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. Last Updated: 04/16/2014
Articles by John Freedman

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Volkostrelov's Innovative Golden Mask Production

The Golden Mask Festival is a boon for us sit-at-homes. You can't travel to Kazan or Ryazan to see the latest work from those cities? The Golden Mask brings them to you.

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.

Culture Ministry Purges Prominent Arts Figures

The Russian Culture Ministry raised eyebrows this week by replacing several respected figures in two departments involving the fine arts and theater.

Doctor Osipov, Writer Maxim

This may not end up being my best column, but it will be one of my personal favorites. It has no real plot and very little dramatic line. It does, however, have a couple of heroes and don't we all love a hero?

Moscow's Ten Theater Puts Shakespeare on the Menu

It sounds like one of the worst cliches you can imagine: "one of a kind," meaning the only one like it. Anywhere. Anytime. Yeah, right.

Can Art Save Russia's Face?

What follows is similar to a column (they were called blogs back then) that I wrote just before the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Vladimir Pankov Shows 'The Yard' at Gogol Center

Director Vladimir Pankov has finally unveiled his first new show, an ambitious and crowd pleasing play, on Gogol Center's large stage.

Apology Demanded For Taganka Insults

There's an old Russian anecdote about a stolen coat that reminds me of the Taganka Theater. "Someone stole a coat," the joke goes, "or had it stolen from them."

Golden Mask Theater Festival Keeps On Growing

A packed house will gather at the Vakhtangov Theater on Thursday night to celebrate and honor an annual event that has become an institution in Russian culture. I’m talking about the Golden Mask Festival, which marks its 20th anniversary this year.

The Always Timely Poet Alexander Timofeyevsky

I don't think it really had anything to do with World Poetry Day, which fell on Friday, March 21, this year. I don't think it had all that much to do with the fact that Alexei Politov and Marina Belova's "Fragments" exhibit was preparing to close today, Sunday, at Krokin Gallery.

Moscow Holds Yearly Night in the Theater

Ah, Moscow! The city where you never call an acquaintance before 11 a.m. or a friend before noon! It’s no wonder that projects like Night in the Museum and, now, Night in the Theater have become so popular.

New Age Philosophy for the Masses in Vyrypayev's 'UFO'

It has been awhile since Ivan Vyrypayev opened a new play in Moscow, but now we have had two premieres of new works at two different theaters. "Summer Wasps Bite Us Even in November" was recently unveiled at the Fomenko Studio and now, with Vyrypayev directing and acting at his own Praktika Theater, we have a piece called "UFO."

Russian Culture's 'War of Signatures'

In the final hours before Sunday's referendum in Crimea, Russia's cultural community experienced a schism it has not known since the run-up to the presidential election in 2012. At that time 30 or 40 major Russian entertainers and artists caused a firestorm by agreeing to make short videos supporting the candidacy of then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

New Yorker Brings Yekaterinburg Play to Moscow

Nicole Kontolefa is a New Yorker born and bred. One might say, however, that at least part of her heart lies in Moscow. She was a resident of Moscow for four years while she studied at the Moscow Art Theater School and she is a member of the Art Theater's Studio Six, which is based in New York.

New Masquerade Remakes Lermontov's Masterpiece

"Masquerade Masquerade" is not quite a play so nice it had to be named twice. Actually, playwright and director Mikhail Ugarov has made it abundantly clear in the media that he re-read Mikhail Lermontov's play "The Masquerade" and wasn't impressed. As a result he wrote his own version in order to make sense of it.

'Berdichev' Crams Lifetimes In One Performance

There is a lot to Nikita Kobelev's production of Fridrikh Gorenshtein's "Berdichev." It takes nearly four hours to perform. It covers a span of 30 years and involves 23 characters of family, friends, acquaintances and enemies.

Russian Intellectuals Slam Crimean Occupation

Leo Tolstoy wrote famously about his experiences in the Crimean War in the mid-1850s. His book, "The Sevastopol Stories," has been a source of great cultural pride for some Russians over the last century and a half.

'Summer Wasps' Are Entertaining in February

The title is a bit clumsy and it takes a good while before it begins making sense. One character in the play on the old stage at the Fomenko Studio uses the phrase over and over again — "Summer wasps bite us even in November" — until even he admits he doesn't know what it means.

Underwhelming Fairytale on Steroids Gets Few Laughs

It sounded like an interesting pairing — Maxim Kurochkin, the wildly imaginative playwright, and Talgat Batalov, a director with a fine sense of deadpan humor.

'Dead Souls' Slaps Russian Mores in the Face

Kirill Serebrennikov's production of "Dead Souls" at Gogol Center starts with a prolonged slap in the face of Russian mores. From there it cranks up the vitriolic satire for nearly three hours without a break.

Shared Fame and Shame at the Sochi Olympics

I once wrote most of what I planned to be a book about Russia. I got as far as sending chapters out to publishers. One of the few editors who was kind enough to reject me personally explained why my proposal was not of interest. It was "too worshipful" of Russia, she wrote.

Cubed Collage of Hamlet Shakes Up City Theater

"Hamlet/Collage" at the Theater of Nations is, without question, one of the biggest events — though not achievements — of this theater season.

How Dozhd Television Rocked the Boat

Let's admit it. Ever since the Dozhd television station appeared in early 2010, many of us have wondered how long it could last. We now may know.

Human Theater Shows Absurdist European Drama

Lyudmila Roshkovan's Chelovek, or Human, Theater has always stood apart from the rest of Moscow's theaters. That is true geographically — though centrally located, it stands on a side street no more than a stone's throw from thoroughfares and metro stations.

The Artistic Community Responds to Events in Kiev

When the going gets tough, as we have seen repeatedly in recent years, the tough take to Facebook. At least that's what they do in this part of the world.

Theater News for all Languages

Theater is a world unto itself. Sure, there's Russian theater and American theater and theater from England, France and and Bali, and they're all different.

New Play Pairs Contrasting Actors for a Great Result

Donald L. Coburn's "The Gin Game" became an instant classic in the 1970s because of its extreme simplicity and, I would wager, its honesty.

Remembering Popov's Designs

When Igor Popov died on Jan. 1 at the age of 76, we lost one of the great Russian theater artists of the last half-century.

Taganka Tension Silenced by Brilliant Production

Let's get this out of the way for the scandal-mongers. I attended the first performance of "Presence" at the Taganka Theater, the third event in the 50th anniversary project being conducted by a group of young artists, critics and theater managers on hire from the Moscow Culture Committee.

'Three Days in Hell' Condemns Material Lives

A new production of Pavel Pryazhko's play will open after the holidays, when Muscovites are well-rested and ready to watch.
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