The modern theatre has been greatly influenced by the developments of theatre in Russia. Russia has produced a wealth of actors, directors, playwrights, and theaters, including Michael and Anton Chekov, Constantin Stanislavski, and the Moscow Art Theatre, to name a few. But despite having produced such influential figures, Russia got a rather late start on "institutionalized" theatre. Until the mid-eighteenth century Russia lacked distinct theatrical spaces or intricate acting styles like those that had already developed in the western European theatre and elsewhere. Although Russian theatre lacked an institutionalized theatre until the mid-eighteenth century, there was still plenty of performance occurring in the country. Most of this performance stems from rituals and religion. These were used for expanded into performances for entertainment as well as for use as a manipulative tool. This group will dig further into the accounts of russian history to uncover the shape of religious performance during the 18th century.
To narrow our focus to the religious performance in the 17th century, our group started with a general web search to gain a familiarity with the Russian theatre pre 1750s. From this general search we learned specific names and movements with which we could narrow in on more specific information. However, we quickly found that the level of specificity we were hoping for was more difficult to find than we were expecting. That is why we chose to continue our exploration of religious performance for the course of the entire 17th century.
In order to gain a holistic view of the religious theatre in Russia in the 17th and early 18th centuries, we will explore the people, plays and politics active at the time. We will conduct research about political leaders such as Tsar Alexis and his son Peter I, and playwrights such as Saint Dmitry of Rostov and Simon Polotsky. The plays of these playwrights will also be researched. These include "Comedy of the Birth of Christ" and "The repentant Sinner" by Saint Dmitry of Rostov and "Nebukadnezar" and "The Prodigal Son" by Simon Polotsky. The miracle or mystery plays created by the church that predated these other plays will be studied in order to give the later plays by Saint Dmitry of Rostov and Simon Polotsky within the Academies more context since these are all from the vein of religious performance. Since culture, religion, theatre and politics are all tightly linked it is only once we have dove in to our research of people, plays and politics involved in religious performance can we begin to form a comprehensive understanding.
Due to the information we were finding with regards to the topic, coming to a consensus on the scope of the project was not difficult. What was difficult was finding a common thread among the information we were finding. Our search for information regarding the topic will continue from here, but through what we have found thus far, we feel as though the pervasiveness of religious themes in the Russian "theatre" of the 17th and early 18th centuries is an area worth exploring. We have included a works cited that lists some of the materials we have begun exploring:
Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevic. Russian Literature. London: Duckworth & Co., 1905.
Hill, John Wesley. "The Russian Pre-Theatrical Actor and the Stanislavsky System." Diss. U of Michigan, 2009. Dissertations and Theses. Web. 8 November 2012.
Malnick, Bertha. "The Origin and Early History of the Theatre in Russia." The Slavonic andEast European Review Vol. 19. 53/54 (1939-1940): 203-227. Print.
Lang, D.M. "Boileau and Sumarakov. The Manifesto of Russian Classicism. The Modern
Language Review , Vol. 43, No. 4 (Oct., 1948), pp. 500-506
Loewenson, Leo. "The Moscow Rising of 1648." Slavonic and East European Review. 27.68 (1948): 146-156. Print.
Lipski, Alexander. "Some Aspects of Russia's Westernization during the Reign of Anna
Ioannovna, 1730-1740." American Slavic and East European Review, Vol. 18, No. 1
(Feb., 1959), pp. 1-11