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New Russian Drama: Durnenkov and Klavdiev

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May 5, 2010
May 5, 2010
Segal Theater

The Segal Center’s collaboration with the Center for International Theatre Development (CITD) continues in this special presentation of Vyacheslav Durnenkov and Yury Klavdiev, two leading Russian playwrights of the post-Soviet generation. Mr. Durnenkov and Mr. Klavdiev have achieved notoriety in Russia as co-screenwriters of the controversial Russian television series School. Featuring a reading from Klavdiev’s I Am The Machine Gunner in English translation and discussion with the artists and Philip Arnoult, director (CITD), and Moscow Times theatre critic John Freedman.

Vyacheslav Durnenkov Photo courtesy of artist

Vyacheslav Durnenkov
Photo courtesy of artist

Vyacheslav Durnenkov was born in 1973 in Togliatti, a major center for automobile manufacturing in Russia. He has worked as an auto worker, a graphic artist, a playwright and a screenwriter. He, along with his brother Mikhail Durnenkov, Yury Klavdiev and others, came to the theater through the May Readings festivals run by the playwright Vadim Levanov in Togliatti at the beginning of the century. When the May Readings connected with Moscow’s New Drama Festival, Durnenkov and his Togliatti compatriots came to the attention of Moscow and the rest of the world.

Vyacheslav has written a number of plays in tandem with his younger brother Mikhail. The most famous of them is The Cultural Layer, which was staged at the Moscow Art Theater in 2005. The brothers have also written together on several projects for the Royal Court Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company (The Drunks) in London. Vyacheslav’s numerous plays written alone and produced in Moscow include Three Acts in Four Paintings (Praktika Theater, 2007), The Woman of the Questionnaire (Yermolova Theater, 2007), and Frozen in Time (Teatr.doc, 2009).

A collection of plays, The Cultural Layer, by Vyacheslav and Mikhail was published in Moscow in 2005. Vyacheslav and Yury Klavdiev are the co-screenwriters of the controversial Russian television series, School.

Yury Klavdiev Photo courtesy of artist

Yury Klavdiev
Photo courtesy of artist

Yury Klavdiev was born in 1975 in Togliatti. Although his grandfather organized the first theatre in Togliatti, Klavdiev himself felt little connection to this art form until 2002, when he attended a touring performance of Ivan Vyrypaev’s Oxygen. The experience of seeing characters and subjects from a life that he recognized convinced him to start writing plays.

Klavdiev’s characters, often homeless or involved in criminal activity, both endure and inflict emotional and physical violence. Children and teenagers hold a special place in Klavdiev’s work and he often depicts young characters caught up in a world that forces maturity on them too soon. At the same time, he believes that his plays are written in between the real and ideal worlds. His characters express both despair at the way they see the world in the here and now, as well as hope for the way they would like it to be. Critic John Freedman writes that the playwright “examines volatile loners and outsiders who precariously, though nimbly, maneuver on tight wires stretched between the poles of violence and tenderness.”

Klavdiev’s plays include I Am the Machine GunnerMartial ArtsThe Bullet CollectorThe Slow Sword and The Polar Truth. He and his wife, Anastasia Moskalenko, wrote the children’s play, Piggy and Carp: A M-m-m-Monstrous Vegetarian Drama. Productions of his plays have toured and been produced throughout Russia and Europe. Klavdiev and Durnenkov are the co-screenwriters of the controversial Russian television series, School.

Philip Arnoult Photo courtesy of the CITD

Philip Arnoult
Photo courtesy of the CITD

Philip Arnoult is widely recognized, nationally and internationally, for his commitment to long-term, international projects, introducing artists and supporting those first steps toward collaborative projects. He is the founder of The Baltimore Theatre Project (1971) and the Center for International Theatre Development (CITD) (1990). Arnoult worked with the East Africa Office of the Ford Foundation in the development of a Media Art and Culture program in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. He continues his relationships with Stacy Klein and Double Edge’s Farm in western Massachusetts, the Grotowski Institute and Theatre ZAR in Wroclaw, Poland, and various projects in Bulgaria, Romania and Armenia. He has worked with Antioch College, The University of Tennessee, Bennington College, and Towson University in a variety of consultative roles.

John Freedman Photo by Kate Lenora

John Freedman
Photo by Kate Lenora

John Freedman has written or edited nine books about Russian drama and theater and has been the theater critic of The Moscow Times since 1992. His play translations – including those of Maksym Kurochkin – have been performed in the United States, Australia and Canada, and published in numerous anthologies and journals. He is the Russian director of The New Russian Drama: Translation / Production / Conference (2007-2010), a project hosted by Towson University (Baltimore, MD) and Philip Arnoult’s Center for International Theater Development (CITD). Freedman previously appeared at CUNY in 2008 with Kama Ginkas and in 2009 with Olga Mukhina.


The Center for International Theatre Development was founded in 1990 by Philip Arnoult. While the Center’s work has had a long-time focus in Eastern and Central Europe, major additional projects have been developed in the Netherlands and East Africa. CITD works with over a dozen US partner theatre across the country. Ivo Van Hove (Netherlands), Kama Ginkas (Russia), Robert Alfoldi and Janos Szasz (Hungary), and Nona Ciobanu (Romania) have all been introduced to US artists and audience through the work of CITD. Since 2000, CITD has been working with US and Russian partners opening up the new writing in Russia.  To date, over a dozen “American-English” translations have been commissioned with Towson University in Baltimore. Since 2000, over 50 US theatre leaders have visited various festivals and special events Russia. Key partners in Russia are author John Freedman, director Yuri Urnov, the Meyerhold Center, and the Golden Mask Festival.


6:30 p.m., Wendesdy, May 5, 2010
Martin E. Segal Theatre. Free!