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The 11th International Mikhoels Readings Were Conducted at RSAL

On 26-27 November 2019, the 11th international conference ‘National Theatre in the Context of Multinational Culture’ was held at the Russian State Art Library (RSAL). Participants included art historians; theatre experts; and specialists from libraries, museums, and archives from around the world, who study the phenomenon of the theatre in a foreign language environment. The 11th Mikhoels Readings were held on the centenary of the theatre, which was recognised not only in our country, but also abroad at the Moscow State Jewish Theatre (GOSET), whose history is connected with the name of Solomon Mikhoels.

The 2019 programme of the Mikhoels Readings opened with the premiere of the play, The Builder, based on the play by Solomon Mikhoels as staged by the Moscow Granovsky Theatre. It premiered on 25 November, at the Moscow Hermitage Theatre evening dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Moscow State Jewish Theatre, which brought together researchers of Mikhoels’ creative heritage and the history of GOSET, and descendants of those who worked in the theatre: from Israel, Alla Zuskina-Perelman (daughter of the famous actor Veniamin Zuskin) and Elena Goltsfarb-Lurie (daughter of the director Leonid Lurie); and from Canada, Queens University Professor Vasily Shchedrin arrived. Remembrances were shared by Anna Fridlyand-Meter (granddaughter of the actor Meyer Shteyman); and niece of the artist Alexander Labas, Olga Beskina-Labas, head of the Foundation for the Creative Legacy of Alexander Labas (Labas Foundation), and many others. Rare archival footage, photographs, documents, and unique documentation of the art of Mikhoels and his theatre, miraculously preserved in Soviet times were shown.

The creative heritage of Solomon Mikhoels includes his acting roles, work as a director, articles, reports, and performances; however, very few know the work of Mikhoels the playwright. The play The Builder, written in 1919, was considered lost; but in 1993, it was discovered by the historian Vasily Shchedrin in the archives of the A. A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum.

In 2019, based on Solomon Mikhoels’ play The Builder, Director Igor Pekhovich presented a stage fantasy—a philosophical overview of a thousand-year history of mankind, its crises, and tragedies.

The 2019 Mikhoels Readings brought together researchers who have been studying the history of national theatres, the works of actors in various countries, plays in foreign theatres, the fate of repressed actors, the history of theatres reflected in the press, documents, archives….

For the first time, Director of the National Library of the Republic of Abkhazia Boris Cholaria took part in the Mikhoels Readings, presenting a message on the history of the Abkhaz National Theatre. Within the framework of the conference, an agreement was signed on cooperation between RSAL and the National Library of the Republic of Abkhazia. The agreement provides for the exchange of documents, publications, and other information resources, and the holding of joint projects and activities that will contribute to the development of international cultural relations.

For conference participants, RSAL’s specialists prepared two exhibitions. ‘Theatrical Memory of the People. Belarusian Dramaturgy. Minsk - Moscow. From the Archives of RSAL’ displayed materials about famous theatrical productions by Belarusian authors on the stages of the two capitals from 1930 to 1980. The exhibition ‘Theatre Puppets of the Peoples of the World’ from the collection of the Museum of Folk Toys of the World demonstrated the variety of theatre puppets from various countries.

The 11th International Mikhoels Readings was conducted with the support of the Russian Jewish Congress. RSAL is preparing a collection of conference materials, including messages and reports.