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Just A Dream? Embattled Russian Director Appeals To Audience To Prove Play Was Performed


Aleksei Malobrodsky, former art director of the Gogol Center theater, attends a court hearing in Moscow on June 21.

The head of an embattled Moscow theater has appealed to theatergoers to prove that a production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream was not, after all, just a dream.

Gogol Center theater Artistic Director Kirill Serebrennikov has turned to Facebook to ask Moscow drama fans to prove that the theater put on 15 performances of the play after Russian prosecutors accused former theater art director Aleksei Malobrodsky of embezzling the money allocated by the government for the production as part of the Gogol Center's Platform project.

"Perhaps your testimony, memories, and impressions as viewers of Platform will be proof of the thing to which I and our entire team...dedicated three years of our lives," Serebrennikov wrote. "It is particularly important to recall the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we played for Platform more than 15 times. Later, we played it in Paris at the Theater of Chaillot and later again at the Baltic House festival. It was nominated for all possible theater awards...And now the investigators of the Investigative Committee tell us that it does not and never did exist."

Russians have begun to respond to Serebrennikov's appeal, using the #ябылнаплатформе (I was at Platform) hashtag he created.

Serebrennikov wrote that the "100 posters" of Platform projects that the theater presented to prosecutors were not considered sufficient proof. In a pretrial hearing on June 21, a prosecutor told the court that reviews of Platform productions in the press were not proof that the plays were actually performed.

"You can write whatever you want," the prosecutor said, according to Meduza.

In a review published on December 13, 2012, by the English-language Moscow Times, reviewer John Freedman called the production a glimpse "into the dark recesses underlying Shakespeare's play."

"What Shakespeare intended as lighthearted parody, Serebrennikov convincingly and beautifully delivers as full-on tragedy," Freedman wrote.

Artistic Director Kirill Serebrennikov has participated in protests against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Artistic Director Kirill Serebrennikov has participated in protests against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Malobrodsky was detained on June 19. Last month, another former director at the theater, Yury Itin, and an accountant, Nina Maslyayeva, were also arrested in connection with alleged embezzlement at the theater.

The three are accused of "large-scale" embezzlement in the amount of nearly 200 million rubles ($3.35 million) between 2011 and 2014. The funding was allocated by the government "for the development and popularization of the arts."

On May 23, the Gogol Center theater and Serebrennikov's apartment were searched.

Serebrennikov has participated in protests against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has voiced concerns about the increasing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in cultural matters in the country.

Prominent theater figures in Russia and abroad, including ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov, have expressed concern over the situation at the theater and have called for a transparent investigation.

Written by RFE/RL senior correspondent Robert Coalson, with reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service
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