Teatr.doc Threatened in Moscow

16 октября 2014 г.
  • О событии
Posted by John Freedman on October 15, 2014 at 1:10 PM

I am putting together here an edited compiliation of the news about Moscow's attempt to close the world famous tiny Teatr.doc. I will add to this post as news becomes available. Latest news first.

2 a.m. Moscow time, Oct. 16. We now have an open letter that anyone from outside Russia can sign. You may sign by commenting below with your name, profession and city. You may also send that information to me in a PM, or you may go to my Facebook page and give me that information there. Here is the letter:


An Open Letter in Defense of Teatr.doc: We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the situation that has arisen around Teatr.doc. We fear what we and Moscow theater both stand to lose if Teatr.doc is forced to leave its famous basement space on Tryokhprudny Pereulok. Teatr.doc is a bellwether of contemporary Russian drama and theater. Don't be fooled by Teatr.doc's small size. It does great things that affect the entire world. Anyone traveling to Moscow in the last decade in search of new ideas, new forms, new writers, new directors, new acting styles, new spectators, and even new marketing approaches or ways of working with the public, has invariably ended up in the tiny, but mighty black basement room where theatrical magic is done on a routine basis. Russian artists emerging from Teatr.doc have spread their own personal fame, as well as that of the theater, all over the world, be it with highly successful tours of Teatr.doc's productions in Europe, be it in plays developed at Teatr.doc but staged in world premieres in Europe, England or the United States, or be it in projects that have been conceived and developed jointly in Moscow and abroad. We know Teatr.doc not only as the home of the famous "new drama," which has deeply influenced theaters and writers all over the world, but as the warm and loving home where "new drama" was born and bred. Teatr.doc is a tiny space, just a few rooms in a Moscow apartment building. But its influence on, and importance for, world theater is already the stuff of legend. We urge all parties concerned to do whatever possible and whatever necessary to preserve this important cultural institution. Teatr.doc is one of the great riches of Russian culture today. It must be preserved.

About 8 p.m., Oct. 15 Maya Mamaladze posts an interview with Mikhail Ugarov. I see it only around 10:30 p.m....

Misha Ugarov gives an interview to Openrussia.org about the situation swirling around Teatr.doc today:
"- Yes, legally they (the Moscow Property Department) had the right under the contract to [terminate] it. It turns out they did it the fifth of May, and we learned about it late last night. They write that a notice of termination was sent - but no one received any such notice. Because it didn't exist. I think this is intentional - the decision was made, that's all.

There were no violations: neither in rent payments nor with the fire inspector, nor with taxes. None of any kind. One can only guess [why the contract was terminated], but the field for divination is small here.

A theater was born here, built by hand, created and assembled out of a dirty basement. The thirteenth year began: people grew accustomed to this place. So, of course, this is very dramatic. No one can destroy Teatr.doc because it is not a state entity. It is practically the only non-state theater in Moscow. As such, in the current situation it is an irritation. All the more so because we stage political performances and we don't behave like people in dependent theaters. No one can close this theater, but they can take away its space. This is very important because somewhere, some violation can be found. But history shows that it is a different stagage, and usually it comes to a bad end.

It's worth putting up a fight, but a legal battle will be impossible. You can only fight by making noise, rousing public opinion, appealing to the importance of the problem. Silence works in their favor, as we see, and we must battle silence. While we work on coming up with a way to act, our strategy will be to make noise.

About 9:15, Oct. 15: Translating a brief interview with Elena Gremina on the site Yopolis.ru:
- When does the theater's lease expire?
- It expires in December, but we have primary rights for a rent extension. Since the contract with us was terminated unilaterally, we were deprived of this right. Moscow's Dept. of Property is a monopoly, so they have the right to terminate their contracts at will.
- Why do you think it happened?
- Contracts are usually terminated with unscrupulous tenants - those who do not pay rent, who sublet the premises for other purposes and so on. But we had no complaints. We were in total accordance with the fire inspector, we carry out all orders.
- Will you dispute the termination of the contract? What else will you do?
- I do not know what we'll do. I'm not prepared for a fight, I want to make theater. If necessary, we'll vacate the premises and look for another place. It's a pity, of course. 12 years - it's a historic space, with all the memories and so on. And now there will be a store on this site, or something equally silly. Well, we'll move to someone's garage and we'll put on our shows there.

About 9 p.m., Oct. 15: Elena Gremina writes about the news that has now appeared in the media that Moscow's Property Dept. is closing Teatr.doc because it carried out "unsanctioned remodeling."

"Oh! Suddenly the reason is found after the media started calling. But why only now? It would be nice if someone would explain it to us
- I don't go so far as to say 'warned us' They could have said if you don't do this or that, we will negate the rental contract. To complete the picture - we rented this space, where all previous modifications by all previous tenants since the postwar period were unsanctioned))). That didn't surprise or concern anyone. And no one suffered a terminated contract because of this. All modifications consisted in carrying out changes required by the fire inspector and were done in full agreement. But nobody asked us anything. They just terminated a contract with a conscientious tenant of 12 years. In order to destroy a theater space that has gained popularity."

Around 8 p.m. Oct. 15, I posted information that my wife gave me in a call. I make the correction here that Oksana did not hear Sobyanin directly, but heard a reporter quote Sobyanin.

Oksana Mysina just called me from her drive home - she heard a quote of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that "We will get to the bottom of this" in reference to fears that the city is closing Teatr.doc.

Around 8 p.m. Oct. 15, I reposted my translation of a post by Teatr.doc actor Vladimir Bagramov:
Vladimir Bagramov, an actor at Teatr.doc posts this information which I cannot confirm, but quote assuming the source is good:
"The Moscow Property Department terminated its rental contract with Teatr.doc on May 5, 2014. [That's not a typo - JF]. Without explanations and without notification. All of this time, however, up until today's date, the Moscow Property Department has accepted rent payments from Teatr.doc."

Early eve. Oct. 15. I reposted, with some commentary, a quote of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that Gremina had posted:

Elena Gremina has announced today that it would appear that a city real estate department will break the contract with Teatr.doc, thus leading to the influential theater's closure. This isn't a done deal yet, but it is more than a nasty threat. Doc is in serious danger. Here I am sharing a quote of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that Gremina shared on her FB page - "I've never heard about Teatr.doc or its problems, but basically there are lots of theaters in Moscow that do God knows what." Mid-day Oct. 15 Yelena Gremina posted the following on her Facebook page:

"All of a sudden, the city of Moscow (in the guise of the Department of Property) has unilaterally and prematurely terminated the lease with our theater without giving any reason as to why. So, if you like or are interested in our Teatr.doc, I advise you as soon as possible to visit this historic - dare I say it - room (which over the last 12 years has been a theater that produced performances, hosted Lyubimovka, Kinoteatr.doc and much more). Because soon enough there will be a store there or something else you need no less in these modern times!. (Anticipating your questions: We paid the rent and taxes on time, and we have complied strictly with fire and other regulations. But none of that probably means anything now!)