суббота, 25 апреля 2009 г.

GOGOL AND THEATER


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

2009 – the year of the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of great Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. The festivities have already begun and will climax on April 1st, the writer’s birthday. The Glas, the first Orthodox Christian theater in Russia is honouring Gogol with theatrical productions based on his works.

A person can reach God via many paths, including the path of art. Nikolai Gogol wrote, “A modern man cannot merge with Christ directly; he needs certain invisible stair steps of Christianity, like art and theater, in particular, if the latter follows its better calling.”

One confirmation of this thought is the Orthodox Christian theater Glas founded in 1989. “Glas” is an Old Russian word meaning “voice”. Indeed, the theater then was much like “the voice of one crying in the wilderness – atheistic wilderness—and served as a reminder of long-forgotten Christian truths which the spectators starved for almost genetically. The road to creating the theater was not an easy one. Intense spiritual work had to be done by the management, directors and actors, followed by their coming into faith.

“After I had read the Gospel several times, I thought to myself — why don’t these universal truths sound from the stage?” says Nikita Astakhov, the Artistic Director of the theater. “Mass culture propagates sin, enmity, depravity, greed, and other vices, aiming to seduce people by presenting it in a pretty wrapper. The spectator succumbs to this information aggression and falls. Or – refuses to watch plays or television. That is why Orthodox Christian theater productions are so vital today. A believer knows that he or she will have to answer to God for everything and refuses to serve the devil. Such a person will expose sin, educate people through art, lead them to faith and edify them.”

The theater has a special relationship with Gogol’s works. “Easter Sunday”, “Nikolai, the servant of God” and “The Inspector-General with a Payoff” are the three productions based on his writings.

“When we were young, and there was no theater yet, we were fascinated by Gogol’s works,” Nikita Astakhov goes on to say. “It was later that we discovered his spiritual prose and his correspondence with his friends. We were astounded by the writer’s thoughts on the soul, human passions and vices. Written down in the 19th century, they are just as relevant today as they were then.

When Gogol was writing “The Inspector-General”, [quote] “he was hurting for Russia, and for the spiritual and ethical health of the people”. But the thought was lost on both the actors and the audiences. It was treated then as just another laugh-out-loud comedy. This public perception of his play upset Gogol. He had hoped that the comedy would have an instant and irrevocable effect on society, and that Russia, having seen her sins in the mirror of the play, would repent and be born anew. But it didn’t happen.

The public’s failure to understand the central message of the play prodded the author ten years later to add another scene to the play called “The Inspector-General with a Payoff” whereby he elucidated his thought: the Inspector-General is our own awakened conscience, and the town depicted in the comedy is not a real town but our very own soul inhabited by hideous passions… “But how can we conquer these passions?” Gogol asks and replies, “With laughter, that is given us to ridicule all that is vile and that which smears the true human beauty.” Let’s give laughter its real purpose back. Let’s take it away from those who have turned it into a frivolous sacrilege of everything, drawing no line between good and bad. Just like we do laugh at another’s meanness, let us also laugh generously at our own meanness. Similarly, you will find anything and everything in you if you descend deep into your soul with a real and incorruptible Inspector-General,” says Nikita Astakhov.

However, this final version of “The Inspector-General” failed to receive the state’s imprimatur. It is unfortunate that even today most people still perceive the outward side of the play and cannot discern its profound religious meaning…

For the first time in the history of Russian theater Nikolai Gogol’s “The Inspector-General” was produced in compliance with all his wishes and directions on the stage of the Orthodox Christian theater Glas.

Source:The Voice of Russia

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