A Few Words about Teatr.
The journal Teatr. is the oldest of the existing Russian drama magazines. It began to come out in print in the mid 1930-s and over the years went through several radical renovations each mirroring a particular historical period from Stalinism to the “thaw” and perestroika. And in all times it remained this country’s main media resource dealing with theatre. To be published or even mentioned in Teatr. was almost as good as going down into the history of the Russian drama.
The 2000-s were the times of trouble for the journal that was coming out quite irregularly and at some point even ceased to exist.
In 2010, after a two-year breakdown, Russian Theatre Union came to the decision to revive Teatr. with a new team of theatre historians and critics. And again the question was what the journal about theatre in Russia should (or should not) be.
First and foremost it shouldn’t have become a thick collection of extensive reviews that used to be the main genre of the professional theatre press. The flowering of this genre in Teatr. of the Soviet pattern was both logical and fruitful. In fact, at least in the “stagnation” period, there was no other way of reviewing developments in the national theatre. Reviews in non-specific editions were few and far between and were carried usually when someone had to be bumped off – accused of formalism, anti-Soviet propaganda, unpatriotic sentiments, confusion instead of clean-cut directorial style and so on and so forth. The principle of “seen in the evening – reviewed in the morning” was basically missing in Russia up to the 1990-s. The best reviewers took time to write contemplatively about the new stagings for they had nowhere to hurry – the content of the journal Teatr. was planed six months in advance.
Everything was changed as a result of the August revolution. In the 1990-s the monitoring of theatre events was more or less successfully carried out by non-specific papers and magazines. In the first decade of the 21st century the events worthy of careful description and thorough analysis became very rare. The genre of lightning speed review was flowering. The genre of thoughtful review was nearly extinct. Or rather it was swiftly degenerating. The long analyses of another premiere of “The Three Sisters” at a theatre named after some outstanding figure was read almost exclusively by the director and the actors, at the very best by their friends and relatives, and sometimes by competitors from theatres named after other outstanding figures. Public response to these reviews of the stagings was actually reduced to zero. And the reviewed stagings as such aroused little if any interest.
The question arises naturally: does one need a magazine to carry long reviews of the events of the routine and rather sluggish process? I think one does. The public import of theatre (and especially the theatre in Russia) has declined but, as though in keeping with the global law of compensation, the real life around us is getting increasingly dramatized. Modern music, poetry, exhibitions of contemporary art and even sports are literally becoming episodes in one big piece of drama. We can find theatre not only in politics that has never been particularly short of it but also in economics (suffice is to mention the “provocative market” phenomenon). The art of Aktionismus, performance, roles playing… Theatre has literally burst its banks.
This non-duplicative, non-convertible and seemingly very old-fashioned form of art, if viewed not only in the Russian but also in the all-European context, has proved to be incredibly viable. It has revealed the fantastic ability to adapt to the reality. Indeed, the most mainstream and avant-garde motions pictures have only one means of being demonstrated, i.e. by being projected on the screen. And all too apparently the means of representation of theatre are multiple. A scenic action can effectively make use of video projections (Frank Kastrof). It can unfold in a huge hangar lacking a stage or an auditorium, a center of a peripheral space (Sasha Waltz’s Inside Out). A live orchestra can be placed on the stage and made the protagonist of a play (Simon McBurney). Or the stage can be transformed into a huge installation with objects acting as characters (Heiner Goebbels’ Schtifter’s Object). Theatre really has a cast-iron stomach: it can suck in everything and not stop being what it is. It is capable of bold expansion into the territories of the neighboring arts and the life outside the art. It is not for nothing that the contours of its territory have in the recent years changed to a much greater extent than the territory of Eurasia as a result of the collapse of the USSR. And if we speak and think of theatre in terms of not only the sum total of plays staged at Russian repertory theatres named after outstanding figures, but of theatre in the broad sense of the word; if we just for a start try to fix the new contours of its borders, one can definitely say that such a magazine is needed.
We have come up with three main sections of the magazine: On Stage (to represent all genres of theatre history including the genre of detailed review); Off Stage (to cover all kinds of the sociological aspects of drama that meet broad public response) and Beyond the Stage (to highlight the events from the standpoint of theatrical culturology). Above all our magazine has the section called Yellow Pages that carries all sorts of curious statistics, infograms and the results of various polls. In a word, odds and ends that is worth reading and thinking about no less seriously than about the weird transformations of theatre as such.
— Marina Davydova