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Alisa Ivanova


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Alisa Ivanova

  1. 1. The professional arts education system in Russia (and the Soviet Union) used to be academic in the best sense of the word. The network of state music, ballet and fine arts schools for children, conservatories and specialised higher education institutions has survived, despite a scarcity of budget resources and low salaries for teachers. There is ageing and a partial "brain drain" due to high demand abroad, especially for music and ballet teachers. Yet in 2002, the number of graduates from state higher education institutions in culture and arts surpassed that of 1990 and the competition for those who would like to enter is higher than the average. Traditionally Russia has the unique national system of proficient artistic training, beginning from childhood to adult age, and based on a selection of the most gifted youth. The professional arts education system in Russia (and the Soviet Union) used to be academic in the best sense of the word. The network of state music, ballet and fine arts schools for children, conservatories and specialized higher education institutions widely developed in the Soviet time has survived, despite a scarcity of budget resources and low salaries for teachers. Besides the professional art schools Russia traditionally had the rich network of the amateur art at the so called houses and palaces of culture where one could study music, ballet, fine arts and theatre. Both professional and amateur arts education for children and adults was traditionally under the Russian Ministry of Culture, besides, the special after school education network for children and youth was perfectly developed within the Ministry of Education and Science. Each city district was obliged to have a Palace or a House of youth creativity, besides numerous community clubs, art centers for children and youngsters. This after school activities in a way replaced the general arts education at schools, so in the ordinary school curriculum there were no more than 2 hours a week for both music and visual art, and no drama or theatre classes at all. Theatre for children and youngsters in Russia has never aimed the professional training as it traditionally was in music, ballet and fine arts. So, youth theatres were always a part of the amateur network or after school education. The amateur art network partly managed to survive after Perestroika. Unfortunately, but a big amount of art centers clubs, creative centers, culture houses after Perestroika were converted into office buildings, restaurants, casinos, so a big amount of the youth amateur theatres were simply thrown out. But the system of after school education was lucky to survive, and within this system children and youth amateur theatres exist and operate successfully despite the poor budget resources and low salaries for the staff. As theatre is a very special and artistic space, it may target a rich variety of goals: esthetic development, enrichment of communicative skills, personal growth, emotional area improvement, socializing, etc. Each theatre leaders are free to create their own pedagogical platform for their work with children mostly routed in the traditional Russian theatre principles. These principles are the following: • Humanistic and spiritual mission of the theatre art (“Theatre is a chapel” – Stanislavskyi) • Ethical basics of the theatre cooperation • High level of the artistic quality • Mainly “Living theatre” is the basics for Acting Nowadays the values of show business merge into the traditional Russian theatre ethics, and as a result into the amateur children and youth theatre as well. That could be dangerous for the traditional 1
  2. 2. theatre ethical background, and right now nobody knows how it would turn out in the future for the Great Russian theatre arts. One of the oldest and most famous amateur youth theatres in Russia which carefully keeps the traditional ethical values is the St.Petersburg Theatre of Youth Creativity. It is housed in City Palace of Youth, the former Anichkov Palace, originally constructed for the daughter of Peter the Great. In 1937 the Anitchkov Palace was transformed into the Children and Youth Creative Centre, and since any person at the age of 4 to 18 is free to take classes in any area of the human being’s activity: arts, sports, crafts, space exploration, geology, navigation, etc. The Palace has its own sailing-ship, and a summer camp as well. Today there are 15.000 children and young people spend their after school time attending more than 600 clubs of interest. The Theatre of Youth Creativity or Teatr Younosheskogo Tvorchestva (TyuT) is one of those clubs. TYUT was established in 1956 by the outstanding teacher and theatre director Matvei Grigorievitch Dubrovin, and has been known as the unique pedagogical system, has been operating successfully for more than 50 years and brought up thousands of alumni. All of them came to Matvei Dubrovin at their teen age, and now approve they were then captured by the high spirits of theatre world, and Dubrovin’s great personality. TYUT was thought out by Matvei Dubrovin as a fabulous and free space, and a child could use it to discover the world and create his/her personality. In the very depth of the TYUT’s philosophy one can find the Stanislavsky’s idea that “THEATRE IS A TEMPLE”. Stanislavsky created Moscow Art Theatre (1898) according to this very strong belief, totally reforming the ethical background of Russian theatre which used to be the most sinful place in the world. Proper parents did not allow their daughters to become actresses, actors were supposed to be buried beyond the cemetery fence. Our theatre facility has a large and professionally equipped stage, many rooms for rehearsals and workshops, a cash desk and a cloakroom, and a buffet. Our repertory includes both Russian and foreign plays such as “Syrano de Berjerac” by E.Rostan, “Romeo and Juliet” by Shakespear, “Uncle Vanya” by Chekhov, “The Miracle Worker” by Gibson, and “Pinnoccio” by Alexei Tolstoi. We also perform original scripts written by the children of the Palace Theatre. Performances are held on weekends, and classes and rehearsals during the week. There are 150 children and young people from 9 to 19 and 22 adults in staff working at the theatre. In 1956 we had none of these marvelous possibilities but a tiny room in a basement where our Teacher and Director Matvei Grigorievitch Dubrovin (1911-1974) was working out his unique pedagogical system named Theatre of Youth Creativity. STRUCTURE Everybody attending the Theatre has to take two classes: Acting Group and a Creative Technical Workshop. It means that the child is supposed to develop his/her creativity in both areas. According to the Dubrovin’s idea a workshop for a person is no less than a magic “window” to the world. Each workshop is based on a “subject” which in Dubrovin’s context means the essential workable elements of human life. The “subject” was vital in Dubrovin’s pedagogy because without this “ground element” teaching would be superficial with no expansion of the human personality. Most of the subjects deal with the “mode of life” for the era portrayed. 2
  3. 3. They are eleven Creative Technical Workshops: Stagehands, Stage Managers, Theatre Carpenters, Costume Construction, Wardrobe, Make-up Artists, Prop Masters, Administrators, Sound Operators, Lighting Designers, and Painters. Students are given four months to rove and investigate these areas. Then they must choose their field of interest. Once they have chosen they will be trained in that technical area for five or six years. There are five directors and acting teachers at the theatre. Each of them has their special ideas and programs, but basically all of us work according to the Stanislavsky and Vakhtangov Acting Methods. (Vakhtangov is Stanislavsky’s great student and disciple. His idea was to combine both “Living” and “Presenting” kinds of theatre.) Basically there are three age groups with 15-20 children in each. The goals of the first year educating is to help kids in opening up, developing their creativity and imagination, teaching them the beginning skills of the Living Theatre. Usually the first year ends up with a show on the basis of a piece of drama, or a self-written script, or some acting excersises and improvisations. Besides that we try to help them in solving some of their psychological problems: raising self-esteem and self-awareness, improving communicative skills, exploring their personalities. Next year all of the former freshmen find their way into various Creative Groups that had already existed or new-arranged. In these groups they work on a production. Production is a powerful spiritual and cultural space for bringing up a child’s soul. Therefore Theatre bears a huge responsibility for all energetic elements of the production: both spirits and quality of dramaturgy, directing, lighting, costumes, sound, set. Dubrovin wanted to work seriously with children because he took them seriously and trusted them much. IIt should be of a sharp importance to stage this very story with this particular troupe at this period of time. We always try to pick up good pieces of drama with deep ideas and talented dramaturgy to bring up the young people’s taste.. Playing a role is very much about deep understanding a super-super objective of a production and a character. A thoughtful mentor could help a student to work out his psychological problems with casting him on a certain role. A big number of acting skills are necessary for creating a character: analysis of a play and a role, discovering the “seed” and the background, carrying out the logic, etc. Besides that the actors have to be flexible and play in ensemble, get a sense of genre and the style, and still to be confident, relaxed and expressive. Basically we avoid using special terms in working with children not to confuse their creative nature which is still very close to the nature of acting. Totally we spend about two years for creating a show rehearsing four-six hours a week, and very often hold successful productions for about three-five and in some happy cases ten years in our repertoire. As to the actors they keep playing their parts in ready productions and at the same time get some new roles in other ones. Sometimes we make shows based on our kids’ personal stories, but mostly they make plenty of small and big productions themselves. Some of them are brilliant, some of them not, but basically it doesn’t matter. We support all of them, and it’s a significant part of the community life. ADULTS There are 22 adults in our staff, and 20 of them are our former students. They came here in different periods of the theatre life and were captured by Children and Theatre. They imbibed in the ideas of the Dubrovin’s pedagogical system and try to shape their skills according to its demands. They are both experts in their professional theatre areas and teachers, and rather educated people. Twelve of 3
  4. 4. the staff has their Master’s in Theatre or Education, one of them have two Master’s, one of them – three. Eight teachers are currently studying in different Colleges and Universities. But besides that they are very creative and curious people open to new ideas, humor and fun. ALUMNI In more than forty years approximately 3,000 people have graduated from TyuT. One can meet them all over the world. They are of various ages and occupations, but “TyuT” is a kind of a parole for all of them. They believe they recognize TyuT members if even they never met before. Many of our alumnies became theatre people, and some of them are really famous. Of course we’re proud of them as they make a lot for our Country and Culture. I will be happy to name just some of them: Lev Dodin - the Honorable Fellow of Russian Arts and the Artistic Director of the world famous Maly Drama Theatre (now - Theatre of Europe). Michail Stronin is the Chief of the Literary Department of the Maly Drama Theatre, and a famous translator. Veniamin Filshtinsky is the Chair of the Directing Department of the Theatre Academy of St.Petersburg and a very successful and well-known theatre director. By the way his son Gleb Filshtinsky who started as an electrician in our theatre now is one of the best Lighting Designers in St.Petersburg. Sergei Solovyov came to the theatre in 1956 and was an actor and a carpenter and an active theatre member. Now he is the National Artist of Russia, a Vice President of the Russian Cinema Union, a very famous movie director. 4