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. Last Updated: 07/31/2014
Articles by John Freedman

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New Era Looms After Golden Age of 'New Drama'

It has been an astonishing run. But doesn't every run come to an end?

Art World Expats Mull Future as Tensions Rise

Foreigners working in the cultural community speak to Moscow Times theater critic John Freedman about life in the city today.

Director Volkostrelov Brings 'Slice of Life' to Stage

It struck me as a sign from above. I was waiting for Dmitry Volkostrelov in a Moscow coffee shop and a television was showing a story about the Spanish painter Antonio Lopez Garcia, whom a crawler text identified as "one of the greatest realists" of the 20th century.

The Nightmare of Being a Russian-Language Ukrainian Playwright

"I don't know what to do about it, John. It is a nightmare and it is hell. And something in me has been broken irreparably."

Raikin Puts Post-Soviet Spin on Wesker’s Kitchen

Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen,” written in 1957, is something of a poetic cry of the soul. It fairly seems to scream, “Why can’t people get along?!” And that is precisely the message that Konstantin Raikin hammers on at length in his sparkling, swift-moving production of the play at the Satirikon Theater.

Cultural Figures Speak Out on an 'Imperfect World'

Imagine a world in which law enforcement agencies have direct access to the data you store in social media, you are subject to arrest and prison if on social media you repost or retweet anything that the government disapproves of, you are banned from casting doubt on the government's official version of the history of World War II, and no one, but no one, publicly curses about these or any other issues.

Old-Fashioned Feel to Revival of 'Game Over'

“Plus ca change,” the French say, “plus c’est la meme chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s a great phrase. I love it. It’s French. It sounds cool. And sometimes it’s true. But it’s not always true.

Cultural Battle Goes on, Gogol Center Under Attack

As a law took effect last week banning obscenities in works of art, and as Russian parliamentarian Yelena Mizulina — the author of the so-called anti-Magnitsky law banning adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens — pushed creating a law that would require individuals to use their passport to gain access to the Internet, we continued to see signs that the turmoil lately engulfing Russian culture and media is not about to let up.

'Elder Sister' Shows Soviet Writer Volodin's Subtlety

It's not enough for a revival, we'd need a third for that. But we had two major productions of plays by the highly respected Soviet playwright Alexander Volodin this season — Genrietta Yanovskaya's moving rendition of "Don't Part With Those You Love" at the Theater Yunogo Zritelya, and now Vladimir Skvortsov's "The Elder Sister" at the Et Cetera Theater.

Moscow's Culture Codes

If you have walked anywhere in Moscow you have seen them, the blue squares with the qr codes in the middle and the white writing on them. If you have a smart phone you may have even tried accessing the information those codes provide access to.

Durnenkov Succeeds With Sensitive, Probing 'Victory Day'

It has been quite a season for Mikhail Durnenkov. It began in September when the playwright took over the running of the Lyubimovka festival and breathed new life into this institution of Russian play development.

Countering Culture and Censorship

As we approach July 1, the day after which obscenities will officially be banned in Russian art, the Russian creative community is doing what it can to make sense of a concerted push on the part of the government to regulate the arts and artistic expression.

Ingeborga Dapkunaite Stars in Pulinovich's Latest Play 'Zhanna'

Yaroslava Pulinovich has been a leading Russian playwright for half a decade yet her 27th birthday arrives only next month.

Moscow's Muzeon Arts Park

There's going to be rain this week, but for the most part it should be what Russian calls "little" rain. Just enough occasional drops to keep that lovely fresh smell in the air and to keep the plants and trees and flowers perky and healthy.

Volkostrelov Resurrects Soviet '60s

In "1968. Novy Mir" at the Taganka Theater, Dmitry Volkostrelov shrewdly found a way to combine aesthetics, artistic methods and themes that are capable of unifying that distant era with the world we inhabit.

Russian Theater Bids Fond Farewell to the F-word

Russia’s newest law employing repressive action to regulate behavior and culture will take effect July 1. The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in early May, will ban the use of obscenities in “television, cinema, literature, mass media, concerts and theatrical productions,” according to Vedomosti.

'Fields Enter the Door' Shows off Rebuilt Playwright Center

It has been a long season for Moscow's two newest artistic directors. A year ago the Moscow Culture Committee made the astonishing announcement that Boris Yukhananov and his longtime colleague Klim had been appointed to run the Stanislavsky Theater and the Playwright and Director Center, respectively.

In Search of Forgotten Artist Vladimir Izenberg

The name Vladimir Izenberg does not say a lot in and of itself. It's not one that calls up images or eras, great schools or great events.

Russian Theater Director Lev Erenburg Goes All Out in 'Without a Dowry'

It is a paradox that director Lev Erenburg rather quietly moved into the first rank of Russia's theater directors. His bold, dynamic shows are anything but tranquil.

Kultura Newspaper Condemns Contemporary Theater Again

I forced myself to read the entire article. It was not easy to do. But it had to be done.

Bogomolov Shows Why He's Moscow's Most Popular Director

Konstantin Bogomolov has grabbed the position of Moscow's most popular director in recent years with a stream of controversial, flamboyant productions, mostly at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater. His latest outing, a typically audacious dramatization of Francois Rabelais' "Gargantua and Pantagruel," was mounted at the Theater of Nations.

Medinsky the Media Magnet

Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky received an honorary fellowship on Thursday a few days late and not quite as planned.

Pirandello's 'Mountain Giants' Lacks Human Warmth

Luigi Pirandello is not a frequent visitor on Russian stages these days. You can see why in a production of his last, unfinished play, "The Mountain Giants," at the Fomenko Studio. Obscure, abstract and philosophical, his plays can seem bereft of human warmth or interest.

Dodin's Larger-Than-Life Plays Grab 2 Golden Mask Awards

Lev Dodin's two productions playing at the Golden Mask Festival this year grabbed two awards out of 10 nominations. The director's rendition of Friedrich Schiller's "Love and Intrigue" grabbed best large-scale dramatic production, while designer Alexander Borovsky was named best designer for his work on this show.

Brush Up Your Shakespeare to Understand Today's Russia

"Hamlet." Has there ever been a better play to fall back on when you need to have a chat about Russia?

Hidden Culture in Tomsk

In my long love affair with Russian art and culture, the city of Tomsk plays a special role. The main reason for that is the research I have done on the Soviet playwright Nikolai Erdman, who spent about a year in exile in Tomsk in the mid-1930s. But I am not going into any of that today. Been there, done that.

Maksym Kurochkin Innovates Against the Odds

Halfway through "Circuit Breaker" at Teatr.doc, I had a mini-revelation. Maksym Kurochkin may be the most fortunate playwright of his generation.

Plenty of Surprises at Golden Mask Awards

The Golden Mask Festival awards ceremony, which unfolded over a leisurely three hours on Friday at the Bolshoi Theater, had plenty of surprises.

Did Putin Declare a Mini Thaw in Culture?

Did this actually happen or am I imagining it? It's no big event or turning point, that is for sure. But it did feel for a moment last week that the temperature of the flames burning around us dipped just a little.

Russia's New Culture War

I've seen this before. Not in my lifetime, no. I saw it unfold before my astonished eyes in crumbling, yellowing newspaper clippings from the late 1920s and early 1930s. I saw it in stack after stack of microfiche materials. I saw it in the letters, poems, stories, plays and memoirs of those who lived through the nightmare of a culture collapsing on itself and its citizens.
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