Tatiana Shakh-Azizova

What was the outgoing year like for the Russian theater? Critic Tatiana Shakh-Azizova from the All-Russia Institute of Art Studies believes that some of the most obvious trends observed in 2003 stem from the processes that started a few years before.

A new drama and an innovative style of directing swept domestic stages in what seems to be a velvet revolution as a new generation of actors and directors stepped in to partially replace the "old guard" in most Russian theaters. ... Not all of them were a success but gradually some really interesting figures moved into the limelight, among them very promising young directors Kirill Serebrennikov, Nina Chusova and Mikhail Ugarov. ... Thus, Kirill Serebrennikov premiered a bold production of The Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams, starring popular actress Marina Neyelova (Sovremennik Theater).

Festivals have become an important element of the Russian theater world. Lots of them are held across the country: in European part of Russia, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. The number-one festival is the Golden Mask. After the awards are distributed, the prize-winning productions set out on an all-Russia tour. The Baltic House is another major theater forum. Born in St. Petersburg, it now ranks among the best-known festivals in Russia and Europe.

In Shakh-Nazarova's opinion, the performance of the year is The Cherry Orchard staged by the celebrated Lithuanian director Eimuntas Nekrošius in a Moscow theater. Premiered in summer, the 6-hour performance with an all-generation cast stars young actor Yevgeny Mironov as Lopakhin. This is Nekrošius' tribute to Anton Chekhov in tune with UNESCO's decision to proclaim 2004 as the Year of Chekhov.