Spotlight on St. Petersburg Theaters: Maly Drama

Spotlight on St. Petersburg Theaters: Maly Drama

Katya Boyarskaya is a long-time MIR tour manager, guide, and director of MIR’s affiliate St. Petersburg, Russia office. She was born into a theatrical family in St. Petersburg, graduating as a drama theater critic and historian from the College of Theatrical Arts. In a series on St. Petersburg’s famous theaters, Katya shares one of her favorites, Maly Drama.

MIR's Katya Boyarskaya autographs a new book on her family's history in Russian theater <br>Photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya

MIR’s Katya Boyarskaya autographs her book on her family’s history in Russian theater
Photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya

Maly Drama TheatreIs the Russian in that Chekhov play just too dense for you?

Next time take in a play at the Maly Drama Theater in St. Petersburg, where most shows are sub-titled in English. The company tours the world, performing in many U.S. cities with its most popular productions: Uncle Vanya, Three Sistersand most recently the beloved Cherry Orchard. So now the Maly has all three classic Chekhov plays in its repertoire.

Think how tempting and satisfying it would be to spend an evening listening to Chekhov in Russian – performed by Russia’s best actors – and checking your cheat sheet (a.k.a. sub-titles) from time to time.

Maly Drama's foyer boasts posters such as "Love's Labor Lost," "Warsaw Melody," and "Intrigue and Love" <br>Photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya

Maly Drama’s foyer displays posters for plays such as Love’s Labor Lost, Warsaw Melody, and Intrigue and Love 
Photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya

Long-time LeaderThe Maly Drama Theater (MDT for short; “maly” means “small”) is headed by world-renowned artistic director Lev Dodin, who oversees productions of Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill. The theater was founded in the 1940s, when it was opened in Leningrad during World War Two. It grew in fame in the 1970s under Dodin’s direction.

Even today, the Maly is one of the few theaters that continues to stage plays from the Soviet era, such as Fyodor Abramov’s Brothers and Sisters, as well as many others from Soviet-era authors who wrote about the realities of life under the Soviet regime.

Born in Siberia, Maly Drama's Artistic Director Lev Dodin grew up in the theater <br>Photo credit: Ave Maria Mõistlik/Wikimedia

Born in Siberia, Maly Drama’s Artistic Director Lev Dodin grew up in the theater
Photo credit: Ave Maria Mõistlik/Wikimedia

Besides the artistic value of the productions, Dodin’s achievements also were in preserving the type of theater-home which brought world fame to Russian theater in general, beginning with Konstantin Stanislavsky, best known for inventing method acting (originally called the Stanislavsky Method). His was “repertory theater” with a permanent troupe of actors devoted to the director’s ideas, complemented with ideas from his pupils – a kind of home-like atmosphere of give and take. (This contrasts with Broadway-type productions, where a group of actors are put together for one single show.)

Insider Tips
  • Advance planning: This isn’t the place for a last-minute outing: The Maly Drama Theater typically plays to a packed house, so it’s best to buy tickets well in advance.
  • Read first: To truly enjoy a performance at Maly Drama Theater, read the play before you go. 

Travel to St. Petersburg with MIRMany of MIR’s small group tours to Western Russia visit the world-renowned theaters of St. Petersburg and Moscow, where you delve into Russia’s rich cultural history of theater, music, and dance. You can also book a custom private journey.

(Top photo credit: Katya Boyarskaya. The entrance of MDT – Maly Drama Theater)

PUBLISHED: January 12, 2015

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