Tag Archives: Russian theater

Mikhail Shchepkin Monument, Moscow

IMG_8788.jpg2I’m happy to show you this monument to the great 19th century Russian actor Mikhail Shchepkin that you can only see if you have friends at the Shchepkin Institute. It stands inside the closed courtyard among the classrooms, rehearsal halls and performance spaces of this great acting school, one of two in Moscow that are named after actors. The Shchukin Institute, named for Boris Shchukin, is affiliated with the Vakhtangov Theater. The Shchepkin, located right behind the Maly Theater is affiliated with this, the oldest drama theater in Moscow. Traditionally, each September 1 all the students and teachers gather around the monument to begin the new academic year. The Maly, incidentally, took in two of Vsevolod Meyerhold’s top actors – Mikhail Tsaryov and Igor Ilyinsky – when the Meyerhold was closed in the late 1930s and Meyerhold himself was murdered shortly thereafter. Both Tsaryov and Ilyinsky taught acting for decades at the Shchepkin.

IMG_8787.jpg2IMG_8789.jpg2Shchepkin is generally considered the beginning of the great line of Russian actors that lead to Konstantin Stanislavsky’s theory and practice of being lifelike on stage. He is also the origin of one of the most-quoted phrases in Russian theater: “Theater for an actor is a cathedral. It is his sanctuary! Your life, your honor – it all belongs irrevocably to the stage, to which you have given yourself. Your fate depends on these boards. Treat this cathedral with respect and make others respect it, perform with religious fervor or get out.”


Anton Chekhov Monument, Tomsk

DSCN1657.jpg2Ah, the Chekhov sculpture in Tomsk! I love it! This was hugely controversial when it was erected in 2004 for the city’s 400th anniversary. Many thought (and still do) that this interpretation of a slightly grumpy Chekhov by sculptor Leonty Usov was an abomination. I say this is what statues and monuments are all about – witty, honest, bold and filled with chutzpah. The text ringing the base of the sculpture says, “Anton Chekhov as seen through the eyes of a drunken peasant, lying in a ditch, who has never read [the beloved children’s story] ‘Kashtanka’.” It is intended to be, and succeeds in being, a light-hearted response to Chekhov’s famous blasting of Tomsk in a letter he wrote while on his way to Sakhalin Island, “Tomsk isn’t worth a brass nickel,” he wrote in 1890, “an incredibly boring city…. the people are incredibly boring… the city is full of drunks… endlessly muddy… the maid at the local tavern wiped my spoon on her butt before giving it to me… The dinners here are excellent, unlike the women who are rough to the touch…”


The statue stands on the banks of the Tom River, for which Tomsk, naturally, is named, and it faces the Slavyansky Bazaar restaurant (the red brick building below), where the writer apparently had at least some culinary satisfaction.

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