THE Russian DRAMA MUSEUM
An Exhibit of historical costumes, furniture and theater property items
at the Alexandrinsky Theater
From the very beginning of its existence, the Russian theater labored to show the bright pages of the Russian history on its stage. The first Russian actors were coming out onto the stage in the roles of legendary Kiev Princes and Varangian ancestors of the Russian monarchic dynasties. Kiy, Khorev, Ryurik, Sinav, and Truvor… They had been impersonated in the 18th
century by Feodor Volkov, and Ivan Dmitirevsky, and later on, by Petr Plavilshcikov. Subsequently, from under the quill of the first Russian dramatist Sumarokov, False Dmitry with his satraps and his persecutors came onto the stage. Catherine II herself wrote a play about the first tzar-ruler Oleg, in which she was polemizing with her political and esthetic opponents.
In the beginning of the 19th century the fervent dramatic poet V.A. Ozerov evoke patriotic feelings of all layers of the Russian society by his “Dmitry Donskoy” that appeared in the epoch of the Napoleonic wars. Such actors of the Petersburg stage as Alexey Yakovlev (Dmitry Donskoy) and Yekaterina Semenova (Ksenia) had been starring in this tragedy. But it was somewhat later, when A. Pushkin’s “Boris Godunov” and after that A. Tolstoy’s “Death of Joann the Terrible,” “Tzar Feodor Joannovich,” and “Tzar Boris” became the true historical tragedies.
Gradually, not only the legendary and boyar Russia became the object of theater performances: the eighteenth century had penetrated the stage. The first Russian actors, Peter the Great’s supporters, the magnificent Catherine’s Court, Suvorov’s campaigns, Pugachev’s rebellion brought into life new theater characters. Soon the Alexandrinsky Stage turned to personification of the recent historical past, practically embracing the modern realities of that time.
The theater, reflecting the real life, tried to replicate and recreate the corresponding epoch with its mode, everyday life’s details and specifics, with typical for the epoch costumes and accessories. In the two and a half centuries of the Petersburg dramatic stage’s existence, the Alexandrinsky Theater has accumulated a huge baggage -- the most precious collection of material culture items of various epochs; this allows reproducing various historical times on the stage. This collection of costumes, furniture, essentials and properties is enormous. It totals in hundreds and thousands of items. There are objects from various, sometimes famous and even legendary performances created after sketches of prominent theater artists, personal costumes in which theater coryphaeus such as M. Savina and K. Varlamov, Yu. Yuriev and V. Davydov, N. Simonov and H. Cherkasov had been performing…
All these things had been stored in the funds of the costume and furniture/property shops up until recently; presently, this has been turned into the theater’s museum collection. The goal of this exposition that is currently brought to your attention is to show these unique exhibit items. Exhibits are put together in accordance with topical principle. We tried to present you the way the Alexandrinsky’s actors were “performing” the Russian history, the way they had been restoring the boyars’ Russia, the way they looked in the 18th century costumes, and the way the audience could be seen from the stage as described by N. Gogol in his famous “Public Going Home after the First Night of a New Comedy.” With the help of the objects and costumes we are trying to show impersonation of the Nicholas’ epoch on the stage, the epoch of the deadly conflict with such bright and creative personalities as Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov. Museum visitors should be able to see how the theater reflected the world of Gogol’s characters, how Turgenev’ artistic and real stories were impersonated by the Alexandrinsky’s actors. The invaluable collection of costumes and furniture created after A. Golovin’s sketches for the immortal performances of Vs. Meyerhold “Don Juan” and “The Masquerade” staged in the 1910s will be presented to your attention. And last but not least, we will focus your attention on the three great performances of the Soviet epoch: M. Bulgakov’s “Flight,” A. Afinogenov’s “Horror,” and Vs. Vishnevsky’s “Optimistic tragedy.”
The world of Russian drama will appear in the material evidences of the great spiritual revelations which impressed their witnesses with the famous Alexandrinsky’s actors dressed in the costumes of various epochs on the Russian history.