Moscow’s Taganka Theater was accused by Russian senator Oleg Panteleyev of holding performances that promote “violence, homosexuality, pedophilia and suicide” before the Russian Federation Council. The theater director, Vladimir Fleyshir, responded to the conservative senator’s assertions that Taganka Theater exhibited an “amoral life style” and “insufficient patriotism” by offering to defend the theater with proof that the senator’s claims were false and could not be true because the dates named by the senator for the “amoral” performances were impossible, which Fleyshir did prove to the Department of Culture, who were called on to investigate the theater.
The accusations were made at a Federation Council meeting Wednesday, although the agenda of the plenary session meeting did not include a theatrical theme. Panteleyev voiced concerns that a show performed by Taganka Theater–directed by the highly acclaimed Kirill Serebrennikov–“propagandized violence, homosexuality, pedophilia and suicide.” Another event held by the theater–a March 14-15 documentary film festival called “Maidan”–Panteleyev asserted, had “attracted people with Ukrainian nationalist symbols.” A third claim was that Taganka Theater had commissioned a play which “ridiculed the state security agencies.” Another upcoming play, Mikhail Grinkov’s “Dreams of War,” was set to premier May 9. This play, the senator said, “asked the question of whether it was worth defending one’s homeland.”
Panteleyev told the council that it was time to “influence the situation in our beloved theater,” and “stop the process of dissipation and preserve the high traditions of Russian repertory theater.”
Panteleyev was supported in his remarks by speaker Valentina Matvienko–known recently for her anti-gay statements and blacklisted by the U.S. government as part of its sanctions against Russia. Matvienko said that she would request that the Ministry of Culture investigate Taganka Theater.
Vladimir Fleyshir, the director of Taganka Theater, responded to the accusations by saying that he was “prepared to provide information to the Federation Council refuting everything that was said in the session today.” Fleyshir said that there had been no festival called “Maidan” on March 14-15, on which dates the theater had performed a series of documentary plays about Taganka theater itself.
Thursday, the Moscow Department of Culture responded to the accusations made by Panteleyev. The Department of Culture’s investigation found that none of the allegations made against Taganka Theater were true.
The speech made by Panteleyev may have been sparked by a letter addressed to Matvienko, reportedly, in which an unknown author expressed concern about the introduction of “pro-Western surrogates” in the Russian theater, which was causing a “colonization of Russian culture by… Western ideological models.” Sources in the theater pointed to a self-organized union among the theater group who actively opposed performance by a collective of young filmmakers, artists and critics called Group of the Jubilee Year, who had been invited to the theater for a series of commemorative events. The union had earlier disrupted at least two Group of the Jubilee Year performances.
Moscow’s Taganka Theater was founded 50 years ago in 1964 by internationally-renowned Russian actor and director Yuri Lyubimov, which explored psychological approaches to performing and was influenced by Bertolt Brecht’s “epic theater.” Lyubimov was banned and stripped of Soviet citizenship in 1984, when he moved to the West. Lyubimov returned to the theater in 1989, and continued as director until 2011, when the 93-year-old quit over the mercenary attitudes of the theaters actors, who had recently gone on strike for money–after paying them. Lyubimov was succeeded by two leading actors and some administrative assistants.
By Day Blakely Donaldson