15 years in the open air:
Vologda Drama Theater at the "Voices of History" Festival 2003-2018 yy.
Most often, the "backstage life" of the theater remains inaccessible to the ordinary viewer: how the performance is being prepared, what happens at repetitions, what the actors see from the stage, how they are waiting for their exit, what makes them laugh and upset. Photos from repetitions are stored in artistic archives and very rarely come to the attention of the general public. Vologda Drama Theater offers to touch the secrets of the behind-the-scenes "Voices of History". The album contains rare photos from the rehearsals of the performances of the winners of the festival, since 2003.
The "Voices of History" Theater Festival in 1995
The "Voices of History" Theater Festival held in Vologda, is unique -largely due to the idea of holding open-air performances in the architectural environment of the Vologda Kremlin. The idea of an open stage platform, itself, of course, is not new and is very popular. If we talk from a utilitarian position: in a hot climate, an open amphitheater saves from the stuffiness of the auditorium, and a stage built in a picturesque natural corner attracts crowds of tourists. But it is precisely from this position that the Vologda "Voices of History" is a bizarre and impractical phenomenon. The northern summer rarely pleases with warmth, abounds with mosquitoes, floods with rains. The white June nights force the organizers to postpone performances until late in the evening. Perhaps even the main idea of the festival – "an artistic study of life in the space of history" - could fade over time, and "Voices of History" would turn into an ordinary competition of performances on a historical theme. But for 27 years the festival has existed in the form in which it was invented by the Vologda Drama Theater and approved by the Ministry of Culture of Russia.

What is the secret of the Vologda open-air festival? Firstly, the situation is unusual for the theater. The historical and architectural ensemble of the Vologda Kremlin becomes a natural setting for festival performances, since the acoustic features of the Consistory Courtyard and the Tower "Pyatnitskaya' allow actors to play performances without the use of amplifiers and phonograms. Attempts were also made to go beyond the walls of the Kremlin. Since the first festival in 1991, performances have been played at St. Sophia Cathedral (from the Kremlin Square) and between Sofia and the Kremlin Wall. For example, in 1991, the play "Bright Resurrection" was presented here by the Moscow State Spiritual Theater "Glas". In 1995, the Pskov Theater in the historical monuments "Carousel" played "Gypsy" on the banks of the Vologda River. In 1999, the Moscow Theater "At the Nikitsky Gate" under the direction of Mark Rozovsky performed "Songs of Our Yard" in the courtyard of the city Administration.

When a new leader appeared in the Vologda Drama Theater - director Zurab Nanobashvili, who took the post of artistic director, the open-air stage space of the festival expanded and transformed even more. For his performances, Zurab Nanobashvili began to choose stage platforms that had not yet been mastered. So, in 2003, the troupe played the play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the former Bishop's Garden - among the mysterious greenery of trees and bushes that became the scenery for the play. The play "Anna's Diary" (2005) was performed on the roof of the drama theater. There was built a stage equipped with light and sound, and an amphitheater of the auditorium. The audience climbed to the roof by a narrow staircase and found themselves in the "attic" of Anne Frank, under the starry summer sky. By the next festival in 2007, the theater returned to the Kremlin, and a special three-story mechanized structure was created for the performance "Karamazov and Hell", which was installed in the Consistory courtyard. In 2018, the theater chose the Kirillo-Belozersky Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve for the festival premiere.

The "Voices of History" Theater Festival in 1991
During the "Voices of History" the city becomes truly theatrical. The audience is happy to go to performances in any weather, on particularly cold nights they put on down jackets, and in the rain, they courageously do not open umbrellas so as not to block the view of those who are sitting further away. It is hard for artists who, during the performance, play in the rain, lie on cold and wet flooring, are doused with icy water, are exposed when the thermometer is near zero. And Vologda actors, who traditionally prepare the premiere for the festival, have been rehearsing for several weeks (I would like to say they are hardened) on the street in all weather conditions. Isn't that what they call infatuation or even obsession? Yes, Vologda is passionately in love with its festival, infects visitors with enthusiasm and inspires artists to feats. This is perhaps the main reason for the longevity of the "Voices of History".

All participants of the open-air festival face difficulties. But, perhaps, only the Vologda Drama Theater, headed by artistic director Zurab Nanobashvili, goes to them intentionally and purposefully. Even when the festival preparation does not involve the search for a new stage venue and obtaining the appropriate permits, the director, together with the production artists, comes up with an absolutely incredible and technically complex structure that is almost impossible to move under the roof. So not all productions get a "second life" on the stage of the drama theater. For example, "Karamazov and Hell" (2007) and "The Holy Monastery" (2016) - and remained in an exclusively street version. However, the "intra-theatrical" version is always slightly inferior to the "original" - in terms of emotional intensity, dynamics and audience response. It is impossible to repeat on a closed stage the shrill whistle of swifts, the ringing of bells, the summer starry sky, the smell of sun-warmed earth, river water and greenery, to reproduce the gradually fading sunlight and moving shadows appearing on the white walls of St. Sophia Cathedral, to achieve the same level of sincerity and realism.

Theater critics who come to the "Voices of History" often note the twofold position of Vologda theaters: on the one hand, they have the opportunity to prepare a performance on an open platform for a long time, master it, customize it for themselves; on the other hand, they are forced to show the premiere at the festival, worry about the audience's reaction and not be able to make changes to the competitive production. But, I think, it is the productions prepared on an open stage (and not adapted) that realize the main idea of the review - the development of theater in the historical and architectural environment as a special form of theatrical art.

The productions of Zurab Nanobashvili presented at the festival were repeatedly awarded by the jury of the Voices of History with the A. Semenov Prize for the successful development of the historical and architectural space by means of the theater. For example, theater critic Kapitolina Koksheneva writes about the recent performance "The Holy Monastery": "Zurab Nanobashvili created a special performance, implanting it into the historical and cultural space of the Consistory Courtyard. The play "The Holy Monastery" immediately acquired a special artistic status, in which the place itself (the "dictatorship of space") assumes the function of a "performer" almost on a par with the actor – at least from the actor it also required a special psychophysical state based on "naturalness", inaccessible in the box scene. <...> The director dared to think spatially and symbolically. He dared to actualize The Russian Middle Ages (and the stone walls, which became the historical "decoration" of the play, were erected in 1671-1675) for Vologda public"

During the 15-year period of the history of the participation of drama theater performances in the Voices, there is only one episode when the festival production was not inscribed in the historical architectural background. In 2012, the competition part was abolished, and Vologda theaters presented premieres on a traditional closed platform, and in the case of a drama theater production - on a small stage. Zurab Nanobashvili's "Hamlet" - a brilliant interpretation of Shakespeare's tragedy - was awarded a high expert assessment by the jury and critics, and the performers of the main roles (Hamlet and Claudia) Dmitry Bychkov and Nikolay Akulov were awarded special prizes in the nomination "Young and Classic". The competition resumed only in 2016.

The history of the new performance "Land of Blood", the premiere of which will be presented at the XIV International Theater Festival "Voices of History", has not yet been written. The performance will be created for the stage in the Kirillo-Belozersk Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve. In an interview with the information portal about culture in the Vologda region cultinfo.ru Zurab Nanobashvili explained his choice this way: "The Drama Theater has not mastered new venues for a long time. And I would not want the story of Judas to be told against the background of St. Sophia Cathedral. In the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, we chose a more "calm", but at the same time atmospheric space." Soon another amazing and unique miracle will be born in front of the viewer. May the fate of the new performance be long and successful!

The "Voices of History" Theater Festival in 1999
W. Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The premiere of the play took place in 2003 on the stage in the Bishop's Garden near the walls of the Vologda Kremlin. The director of the performance Zurab Nanobashvili became the winner of the Main prize of the festival - "Masks". Special prizes were awarded to the Honored Artist of Russia L. Rudoy "For the performance of the best male role" and the artist N. Vorobyova "For the performance of the best female role".
F.Goodrich, A.Hackett

Anna's Diary

The play was first presented at the VIII International Theater Festival "Voices of History" on the roof of the Vologda Drama Theater in 2005. To carry out the performance, numerous checks and approvals had to be passed, and during the performance, inspectors of the state fire supervision were on duty on the roof and around the theater.

The director of the play - Zurab Nanobashvili - became the winner of the Main prize of the festival "For the search for new expressive forms and means in the development of the historical and architectural environment" (the Prize named after Semenova). The theater staff was awarded the Audience Award for the best acting ensemble. The acting duo of L. Rudoy - S. Trubin was awarded the Honorary Prize of the jury.
N. Klimontovich

Karamazov and Hell

Based on the novel by F.M. Dostoevsky "The Brothers Karamazov" and later stories

The play was first presented at the IX International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in the Consistory Courtyard of the Vologda Kremlin in 2007. The director of the play, Zurab Nanobashvili, won the Main Prize of the festival "For the director's interpretation of the philosophical novel by F. M. Dostoevsky in the techniques of the areal mystery theater."


The performance was first presented at the X International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in the Consistory Courtyard of the Vologda Kremlin in 2010. The discussing critics spoke about the "pathos" of Mikhail Roshchin's play, which was the basis of the production, its naivety, unhistoricity, verbosity and even primitiveness. The jury members who came to the discussion spoke in defense of the play, and later awarded the performance "Echelon" with the A. P. Svobodin Prize "For revealing a historical event by means of the theater".
W. Shakespeare


The play was first presented at the XI International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in the Consistory Courtyard of the Vologda Kremlin in 2012. The head of Vologda, Evgeny Shulepov, awarded special prizes in the nomination "Young and Classic" to actors Dmitry Bychkov and Nikolai Akulov for the roles of Hamlet and Claudius.

W. Shakespeare

Richard II

The premiere took place at the XII International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in 2014. The performance was awarded the Alexey Semenov Honorary Prize for mastering the historical and architectural environment by means of the theater, specially established by the Vologda branch of the Union of Theatrical Figures.
The Holy Monastery

The play was first presented at the XIII International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in the Consistory Courtyard of the Vologda Kremlin in 2016. Director Zurab Nanobashvili was awarded the A. Semenov Prize for the successful development of historical and architectural space by tools of the theater. "The Holy Monastery" has no clear literary basis, it is a unique combination of dramatic text, sermon, historical facts, architectural image and musical canvas, it is a new genre at the turn of drama and mystery, it is a theater inseparable from the lively atmosphere of an open historical space.
Land of Blood

Based on the play by L. Ukrainka "On the Field of Blood",

the premiere of the play will take place at the XIV International Theater Festival "Voices of History" in the Kirillo-Belozersk Historical, Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve in 2018.