Y. Kislyarova

In March, one of Moscow's most popular theaters, Oleg Tabakov's Theater, dubbed "Tabakerka" (tobacco case), celebrated its 15th birthday. For more than a decade it has been gathering full houses, something not all Moscow theaters can boast.

Its history goes back to 1974, when ... actors Oleg Tabakov, Konstantin Raikin and Avangard Leontiev teamed up with a beginning director Valery Fokin to set up a children's drama studio. Two years ago, a group of its graduates entered Oleg Tabakov's class at the Russian Academy of Theater, known as GITIS. By that time, the studio had moved to a small building on Chistye Prudy, one of the most picturesque corners of Moscow. There, starting from 1978, it gave regular performances. The studio was financed from the personal income of its artistic director Oleg Tabakov. There was practically no stage equipment, and young actors worked free of charge. The first attempt to "legalize" its existence was a failure. Any initiative from "below" encountered suspicion from the authorities. But the theater struggled on until it finally acquired an official status. It happened on March 1, 1987, the time of democratic changes in the Russian society and culture. The former barriers tumbled down. Lots of new theaters opened but most of them closed five years later. The Tabakerka rapidly gained popularity. Its actors Yevgeny Mironov, Marina Zudina, Sergei Bezrukov and others became well-known stars. The theater cooperates with elite directors, among them Valery Fokin, Adolf Shapiro, Yelena Nevezhina and Yevgeny Kamenkovich. In the past several years it toured the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Israel, Finland and other countries. Some of its actors are working abroad: Aleksandr Marin is in Canada and Vladimir Mashkov starred in Hollywood productions 15 Minutes, The Quickie and Behind Enemy Lines.

The Tabakerka's versatile repertoire ranges from Russian and foreign classics to contemporary drama and adaptations of famous novels by Fedor Dostoyevsky, Choderlos de Laclos, Ivan Goncharov, Thomas Mann.

"I don't invite stars, I try to appoint suitable actors", Oleg Tabakov explained. "Our principles are dignity, mutual respect, adequate pay and assistance to our colleagues who are in trouble".

Perhaps the main secret of The Tabakerka's enviable success is that throughout all crises and cataclysms the theater pursued its creative search, working like one big family. And that's how it preferred to celebrate its 15th anniversary – in a family circle, and no pompous ceremonies.