Meeting between Andrei Moguchy and Boris Yukhananov

4 March 2016

The Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, through its School of Contemporary Spectators and Listeners, hosted a meeting on March 1 between Andrei Moguchy, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Drama Theatre (BDT) in St. Petersburg, and Boris Yukhananov, the artistic director of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre. It was a continuation of a lecture and discussion series that has seen the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre invite many prominent artists nominated for Golden Mask awards to meet the public, including Heiner Goebbels, Theodore Currentzis, Marat Gatsalov, Viktor Ryzhakov, and Mikhail Bychkov.

Yukhananov began by discussing the peculiarities of a director, who, in the past, was a radical practitioner of alternative theatre art, but now occupies a position in a venue with a long, storied history of being a part of the mainstream. Moguchy explained that his repertory strategy at the storied BDT is built 'not on the importance or quality of any given production, but as part of a certain contextual process.' He spoke about the progression from the first show mounted at BDT after his appointment, the publicisticWhat is to be Done?, to Alice, a piece based loosely on Alice in Wonderland that was written especially for the great actress Alisa Freindlikh. This allowed the theatre to traverse a huge series of transformations in a very short time. 'We are now at a stage,' Moguchy said, 'where the material we chose need not cause upheaval, but rather, should create balance.'

Moguchy and Yukhananov talked at length about Georgy Tovstonogov (the great director who ran BDT for 33 years until his death in 1989), and about the roles of teachers in general in the life of an artist. Yukhananov expressed the concern that it is too easy to canonize artists from the past. 'Will it not happen,' he asked, 'that the more specifically we reveal the essence of a past master, the more quickly we will part with him? Because when we will finally see him, we will understand that there is no place for him in the contemporary world.'

Moguchy responded that the personal positions of Tovstonogov, a man who never feared doubting himself, remain important to him. 'Does that mean,' Yukhananov asked, 'that a method is always ideological, but a person's character is not? What about education, then? The result of two people interacting, each of whom has an impact on the other?'

Moguchy talked about returning to a diary of the great film director Andrei Tarkovsky, which he once was given. Its pages, filled with notes in the margins, caused him to 'understand that many of the notions I have espoused all these years came directly from this book, and that they are not my ideas at all.' Yukhananov asked, 'Does this mean that a teacher is he, from whom we steal?'

Other topics included: The responsibility of criticism (not to prescribe, but to differentiate and understand), which is more important than ever both for spectators and artists; The 'god of contemporary theatre' - the box office - to which, in Yukhananov's view, a monument should be erected; The current era in which an uncompleted Russian revolution continues to play itself out dramatically and alarmingly; Love, which, according to Andrei Moguchy, is capable of defeating any war - in theatre as in society. Civilization, without which love, said Boris Yukhananov, crumbles into nothing.

The entire discussion, in Russian, will soon be posted on the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre YouTube channel.

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