Tucked away in an ordinary-looking courtyard of Moscow’s Clear Ponds is the Studio Theatre, currently under the leadership of People’s Artist of the USSR Oleg Tabakov. Both the actors and audiences call the theatre the Tabakerka (‘snuffbox’), a fitting name for this cozy basement on Chaplygina Street. The space is incredibly magnetic, but it’s not easy to see why. Probably it is because of Aleksandr Vampilov, Viktor Rozov and Aleksandr Volodin – these are the three notable Soviet playwrights whose plays brought the fledgling theatre its first success, and whose bronze figures have been warmly welcoming visitors walking through the theatre’s doors since 2007. Or perhaps, it’s the very charms of Oleg Tabakov himself – a charismatic person, director and actor. Indeed, it could very well be the quality of the acting troupe itself.
The history of the Tabakov Studio Theatre goes back to 1977 when the young but already well-known actor Oleg Tabakov recruited a class of 26 students from GITIS (The Russian University of Theatre Arts). The following year, Tabakov and his studio obtained permission to occupy a former coal storage facility which they cleaned up and revamped themselves, turning this basement into an iconic place that gave birth to some of the best productions of the Moscow theatrical world. Despite recognition from professional peers and theatre-goers, it wasn’t until 1986 that the Tabakerka was granted the status of theatre; by then, the theatre’s main troupe consisted of the graduates of Tabakov’s new enrolment class. Since then, for almost four decades the Studio Theatre has been living a colourful and distinctive life, staging several new performances every year, touring all over the world and winning prestigious theatre awards. Oleg Tabakov, who since 2000 has been combining his work as the artistic director at his own theater and at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre, along with managing the Acting technique department of Moscow Art Theatre School, continues to bring new ideas and talent to Tabakerka. The basement on Chaplygina Street saw the debut performances of actors Vladimir Mashkov and Yevgeny Mironov, directors Valery Fokin and Kama Ginkas, and many others.
The Tabakerka began with a few wooden benches in a small auditorium, and from its very first student performances, people were queueing up to get in and watch the show, even if it meant having to stand the whole time because all the seats had been sold out. Years have gone by, but the theatre still gets filled with crowds of excited spectators not only on opening nights, but also to see productions that have withstood the test of time; this is why some of the theatre’s performances take place on the large stage of the Chekhov Art Theatre, another of Tabakov’s projects. The extensive repertoire of the Studio Theatre features literary works by A. Ostrovsky, A. Chekhov, A. Volodin, A. Vampilov, A. Galich, V. Rozov, M. Gorky, J.B. Molière, B. Brecht and other playwrights. The Tabakerka offers a selection of performances to any taste. From an artistic development perspective, the theatre focuses its endeavours on art synthesis and the search of new dramatic forms, presenting its classical repertoire both in its usual aesthetic format (as with The Three Sisters directed by A. Marin and Marriage directed by O. Topolyansky) and in the form of experimental versions (as with Wolves and Sheep or Fathers and Sons directed by K. Bogomolov).
The bright history of the Tabakerka is imprinted on the walls of the theater foyer, where a timeline of the theatre’s foundation is displayed, alongside the relevant documents. Nowadays, no evidence of the theatre’s humble beginnings in the 1970s is left, except for photographs. The auditorium is now equipped with comfortable chairs, and instead of a small cupboard, an authentic café “Theatrical Cellar” has appeared. The theatrical season of the Tabakerka opens in autumn and closes in the summer, so that almost all year round audiences can see the wonderful actors on the stage, including Oleg Tabakov, Rosa Khayrullin, Denis Nikiforov, Sergei Bezrukov, Evdokia Hermanova and many others.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com