Wednesday, January 17, 2018

EXTENDED: Russian Director Continues Detention

Kirill S. Serebrennikov. Photo: Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency  
The New York Times reports today that Russian director Kirill S. Serebrennikov has had his house arrest extended again as State prosecutors marshal their forces to prosecute him for allegedly embezzling the equivalent of $2.3 million. The Ministry of Culture is asking to be compensated that amount should Serebrennikov be found guilty. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is quoted in the Times as having said in December, “If this were a persecution, not a prosecution, his performance wouldn’t have been staged at the Bolshoi.” The performance to which Putin refers is Serebrennikov's recent production of Nureyev, the gay ballet dancer who defected from the Soviet Union.

According to the article by Oleg Matsnev, Serebrennikov has staged plays featuring nude actors and touching on socially divisive issues of sexuality and politics. Speaking in court on Tuesday,  Serebrennikov said that his accountant at Seventh Studio, Nina L. Maslyaeva, who has turned State’s witness in the case, had falsely accused him and four colleagues of theft.

CANCELED: 2018 World Congress at Banff

Banff Center, Canada

The International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) announced that its World Congress, planned for September 2018 in Banff and Calgary, Canada, has been canceled due to a lack of funding commitments. Secretary General Michel Vaïs has reported on behalf of himself and IATC President Margareta Sörenson that several other options are being investigated.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

PUBLISHED: Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques New Issue

The IATC journal Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques has been published just in time for your new year reading. Editor-in-chief Savas Patsalidis announced publication December 29 with a Special Topic for Number 16 edited by renowned international artist and author Johannes Birringer on "Sound/Theatre: Sound in Performance."

Flesh Waves (phase #4), by Isabelle Choinière,
with dancers Laurie-Anne Langis, Édith Doucet,
Nadège St-Arnaud, Béatrice Trudel, Frédérique
Forget, 2013. Photo: Mateo H. Casis, Cie Loc & Mac

Sound designer Chris Wenn weighs in on "Acoustic Ecologies of Independent Theatre in Melbourne." Scholar and artist Gretchen Jude explores the "Sounding Body as Digital Assemblage."

Bill T. Jones and I-Ling Liu perform Story/Time. Photo by Paul B. Goode

Performance thinkers
from around the globe consider varied topics within editor Birringer's "ensounded" construct such as aural choreography, Bill T. Jones "repurposing" John Cage, soundscapes of "narco silence" in the border areas of the United States and Mexico, corporeality in choreography of new music, sonic energy and the body, and other intersections of sound and performance as the impact of design creates new ways of thinking about theatre and performance.

La Terquedad, a project on which writer and director
Rafael Spregelburd started working in 1996.

Also featured in this edition are national reports on theatre in Ireland, Hong Kong, Argentina, Serbia, GreeceAnglophone CanadaIsrael, and Chile. Performance review editor Matti Linnavuori of Finland has once again curated a lively selection on international perspectives from around the globe. Don Rubin of Canada offers his usual thoughtful collection of book reviews on performance topics.

Coming in February 2018, Critical Stages/Scènes Critiques will roll out the second installment of Number 16 featuring interviews, conference papers, and essays. Stay tuned for more and let us know how the journal might better provide news, reviews, essays, and special topics of interest to you.

Friday, December 22, 2017

PROTEST: IATC Statement on Serebrennikov Detention

Kirill Serebrennikov in court December 4, 2017.
Photo: Artyom Geodakyan/TASS
According to the website of Radio Free Europe, which based its reporting on TASS and Interfax, a Moscow City Court upheld on December 4 an extension of house arrest for Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov. He has been detained on fraud charges, accused of embezzling approximately $1 million in State funds. Serebrennikov was arrested in August. In October, the district court extended his house arrest to January 19. The 48-year-old director has repeatedly stated that the charges are "absurd."

Prior to his arrest, Serebrennikov

clashed with Russia’s Culture Ministry over the staging of a ballet about legendary Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who defected to the West in 1961. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky suggested that production might violate a 2013 'gay propaganda' law. (RFE)

As a result of his detention, Serebrennikov was not allowed to attend the Europe Prize for Theatre festivities in Rome, December 12–17, where he was to receive one of the top prizes bestowed in the category of "Theatrical Realities." The International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) issued an official protest against the detention of the artist at its meeting in Rome on December 17. The critics' organization noted that despite Serebrennikov's isolation, his Nureyev ballet opened recently at the Bolshoi Theatre. The IATC also noted that the organization "shares the deep worries of the Russian critics, who already launched a protest in August, against the arrest of Serebrennikov. The accusations . . . alleging misuse of funds in his theatre, do not justify his prolonged detainment."

The IATC statement concluded, "the world of the arts and free expression will never accept the maneuvers of any state trying to stop an artist from speaking with a clear voice for freedom."

Friday, December 1, 2017

NOMINATIONS: 2018 Thalia Prize Deadline

2016 Thalia Laureate Femi Osofisan
The International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC) requests proposals for candidates for the IATC Thalia Prize. National and regional sections of IATC are invited to propose candidates. The 2018 Prize will be given at the IATC World Congress in Banff, Canada.

2006 Thalia Laureate
Eric Bentley
The Thalia Prize is IATC’s prestigious award for outstanding contribution to the field of theatre criticism, and to critics and theoreticians who have played significant roles in shaping our understanding of theatre spanning different cultural settings, politics, and aesthetics.

Previous Thalia Prize honorees have featured an impressive selection of laureates: Eric Bentley (USA, 2006), Jean-Pierre Sarrazac (France, 2008), Richard Schechner (USA, 2010), Kapila Vatsyayan (India, 2012), Eugenio Barba (Denmark, 2014), Femi Osofisan (Nigeria, 2016).

2008 Thalia Laureate
Jean-Pierre Sarrazac
Recommenders are urged to consider 
candidates whose body of work has been influential at home, in their regions, and abroad, or whose writing they feel merits attention on an international platform. National and regional sections are therefore not restricted to suggesting candidates from their own countries, but may refer any candidate believed to fulfill the criteria of the Prize.

2010 Thalia Laureate
Richard Schechner
National and regional sections proposing candidates must submit a brief biography of the candidate along with translation (where needed) of excerpts from the candidate’s work in English or in French, the working languages of IATC. Thalia honoree recommendations must be submitted by December 19, 2017.

2012 Thalia Laureate
Kapila Vatsyayan
Each national or regional section may propose only one candidate. National and regional sections should note that the successful candidate must be present to receive the award at the Thalia Prize Award Ceremony at the World Congress in Banff, Canada (September 23–28, 2018).

2014 Thalia Laureate
Eugenio Barba
The Executive Committee of IATC will prepare the candidacies received from the national or regional sections for its next meeting in Craiova, Romania in April 2018, where the decision on the laureate will be taken.

For more information or to make a recommendation, members of the American section should contact Jeffrey Eric Jenkins (jej [at]

Saturday, August 26, 2017

RUSSIA: Director Under House Arrest

Kirill Serebrennikov
The Russian Theatre Critics Association has issued a statement of its concern over undue pressure applied in the case of director Kirill Serebrennikov, who was arrested under cover of darkness in St. Petersburg and placed under house arrest in Moscow. An English translation of the critics' association follows here, with slight editing for clarity:
The Russian Theatre Critics Association, a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC), has issued a public statement to express anxiety over pressure being exerted on theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov. 
Serebrennikov was deported at night by force to Moscow from St. Petersburg, where he was shooting a movie. The next day he was sentenced to house arrest by a regional court. 
The situation surrounding Serebrennikov grew more tense in July when the opening of the ballet Rudolph Nureyev, which he directed at Bolshoi Theatre, was canceled as controversial. 
Serebrennikov is accused of misusing funds that were targeted for a cultural project titled The Platform. One of the items in the prosecutor’s investigation implies that the production of Midsummer Night's Dream was not created at all. This assertion is false: the production has been seen dozens of times, it continues to run, received a range of reviews in various media, and was nominated for the national theatre prize, The Golden Mask. The investigation continues to assert that the work does not exist. 
There are deep doubts about the motivations for the prosecution of Serebrennikov. The responsibility of the stage director is unrelated to financial and production activities, which is covered by an investigation of the producer and the bursar for The Platform project. Serebrennikov never refused to answer questions in the course of the investigation of the case. 
His house arrest seems an unnecessary use of pressure on the artistic creator. Serebrennikov has never staged blatantly political performances. Nevertheless, the style and issues raised in his works are always fresh, unconventional, and truly innovative. The director was personally outspoken in support of liberal values. He was critical of the trial against the Pussy Riot group, of homophobic legislation, of church obscurantism, and he has supported transparent presidential elections. 
Just a month ago, the board of Europe Theatre Prize announced its decision to award Serebrennikov the New Theatrical Reality prize at this December’s event in Rome. 
Serebrennikov's impact in Russian culture is truly significant. He created several productions at the citadel of realistic theatre—the Moscow Art Theatre—and helped revive it for new audiences. He created The Seventh Studio of Moscow Art Theatre and educated a company of actors who used artistic language matched to a new dramatic style and thought for the generation now emerging. This group has undertaken The Platform project that received The Golden Mask in 2012, titled The Scoundrels, about right-wing radicals in contemporary Russia. 
Serebrennikov supervised the rebranding of a Moscow theatre house as the Gogol Center, which has attracted young crowds and become one of most thrilling places for drama in Moscow. Productions created by Serebrennikov generated discussion and sometimes controversy among its audiences. Now under house arrest, he is unable to complete a theatre production for the Gogol Center in addition to his film about the early the Russian rock 'n' roll generation that was shooting in St. Petersburg. His project of opera film of Hansel and Gretel at Stuttgart Opera house, filmed partly in Rwanda, must be postponed. 
The Russian Theatre Critics Association hopes that the international community of theatre critics will support our attempts to protect the social and artistic rights of Kirill Serebrennikov and of the evolving Russian artistic culture.                — August 24, 2017
Deadline's Greg Evans also reported on August 24 that the European Film Academy called for the "unconditional release" of Serebrennikov in an article that showed the director in an apparent holding cell. A tweet by Pussy Riot is quoted in the Deadline piece saying that Serebrennikov "had been placed under house arrest by 'Putin's butchers.'"

Holding cell? Kirill Serebrennikov Photo: REX/Shutterstock