The Program as Performance Text

Nicholas Rzhevsky

The dramaturg's traditional job of preparing programs was given new dimensions in the Taganka Theater during the 1970s and 1980s. Emphasis, in this leading Moscow avant-garde company, was shifted from the secondary background material usually offered the audience to the use of printed images and words as organic parts of the performance. Such devices reflected a longstanding commitment at the Taganka to find new ways of integrating the written text into the stage action. Without going to the hieroglyphic extremes of Artaud, the resulting performance programs were often reminiscent of the Cruel Theater's attempt to make words a physical presence, to merge ideas and action, and to eliminate the distance between the written script and the affective life of the stage.

In his two Western productions of Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment and The Possessed, Yury Liubimov, the founder of the theater, extended this performance strategy by providing spectators with school children's essays on Raskolnikov, and by handing out Stavrogin's Confession during intermission. The second play, in particular, demonstrated the director's typical creative response to literature. Stavrogin's Confession, of course, was not included in the first editions of the novel, just as its text was not included in the performance proper. In both instances the primary importance of the confession in understanding Stavrogin's motivations was given a peculiar emphasis by its ostensible exclusion from the work (although in Dostoevsky's case the exclusion played a stronger role since it forced substantial changes in the chapters that followed).

The dramaturgical activity that shaped such printed material--including, as in Poland, theater posters--involved intensive collaboration among director, set designer, actors, literary consultants, and other theater personnel. Particularly important


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