Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Where the Stars Purr ; MOSCOW'S CAT THEATER

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Where the Stars Purr ; MOSCOW'S CAT THEATER

Article excerpt

Uncle Yura is famous among Russian children as the man with 120 of the most amazing cats ever. They jump through hoops, walk tightropes, dance to music, balance balls on their noses, and easily find their way through complicated mazes. The world's only cat theater, is located in a small and ordinary-looking building in downtown Moscow. Started 25 years ago by former circus clown Yuri Kuklachev, it has grown into one of the most popular weekend outings for Moscow kids.

At the start of each performance, children gather around the theater entrance while Uncle Yura (Mr. Kuklachev) passes out balloons. Then they head into the 400-seat amphitheater where the "actors" - dozens of cats of all sizes and colors - are already warming up for the show.

"I like cats very much," said five-year-old Nikita, after watching "Cats From Outer Space." It's a play - starring cats, of course - about alien felines who come to Earth to save people from evil. "I liked the white cat best," Nikita said. That would be the show's hero, an alley cat named Manya.

Manya defeats the bad guys - played by people - by beaming rays of goodness at them from a big mirrored ball. The show is nonstop action, with cats jumping, rolling, and cavorting across the stage. The plot may be hard to follow, but the kids in the audience don't seem to mind.

"It was just great," said 10-year old Diana. "I laughed and laughed." The cats perform six different plays, in six separate weekend shows. Each one lasts about two hours. Tickets cost about $2. They are always sold out.

After each show, children are invited to visit with the numerous kittens recently born in the theater. If parents agree, a child can adopt one.

Kuklachev is a little man who actually resembles a cat himself. He has a tiny round face, piercing eyes, and small pointy ears. When he talks, you might almost think he's mewing. Dressed in a clown costume and makeup, he acts in each play, along with his wife, son, daughter, and (naturally) dozens of cats.

'Cats are the most astonishing animals I have ever known," Kuklachev says. "It's impossible to force them to do anything. Each has its own personality, and you must work with that. …

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