True drama theatre begins with sincerity

Mr. Lukashenko toured the updated halls, which boast everything necessary — including the troupe’s wonderful new rehearsal stage, which is the same size as the main stage and with much of the same equipment. In fact, TV employees are already making requests to film drama at the new venue; this could generate extra funds for the Theatre, helping it become self-sustaining, as the President pointed out. In support of this, the Theatre is exempt from taxation, while still receiving state attention
By Dmitry Kryat and Victoria Popova 

Mr. Lukashenko attended the premiere of the traditional performance of Paulinka, which annually opens the season.

Despite repairs to the Kupala Theatre building in recent years, the troupe has maintained its high level and number of performances, showing that it can work under any conditions. While resident in the House of Officers and the Palace of Trade Unions, the company welcomed full houses and extended its repertoire to include The Abduction of Europe, or Ursula Radziwill’s Theatre and a new staging of Martin McDonagh’s Lonesome West — a tragicomedy. Its premieres included Gogol’s Night Before Christmas (a comedic work close to the literary original) and Yelena Popova’s staging of Leaf Fall. Andersen, Alexander Gartsuev’s People of the Marsh (based on Ivan Melezh’s story), the ironic Local Cabaret and the fashionable yet perceptive Office have all joined the repertoire.

Few would argue that the Kupala Theatre sets the standard for others to follow, having so many times proven its talent and enduring success over these years of disruption.

The Theatre’s Artistic Leader, Nikolay Pinigin, notes, “I’m a traditional person and don’t believe that drama is synonymous with high-technology. Theatre is about more than light entertainment: it portrays real human emotions. We’ll never rival Broadway, which generates millions of dollars and has similar amounts invested in its performances, reproducing swimming pools, palaces, fire and lava. We certainly have some innovations to share with theatre goers though. We’ll surely always enjoy full houses. Our temporary halls seated thousands while there are only 360 seats in our own auditorium.”

In April, three performances are showing on the Kupala Theatre’s new stage: Paulinka, Dinner with Nuts and Pinsk Gentry. The House of Officers, the House of Trade Unions and Minsk Concert Hall will also continue staging performances.

The premiere in the newly opened building was a clear success. After the curtains fell, applause resounded for some time, showing the audience’s admiration. Actors from all over the country attended, alongside famous cultural figures and the President, who was received by the theatrical troupe on stage. Mr. Lukashenko took a microphone from centre stage to the edge, to avoid obscuring the artistes, as the ‘true’ hosts. It was obvious that their performance had moved and impressed him. He admitted, “On the eve of coming here, I felt as anxious as a schoolboy. I’ve spent half of my life in politics, often speaking in public, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the theatre. A special occasion was needed after such a long period.” Of course, surely, no better occasion than the opening of the renewed Kupala Theatre could be found.

Work continues and Mr. Lukashenko has promised to see renovations completed within the next 18 months. He noted the large funds spent on reconstruction but believes that the investment will help the troupe give their best, bringing pleasure to the public. “If you continue to give performances of this calibre, all expenditure will be fully compensated. The public, whose taxes we’ve spent on this restoration, will become your audience,” the Head of State added.

Naturally, other theatres await renovation and the President has asserted that state support will be forthcoming. He expressed his sincere gratitude to the troupe, saying, “Thank you for bringing me to the theatre after a long break. Now, I can attend any theatre.”

Once the hall had emptied, the President chatted with the troupe, and was requested to visit more often. Mr. Lukashenko couldn’t promise to visit once a month — as asked — but has promised to attend premieres.

His warm, informal conversation tackled many aspects: elevated and earthly, including the role of art and drama within society and its particular significance in Belarus. Naturally, the subject of funding arose. Fortunately, Belarusian theatre is quite well provided for but some issues will always exist. However, these are solvable: through the theatre’s own effort and with steady state support. It was promised that support from the state will continue but the troupe is asked to keep staging thrilling performances, such as Paulinka, to encourage full houses. 
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