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Culture news, 28.03.2008 10:13

Celebrating Theater

t is a crowded and eclectic group of shows that will compete for honors in the field of drama at this year's Golden Mask Festival. Suffice to say that 16 directors will vie for the single best director award. In all, the festival will present 19 productions from six cities in three categories: small-scale, large-scale and experimental dramatic shows. Moscow, with ten nominated productions, is the runaway leader in numbers. Five shows from St. Petersburg are in the running, while Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Magnitogorsk and Ufa are represented by one show each.

Each spring the Golden Mask honors theater productions that premiered in the previous season. In addition to awards for best director and top productions in three categories, plaques are given to winners in the categories of best actor, actress and designer.

The jury members may face their most difficult task when deciding who takes home the award for the Experiment Competition. This has been an occasionally controversial and always amorphous category since it was introduced as the Innovation award in 1999. The name change this year seems to acknowledge that innovations, like revolutions, cannot be perpetuated ad infinitum. One can, after all, experiment worthily even if that does not necessarily lead to innovation.

Whatever the case, the four nominees in the Experiment Competition are among the most promising of the festival. Moreover, a bit of backstage intrigue promises to make things even more interesting: For the first time in the festival's 14-year history, this list of nominees will pit a son against parents. Arseny Epelbaum, the director and designer of "Optimus Mundus" for the School of Dramatic Art will face down his father Ilya Epelbaum and his mother Maya Krasnopolskaya, whose production of "All" performs at the Ten Theater. The son's show is a clever piece that appears to mix the laws of theater and theme parks, as it makes a group of spectators follow actors through a maze of various small stages. The parents took a play by Sergei Kokovkin, which is a tongue-in-cheek compendium of Russian literature, and, with the help of several well-known directors participating on film, molded it into a treatise on the creative process. No less fascinating in this category are the AKhE group's "Gobo: A Digital Glossary," an exploration of a man's life and death in the digital age, and Dmitry Krymov's production of "The Demon: The View from Above" for the School of Dramatic Art. Arseny Epelbaum is one of the actors in this moving, wordless show, in which a cast of artists and designers create and destroy each scene before the spectators' eyes.

The small-and large-form categories are dominated by shows staged by directors who have come of age in the last decade but are already frequent participants at the Golden Mask. This includes Andrei Moguchy, who created a Nikolai Gogol adaptation called "Ivans" for the Alexandrinsky Theater; Kirill Serebrennikov, who is nominated for his handling of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman" for the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater; Yury Butusov with "King Lear" for the Satirikon; and Mindaugas Karbauskis, whose adaptation of Andrei Platonov's "The Story of Happy Moskva" is a production of the Tabakov Theater. Karbauskis and Butusov are previous Golden Mask winners.

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(c) 2000