances between Russia and the United States."
For tickets ($25-$100) and information on Three Sisters and Into The Whirlwind, call (212) 307-4100 (in NY) or (800) 755-4000 (elsewhere).