New scenes and repertoires: Life of five theatres after renovation

New scenes and repertoires: Life of five theatres after renovation
Theatre directors discuss stages, equipment and future plans.

The programme for the construction, modernisation and restoration of theatres has been going on in Moscow since 2013. To date 40 city theatres have been renovated or moved into new buildings. There are plans to improve some 20 more, including the Modern Moscow Drama Theatre, the Vladimir Mayakovsky Theatre and the Moscow State Variety Theatre. The School of Modern Drama, Sovremennik, By the Stanislavsky House, the Oleg Tabakov Theatre and Et Cetera have recently opened new or overhauled premises.

School of Modern Drama

The School of Modern Drama,, is finally returning back to its famous building situated on Neglinnaya Street, which had to  be done up after a fire which took place in 2013. Since that time, the company has had to perform at other venues. The return will be marked on 25 January with a gala performance called Trumpet Calling!

Its big stage is now called the Hermitage, in honour of French chef Lucien Olivier’s restaurant, which was located in the building from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. After the repairs, the regular auditorium turned into a transformer room, where the space is used both conventionally and for innovative formats. Due to the new system the stage can move up and down.

The theatre will also put on performances at two other venues, the Winter Garden and the White Hall. The latter will be used by the Department project, which is a joint programme between the theatre and the GITIS theatrical school to show the public the best student and graduate productions.

A revived play The City will be staged at the Winter Garden, which could not be shown at temporary venues for technical reasons. On 31January, Philip Gurevich’s adaptation of Anastasia Bukreyeva’s play, Gandhi Was Silent on Saturdays, will be premiered. It was produced by the theatre lab Class of Young Directors.

Another new production, Faina: Echelon, by artistic director Iosif Reikhelgauz is based on the autobiography of his mother, Faina Reikhelgauz, and stars Yelena Sanayeva. The March repertoire includes a promenade performance of On the Pipe telling a story of an old mansion built in 1816. Although assigned to the Hermitage venue, the performance and rehearsals will take place in all three auditoriums, using the technical facilities of those places too. The productions Russian Jam, Save Chamber Junker Pushkin, Russian Woe from Wit, Overheard, Peeped, Unrecorded, The Fool and the Convict, Overcoat /Coat, and While Beer is Poured will also be moved to the new venues.

The School of Modern Drama moved into the building on the corner of Neglinnaya Street and Petrovsky Boulevard in 1989. Initially, the auditorium seated 380 people, but later, in 1998, they opened the Winter Garden stage for another 200 members of the audience.

Iosif Reikhelgauz is the artistic director of the School of Modern Drama.

By the Stanislavsky House

The renovated auditorium reopened at the By the Stanislavsky House theatre in early April 2018. In 2004, the theatre had to move out of its famous building in Voznesensky Pereulok because of a fire. Everything went up in flames: the auditorium, the stage sets together with the costumes. However the company found a new home quite quickly. Performances soon resumed in the nearby La stalla rehearsal room (meaning the stable in Italian).

The rebuilt auditorium has just 86 seats. It is equipped with upper and lower equipment, an under-stage, two spectator lobbies, and green rooms. There are sewing and stage prop workshops, and a costume wardrobe. Most importantly, modern high-quality lighting and sound devices have been installed. There are productions now on both stages.

The theatre received its present name after the Artistic Director Yury Pogrebnichko joined it in 1988. Prior to this, the company called itself the Krasnaya Presnya theatre studio.

“Our theatre has been in Voznesensky Pereulok for 30 years now. After the fire in the main building, we had to move to a very tiny, but very cozy space next door. And finally, after lengthy repair work, our main auditorium, which we call the New Stage now, is open once again. It’s thanks to the city that the long-term construction job has finally been completed and we are grateful about this.

This whole year we will gradually adapt our old repertoire and prepare new productions that we’ll release. Not so very long ago we released the play Photo Cameras, and the next premiere of this season is The Cherry Orchard staged by the theatre’s Artistic Director Yury Pogrebnichko,” Director Konstantin Zaslavsky said.

The Oleg Tabakov Theatre

The unusual design of the foyer, with its over 2,000 sq m of mirrors, at the Tabakov Theatre’s Na Sukharevskoi Stage might well surprise some people. Mirrors are everywhere, from the walls and ceilings to the stairs. Famous stage director and actor Oleg Tabakov, who died in 2018, was keen to have a seating area on the new premises which seemed as spacious as possible. He managed to get the new stage built but he was not destined to follow the job through and start using it. Current artistic director Vladimir Mashkov did what he could to allow the dream to come true by putting mirrors everywhere to visually increase the audience numbers.

The first floor is named Attention: here theatre-goers can see themselves reflected in numerous mirrors. The second floor where there are custom-made colourful stain-glass panels is named Imagination. The first thing people can see on the third floor, which is named Senses, is a portrait of Oleg Tabakov surrounded by butterflies that symbolise his students. There is a woven curtain on the stage that resembles an artist’s canvass.

Performances will be given on both the main stage at Chistiye Prudy and here. In March, Sergei Puskepalis will put on Pectoralis’ Russian War based on Nikolai Leskov’s short story Iron Will on the new stage. Alla Sigalova is just about to start working on the musical and dramatic production My Fair Lady. The next event which is the revival of the performance Matrosskaya Tishina based on Alexander Galich’s play, will take place on 27 January. Many years ago Mashkov himself played a part in this play. This time he will also perform together with Vladislav Miller, Sergei Belyayev, Yana Sekste and other actors.

“It was my duty to give the performance Matrosskaya Tishina a new lease of life,” said artistic director Vladimir Mashkov. “During the rehearsals I was even more excited than when I was only a beginner at Tabakerka [Tabakov Theatre] waiting for my first entrance. I see this production as a source of inexhaustible energy for the Tabakov Theatre. Oleg Tabakov has embedded his own experience in the performance and imbued it with his optimism, his doubts and his ‘atom of the Sun’ and it is very important to me to keep the production running.” 


Sovremennik’s main stage on Chistoprudny Boulevard opened in late 2018 after restoration work had been carried out to bring the building back to how it once looked. Restoring artwork and the decorative pieces of the cornices was also included during the job. The inscription Kolizei (Colosseum) Cinema was put back on the façade, as the building housed the cinema until 1970. 

The renovation project was ambitious: all premises were equipped with air conditioning and the ventilation systems and engineering works were renewed. The foundation of the building had to be reinforced and apart from this the place also needed to be rewired. Brickwork was patched up and the stage got a new ceiling and floor. The job included damp proofing the cellar and redoing the roof. The revolving stage will help directors and set designers put their ideas into practice. The seats are spacious and comfortable. The foyer, the cloakroom, the cafeteria, backstage and the green rooms were redecorated.

The whole job took two years to complete. So during this time the Sovremennik theatre moved to the Yauza Palace Theatre Concert Hall.

The first production on the new stage, the tragicomedy Dumas based on Ivan Okhlobystin’s play and directed by Mikhail Yefremov, will be take place on 8 February. The main characters are actors and actresses from a provincial theatre, who have acted all their life in The Three Musketeers. Their life changes after a new actor is invited to play the part of D’Artagnan.

Et Cetera

A new 100-seat Efros Auditorium at the Et Cetera Theatre also opened last December. Stage directors will be able to decide how best to arrange the seating there, depending on what is being performed.

The new stage opened with the premiere of the performance Available for Access. A play by Polina Babushkina, who takes a peep into the secrets kept by gadgets, was put on by Ivan Minevtsev, a GITIS [Russian Institute of Theatre] graduate. From now on, the latest stage repertoire will include only new productions.

The theatre waited 14 years to get a new stage, that is, since it has moved to these new premises that were built on Frolov Pereulok specially for the Et Cetera. People there knew they only had to wait for the construction of the Sretensky Boulevard metro station to come to an end, following which the foundations for the building of the theatre were laid.