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Culture news, 21.09.2004 13:41

New Drama Festival has started

drama_festival St Petersburg Times

By Galina Stolyarova

Staff Writer

An international festival highlighting contemporary drama opens Friday, showcasing cutting-edge plays largely centered upon Russia's most painful and sensitive issues: terrorism, totalitarianism, corruption, alcoholism, drug addiction, migration and social inequality.

Running Sept. 17 through 26 in the Lensoviet, Baltiisky Dom and Osobnyak theaters and the city's Academy For Theatre Arts, the festival features performances by experimental troupes from Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Perm, Tolyatti and Kemerovo as well as by foreign counterparts from Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Serbia, Germany and Iran.

The Golden Mask, Russia's top theatrical festival, established the New Drama Festival in 2002. But unlike the Mask, which brings together the cream of the crop of the country's theatrical scene, the younger festival is meant to introduce audiences to aspiring young artists, who are expected to dominate Russia's theatrical landscape in a few years' time.

Festival founder Eduard Boyakov said Thursday that the event emerged as an attempt to confront escapist and cowardly tendencies in modern Russian theater.

"Most directors are too intimidated to stage daring and controversial modern plays, preferring to either hide behind the big names of the past or indulge in fantasy, Harry Potter-style," he said at a news conference. "I do not argue that realities should dictate what artists do, but ignoring real life and turning a blind eye to the plight of your own country is dishonest."

The New Drama Festival looks at Russia's plight with wide open eyes. In Artyom Seversky's play, "Skin," the main character is a skinhead and the author is apparently sympathetic toward the hero. "Shapito-yurt" by Pyotr Filimonov is centered in Chechnya, while Inga Abele's "Iron Grass" tells the story of a recovered drug addict breaking loose after being rejected by his own family who refuse to accept the prodigal son.

"We compiled the festival's program in July, and, tragically, it has become even more resonant, relevant and burning over the past two months," Boyakov said. "It has to be acknowledged that we live in a country of ethnic conflicts and rampant violence, where tragedies like Beslan are regular events."

The festival is divided into three parts, juxtaposing the stagings of modern Russian and international plays as well as readings of new dramas.

For the full festival timetable, visit

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