Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS)Variety show theatre’s new ideas and forms

Variety show theatre’s new ideas and forms


GITIS aims to develop drama students from apprentices to masters of their craft

“There is a strong link here between teaching and studying, because both acting and directing skills are supposed to be enhanced,” says Vladimir Pankov, course director of the variety show theatre faculty at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS).

“The process of gradual transformation, from an apprentice to an experienced master of dramatic and scenic arts, and an independent researcher, is the result of continuous development,” he adds.

Professor Pankov graduated from GITIS in 1999 and returned after establishing an award-winning career directing productions in arts festivals and venues worldwide. He is also director of the department’s workshop and artistic director of the Playwright and Director Center in Moscow.

The variety directing facility at GITIS, which expanded into the variety show faculty, opened in 1973, nearly a century after the institute was founded. It originally trained directors and later actors, too. Both learn skills as diverse as stage speech, movement and fighting; drama theory; staging; and the history of directing and costume. Its four- and five-year courses delve into theory and practice to prepare students to perform in and direct dramatic productions, musicals and variety shows.

After working together throughout their course, students stage productions in their final year. Professor Pankov’s students’ material ranges from classics to 20th-century texts and contemporary literature. Recently they have worked with choreographer Ekaterina Kislova on a reimagining of Horace McCoy’s 1930s novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, and they will premiere an adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1887 novella Skomorokh Pamfalon in 2020.

They have also staged a performance of Le Montage des Attractions, a new version of a 19th-century comedy by the Russian Empire-era playwright Alexander Ostrovsky, at the Pompidou-Metz Centre in France. Professor Pankov calls the international collaboration with this renowned arts centre a “powerful upsurge”.

The work fell under the “soundrama” genre – a term Professor Pankov coined to describe a performance that could be categorised as neither musical nor dramatic play. It is also the name for the SounDrama Studio, a group of musicians, actors, artists, sound designers and choreographers that he founded in 2003. “It is a joint art process, there are no canons, every person introduces his own share... It’s all about improvisation, which grows into productions,” he says.

Like soundrama, Professor Pankov says that GITIS’ variety show faculty’s workshop “invites us to be engaged in a synthesised theatre” – an amalgam of the arts that aims to go beyond what has come before. “Theatrical arts are moving to erase the boundaries between diverse genres and trends, towards a new fusion,” he explains.

In this vein, Professor Pankov can foresee collaborations with institutions such as the Moscow Conservatory. “It is vital that the composers and musicians have the opportunity to overlap with the directors and artists within the course of education,” he says. “The variety faculty offers such a capacity.”

As Russia’s oldest state-owned theatre arts school, the continued successful evolution of GITIS, says Professor Pankov, “seems to me…to consist of perpetually searching for new forms and ideas to absorb”.

Find out more about GITIS.

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