Children’s Theatres in Moscow
Text Marina Lukanina
Photos by Alina Ganenko
Live theatre plays a big part in the entertainment industry in Russia. The first theatre visits usually happen when children are about 2-3 years old. For this age it is better to choose a performance no longer than 30 minutes, and one that is colourful and dynamic so that it holds the attention of a young viewer. Puppet theatres or shows with animals in them excite children and keep them focused. Children’s performances with real actors usually last longer (about one and a half hours with intermission) and are more targeted towards older children.
In Russia there is a special kind of children’s theatre at this time of year: ‘New Year’s Tree’ performances. These are entertaining, and dynamic shows are held throughout mid-December and early January. Their aim is basically to have fun and they usually involve children’s participation, such as when children have to shout for the Father Frost (known in Russia as Ded Moroz) to come and light up the New Year’s tree.
The very first children’s theatre in Moscow was founded in 1918. It only existed for a month but served as a catalyst for the development and establishment of this genre. Nowadays, the city offers a variety of theatrical opportunities for the little ones, so there are plenty of such theatres in Moscow. Theatre trips are organized as a part of Russian schools’ extra-curricular activities. For many of them, going to the theatre becomes something they are used to. Let’s explore some of the most famous children’s theatres in Moscow.
This is one of the oldest theatres, and is also known somewhat inconsistently as: “Durov’s Corner”, “The World of Wonders of Grandpa Durov”, and “Animal Theatre Named after V. Durov.” It is famous not only in Moscow but also in other cities in Russia, and amongst tourists from abroad.
“Durov’s Corner” was opened in 1912 by a very famous circus actor, clown, animal-trainer, writer, zoologist, and first Honoured Circus Artist of Russia, Vladimir Durov. He developed his own training method without using whips or sticks. He used to say that “cruelty humiliates and only kindness can be wonderful.”
The theatre comprises of the Main and Small stages, the amusement ride called “Mouse Railway” and the museum. The repertoire includes various performances with animals and birds. Several excursions throughout the month will give you a chance to learn more about Durov’s dynasty and the history of the theatre. The theatre’s motto is: “Teach by entertaining!” The founder of the museum, Vladimir Durov, hoped that his theatre would teach the children to treat animals with respect and care.
The head of the theatre, Yuri Kuklachev, is a famous circus actor and cattrainer. For a long time he worked as an independent performer, but then he decided to open his own theatre. His performances are one-act plays and are targeted at children from age 3.
The theatre hosts two independent artistic teams, headed by Yuri Kuklachev and his son Dmitry Kuklachev, so, despite active touring, the theatre’s doors are almost always opens to its audience.
This theatre frequently makes world tours. Its shows are well-known in the USA, Canada, Finland, China and Japan. It has won many international prizes, among which there is a Golden Cup and the Title of “The Most Original Theatre in the World”, won during a tour to France.
G. A. Ungvald-Khilkevich, a respected film director is general director of the theatre. Mr. Ungvald-Khilkevich’s creative talents helped to prepare eight unique performances: “Catnappers”, “Prince Nutcracker and the Rat King”, “Cat Clowns and Love”, “The Cat in the Boots”, “Cats from the Universe”, “My Favourite Cats”, “Swan Lake” and “School of Kindness.”
In 2005, “Kuklachev’s Cat Theatre” received the status of State Cultural Institution of Moscow.
The Children’s Musical Theatre
named after Natalia Sats
Prospect Venadskogo, 5
The Moscow Children’s Musical Theatre was founded in 1965 by the prominent Russian teacher and musical producer Natalia Sats. This theatre was the first professional venue in the world where the art forms of opera, ballet and symphony were addressed to a young audience.
The emblem of this theatre is the Blue Bird, also known as the Bird of Happiness. The theatre, which was originally set up in a tiny hall, now has two halls. The Main Hall has 1,100 seats and three stages, and a beautiful theatre curtain featuring the images of the Rimski-Korsakov’s opera “Sadko”. The Small Hall has just 300 seats. The theatre also has a unique Palekh Room, painted with characters and scenes from traditional Russian and European fairytales. Before each performance, the actors come out dressed up in costumes, and mingle and talk with the children.
The theatre offers a diverse repertoire of operas and ballets staged specifically for children. Among the current productions are Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, Kolmanovsky’s “Snow White”, Rubin’s “Three Fat Men”, Terentiev’s “Maximka”, Rauhverberger’s “Cinderella”, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Peter and the Wolf” by Prokofiev.
The State Academic Puppet Theatre
named after S. Obraztsov
3 Sadovaya-Samotechnaya Ulitsa
The Obraztsov Theatre is the largest puppet theatre and puppetry-teaching centre in Russia. It contains the Russian State Museum of Theatrical Puppets, containing over 3,000 puppets from over 50 countries, making it one of the largest puppet museums in the world. It also has a library devoted to the art of puppetry, and various manuscripts and documents related to puppetry are held in the centre’s pedagogical department.
The theatre is named after Sergei Vladimirovich Obraztsov (1901-1992), the great Russian puppet-master. He established puppetry as an art form in the Soviet Union, and is considered to be one of the greatest puppeteers of the 20th century. Throughout his acting career, he pursued a personal interest in puppetry and gave regular independent puppet shows. In 1931 he was chosen by the Soviet government to be the first director of the State Central Puppet Theatre in Moscow. He developed the theatre’s productions and performances over a period of some 60 years.
The theatre puts on shows for both children and adults, with matinée performances full of humour and ideal for children, and evening shows more likely to be silent or mimed. The theatre’s repertoire includes “The Divine Comedy” (by the Soviet drama play-writer Isidor Schtock), Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Cinderella”, “Winnie-the-Pooh”, and many others.
There aren’t that many plays in the world which run with a full house for 50- 60 years in a row. In the Obraztsov Puppet Theatre there are few such plays, but the main one has been recorded in the Guinness book of Records for its longevity. It is called “Unusual Concert.” After its first night in 1946, the play was shown in different countries around the world a total of nine thousand times. This famous play is still in the repertoire so don’t miss it.