“Theater is a place where a person can learn the truth,
Regardless of his level of knowledge.”
The art of theater has accompanied human history since time immemorial. Being the most powerful means for cognition of reality in a special emotional form, theater is capable of uniting and educating people in a socially useful direction, serving to satisfy aesthetic needs of society and expressing artistic views.
Theater is a magical world where nothing is impossible. It can take us anywhere in the world, take us back to the past, or help us look into the future. Theater is a kind of meditation and contemplation. People come here to be entertained and to look within themselves, to reflect with others on the nature of the human experience.
What, then, is the power of theater as art to affect the human being? A. D. Popov (1892-1961) – Soviet Russian actor, theater director, theater theorist and pedagogue argued that the main, irresistible power of theater lies in the living, reverent heart of the actor, in his fiery thoughts and feelings. According to K.S. Stanislavsky (1863-1938), a Russian theater director, actor, pedagogue and theater reformer: “The strength of theater is that it is a collective artist, combining into one harmonious whole the creative work of poets, actors, directors, musicians, dancers, set designers, costumers and other stage workers. At the same time, the art of theater is collective, and this is also its strength. Theater simultaneously utilizes the creativity of all the arts without exception: literature, stage, painting, architecture, plastics, music, dance, which it gathers under its roof. Theater, due to its synthetic nature, has a strong emotional impact on the viewer and the actor’s performance, and the whole complex of artistic means.
Theater art has its roots in antiquity. Its origins lie in the ancient games of hunters, pagan rituals and ceremonies associated with the fundamental moments of life of primitive society.
The first steps of theater among Slavs, as well as among other peoples, are connected with various rituals. So, the ancestors of the Slavs performed special dances before hunting. In other rites, it was pictured how they sowed, harvested, processed flax. Observing the phenomena of nature, people thought that the success of their labor depends on a special deity, which was worshipped, and the deity was represented by a scarecrow or dressed as a man. This stage in the formation of theatrical art, based on various rituals, has a pronounced religious orientation.
Centuries went by. Over time, instead of a deity began to portray a king or voivode, a landowner or a merchant. In all these rites, games and celebrations, people who could sing, dance, tell tales, joking and play musical instruments gradually began to stand out and attract attention. They were the first entertainers of ancient Russia – skomorokhi. They dressed up in special clothes, put on masks, transformed into other creatures and played various scenes. Such sketches can be called the first mini-performances of folk theater.
It is interesting that in the XVII-XVIII centuries in Russia at the same time there were two kinds of theater: folk and professional. To the folk theater, as mentioned earlier, refers the art of skomorokhov, which reached its heyday in the XVII century. According to M. Gorky, “they were spreading all over the country ‘lieder’ and songs about the events of the ‘great troubles’, battles and victories and the death of Stepan Razin. Theatrical performances during this period of development were clearly socially oriented, so, for example, the performance of skomorokh about serfs and the boyar was directed against the boyars and voivods. Not surprisingly, the church and the government fought against the skomorokh: Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, in his decree of 1648, prescribes: “gusli, domry, bagpipes, and other demonic humdrum vessels, as well as khary (i.e. masks – note by A. Avdeev) … be taken away, broken, and burned.
Also to the folk theater can be attributed performances of puppet theater, whose main character was the invincible Petrushka, and performances with a “scientist” bear, the so-called “bear jest,” which enjoyed great popularity in the XVII century. Here you can also trace the social orientation of the theatrical art of the period under consideration.
To the professional theater we assign school theater in Russia, which emerged by 70-80 years of the XVII century. Its organizers were teachers of the theological school (later the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy), and the actors were students.
The first attempts to arrange a professional drama theater in the 18th century are connected with the name of Peter I. In 1702 on his order a troupe of German actors under the direction of Kunst was invited to Moscow.
Peter I dreamed of a theater which would be open to all comers. Note as an important feature of the drama theater that the theater in the understanding of Peter I was to be an ideological advocate of his reforms. However, the repertoire, consisting mainly of plays by German playwrights, did not resonate with the events of Russian life, so the performances were not a success with Muscovites. In 1706 the performances in Moscow ceased. In the 30-50s of the 18th century Russia hosted many troupes – from Germany, France and Italy.
At the same time in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities Theater was extended to “hunting comedians. Artists in these theaters were petty officials, students, literate craftsmen, workers and soldiers. The repertoire consisted of small scenes of comic and farcical nature. The theater of “hunter comedians” combined the features of folk and professional theaters. By the middle of fifties of XVIII century there was already a national Russian playwrights A.P. Sumarokov and M.V. Lomonosov.
It should be emphasized that, precisely by the middle of the XVIII century the division of the theater into folk and professional was clearly defined, the repertoire of theatrical productions underwent fundamental changes – Russian authors appeared. Theater began to combine social, entertainment and folk functions.
In 1756 we find the first official mention of the origin of Russian theater: Peter I signed a decree on the formation of national Russian theater. Its director was A.P. Sumarokov. However, the leading role in it belonged to the outstanding theatrical figure Fyodor Grigorievich Volkov (1729-1763). The first performances appeared in 1750 in Yaroslavl. Soon the funds of the audience were built theater building. Word of the performances in Yaroslavl reached the capital. The actors were called to St. Petersburg, they formed the basis of the company, which opened in 1756 Russian professional theater. And for FG Volkov forever remained given to him the name of Vladimir Belinsky as the father of Russian theater.
Since 1756 until the end of XVIII century, Russian theater art grew extremely fast. In addition to the public appear private professional troupes, as well as a large number of amateur troupes. The serf theater became widespread. The most famous serf theaters were on the estates of the Sheremetevs, Yusupovs and Vorontsovs. These theaters were intended for the tastes of aristocratic audiences, and most often French operas and lavish ballets were staged there.
The peak of the development of drama and theater in the 18th century was D.I. Fonvizin’s comedy “Nedorosl”. Here for the first time sharply and boldly spoke about the detrimental impact of serfdom on all aspects of life. Having absorbed and developed the best features of folk theater culture, professional Russian theater to the end of XVIII century reached such a level that allows you to talk about it as the foundation of all subsequent achievements.
The beginning of the XIX century is characterized by the greatest historical events: these are the years of the heroic struggle of the Russian people against Napoleon’s armies. The Russian theater of that time, in response to public demand, had great success with the plays that call for the fight for the fatherland, glorifying the exploits of heroes for the motherland.
Historical events always had a great impact on the theatrical life in Russia, for example, in the first quarter of the XIX century Russian public attention was occupied by the Decembrists who denounced serfdom and autocracy, promoted high civic ideals, love for freedom, which undoubtedly led to a truthful depiction of life on the theatrical stage. Questions of theatrical aesthetics were developed by A.S. Pushkin. He defended the principles of true nationality in the Russian theater. The brilliant innovative works of this period were Griboyedov’s comedy “Woe from Wit” and Pushkin’s tragedy “Boris Godunov.
In 1824 the Maly Theater opened in Moscow, and in 1832 the Alexandrinsky Theater opened in St. Petersburg. These two theaters, in fact, and were the basis of Russian theatrical culture. Of great significance for the Russian stage was the staging of Gogol’s The Inspector General in 1836. For the first time the theater with such sharpness and boldness intervened in life, sought to influence the solution of pressing social problems. With the appearance on the stage of the great Russian playwright AN Ostrovsky in the history of Russian theater is a new era. A.N. Ostrovsky’s dramaturgy is “a whole people’s theater.” I.A. Goncharov wrote to A.N. Ostrovskiy: “You alone have finished the building, in the foundation of which cornerstones were put by Fonvizin, Griboyedov, Gogol. But only after you, we, the Russians, can be proud to say: “We have our own Russian, national theater.
Russian theater is on the way to the assertion of truth, realism. In 50-70 years of XIX century gets a big social importance of the Little Theater. Its role in the cultural life of Russia is extremely high. Not without reason the Maly theater for its high educational role was called the second university. It established on the stage the playwrights of A.N. Ostrovsky.
In 80-90s of the XIX century, after the assassination of Alexander II, the onset of reaction intensified. Censorial oppression especially affected the repertoire of the theater. The Maly Theater was going through one of the most difficult and controversial periods of its history. The basis of creativity of the largest actors of the Maly Theater was the classics (Schiller, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Hugo).
Since the mid-60s of the XIX century in Russia, attempts were made to organize, along with the largest and oldest imperial theaters – Alexandrinsky in St. Petersburg, Maly in Moscow – theaters private, sometimes even amateur. Leading theatrical figures sought to resist reactionary influences and trends, to bring stage art to the masses of the audience. In the second half of 80-ies people’s houses are created, which usually had and theater halls. A special place in the history of advanced theatrical companies late last century was taken by the Society of Art and Literature, established in 1888 with the participation of K. Stanislavsky. Together with V. Nemirovich-Danchenko (1858-1943) they founded the Moscow Art Theatre (now the M. Gorky Academic Theatre). It was K. Stanislavsky and V. Nemirovich-Danchenko who gave an authentic stage life to the playwright A. Chekhov. Chekhov. On the stage of the Art Theatre, Chekhov’s plays became a significant event in the cultural life of Russian society (the play The Seagull). Ideas associated with the growth of revolutionary upheaval in Russia, with even greater force sounded from the stage of the Art Theater in the plays of M. Gorky Citizens” and “At the bottom.
November 6, 1918 – an important date in the history of theater. On this day in Moscow opened the world’s first permanent theater for children. The First Children’s Theater of the Moscow Council hosted performances of the Petrushka Theater, shadow theater, marionettes, and ballet. The organizer and manager of the theater was Natalia Ilyinichna Sats. Since 1920, the First Children’s Theatre of Mossovet was called the State Theatre. Since the Children’s Theater did not yet have its own repertoire, it was decided to dramatize “Mowgli” by R. Kipling, and the playwrights to order plays for children.
In 1921, another theater was created – the Moscow Theater for Children (now the Central Children’s Theater). The first plays about pioneers were staged at the Moscow Theater for Children: “Be Ready!”, “Pioneering”. A large place in the performances was taken by music. Many of the productions of the theater composer D. Kabalevsky called “through musical. In February 1922, Ershov’s The Little Humpbacked Horse opened a Theatre for Young Spectators in Leningrad. The Leningrad Theatre for Young Audiences created performances for schoolchildren of all ages.
In 1936, the largest theater for children – the Central Children’s Theater – was created. On October 10, 1936 the theater showed its first new production – “Golden Key” by A. Tolstoy (directed by – N. Satz and V. Korolev).
In 1965, the opera “Morozko” by M. Krasev in Moscow was opened the first Moscow State Children’s Musical Theater (director and chief director – N.I. Satz).
Nowadays in Russia there are many kinds of theaters – drama and musical theaters, the theater of light and shadows, the theater of poetry and absurdity and others.
An important feature of modern theater is close attention to the inner world, complex mental conflicts and the psychology of modern man. Besides, modern theater is always an intense search for something new. New worldview and new rhythms of life have to correspond with new stage direction techniques and new ways of solving the scenic space. So, theater is one of the most complex, most effective and most ancient arts.