Russian Academic Youth Theater, Moscow, Russia

The Russian Academic Youth Theater of the Order of Lenin (RAMT) is a federal state budgetary institution of culture in the field of dramatic theater art for children and youth in Moscow. It was founded in 1921. Since 1980, the artistic director has been Alexey Borodin.

In the spring of 1918, 15-year-old Natalia Sats, who had already been an actress of the Alexander Griboedov Drama Studio, turned to the theater and music section of the Moscow City Council in search of work, where Platon Kerzhentsev, a member of the board of the People’s Commissariat of Education, invited her to head the children’s sector. For several months, Natalia Sats arranged outing concerts for children. But it was not the theater actors, but the circus artists who responded to vacancies in such performances. For this reason, Natalia Sats decided to create the first children’s theater and appealed to the Moscow City Council with this idea. Officials considered the idea untimely, but after lengthy discussions and budget cuts in the theater, they provided a small room for the former Miniature Theater atMamonovsky Lane, building 10. The building had a bad reputation as a “burnout”, which helped to quickly and easily fix it at the Children’s Theater.

Before starting work, it was required to insulate and master the room, as well as to repair the leaking roof. Henrietta Pascar, a former tango dancer who came from Paris, was appointed the head of the theater. Many actors Henrietta Pascar disliked and for three years in the theater could not work with them.

A puppet room was created in the large hall, and a screen and a device for the shadow theater were installed in the next room. The parsley theater booth is located in a special cavity – it was the first hall to open. The puppet theater began work in November of the same year with a performance based on the play by David Korolkov, written especially for the theater. The opening was modest, with the beginning of the work, the team was congratulated by the director Vsevolod Meyerhold. Later, two performances were watched by the Minister of People’s Commissariat of Education Anatoly Lunacharskyand suggested that Natalia Sats draw up an estimate for the state theater with new equipment, a permanent troupe, an orchestra and a pedagogical unit. In 1920, the People’s Commissariat issued a decree on the reorganization of the first Children’s Theater of the Moscow City Council into the first State Children’s Theater. Soon after, a scandal erupted due to the performance of Henrietta Pascar’s tango with a red flower in the play ” Mowgli “. Natalia Sats was categorically against the use of adult dances in children’s performances, having quarreled with Pascar, she quit and started creating a new theater for children. After some time, Pascar herself was removed from the post of director and returned to Paris.

The foundation of the theater
In the spring of 1921, Natalia Sats opened the Moscow Theater for Children. Officially, it was created on the basis of a decision of the commission of the People’s Commissariat of Education and the Moscow Soviet on theater policy of November 19, 1921. The play for the first performance based on the tale of Sakarias Topelius “The Pearl of Adalmina” was written by Ivan Novikov, directed by Nikolai Volkonsky and Natalia Sats. Artists were invited from the theater named after Vera Komissarzhevskaya. Due to the lack of premises, rehearsals were forced to be carried out in the office of the theater and music section after the end of the department – from six in the evening to night. Natalia Sats for a long time was looking for a suitable room for the theater, until she found the dilapidated abandoned building of the Ars cinema near Mamonovsky Lane. The building was listed behind the People’s Commissariat for Education, but in reality it was ownerless.

Natalia Sats made an agreement on transferring the building to the Moscow City Council for a theater for children and assigned Anatoly Lunacharsky for signature. He did not mind, but the People’s Commissariat of Education categorically refused to give up the building. The dispute reached the Presidium of the Moscow Council, where Sats supported, but compromised and secured the former cinema “for a theater for children with the right to rent their premises in the evening to other organizations to obtain additional material resources.” The building began to be renovated, and the theater was temporarily allocated a room on Bolshaya Dmitrovka, where in early June 1921 the first rehearsals were held.

The theater had to rehearse the theater in the renovated Ars building from morning until five in the evening, and then a movie theater worked until night. Arsa workers were unhappy with the proximity to the children’s theater and for a long time tried to completely regain the building. According to them, children’s performances brought little profit and “undermined the attendance of the most comfortable cinema of the capital.” The attacks stopped after an article by journalist Mikhail Koltsov on the need for a children’s theater appeared in the Pravda newspaper.

In 1935, the question of the creation of the Central Children’s Theater (DTC) on the basis of the Moscow Children’s Theater was studied. The commission approved the project at the beginning of February and allocated the premises of the former Moscow Art Theater 2 on Sverdlov Square under the MDC. Officially, the theater was transformed by a decision of the Council of People ‘s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All- Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks of February 27, 1936 and was opened on March 5 of the same year. On this day, the premiere of the play “Serge Sagittarius” based on the play by V. Lyubimova.

Today, for the first time, the curtain of the Central Children’s Theater rises, created by decision of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the CPSU (B.). The party and the government provided the Central Children’s Theater with one of the best theater buildings in the capital with a well-equipped stage, a large auditorium, and a spacious foyer, in which you can organize for children a wonderful theatrical spectacle and a fun holiday. In their decision to create this theater, the SNK of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks emphasized that the organization and development of the Central Children’s Theater “is of paramount cultural importance.”

Its meaning is determined by its name. It should be the Central Children’s Theater. Children’s Theater as we know it now was born for the first time in the Soviet Union. During the years of the revolution, in addition to the first, created by a pioneer andthe initiator of this great work, Natalia Sats Theater for Children, organized about 60 children’s theaters. Last year’s trip of Natalia Sats abroad was accompanied by articles full of amazement and admiration about the children’s theater in the USSR. Under the influence of the Moscow Theater for Children, the first children’s theater was recently organized in Prague.
– The newspaper “Izvestia”, March 5, 1936

Natalia Sats worked as artistic director and director of the Moscow Theater for Children from 1921 to 1937 and staged seventeen performances. On August 21, 1937 she was arrested as the wife of a traitor to the Motherland and sent to a forced labor camp for five years. The director of the theater was E. N. Vaneeva, and the artistic director was the actor and director of the Moscow Art Theater 2nd Vladimir Dudin.

Evacuation to Kuzbass
In November 1941, due to military operations near Moscow, the theater was evacuated to Kuzbass. During the war, the repertoire was changed: performances were shown for wounded soldiers, rear workers and recruits going to the front. The reviews were different, but even the critics recognized the importance of the theater.

The theater opened the twentieth anniversary season in the small mining town of Kiselevsk. About 20 people remained in the troupe, many of whom worked despite the dystrophy and exhaustion, which started from a lack of food. Each had to combine his work with the work of colleagues who had gone to the front. The first performance was shown on December 31, 1941 at the local Club of Miners, and the actors were gradually remembered by the names and surnames of their characters. Several actors took advantage of this to sign up as volunteers for the front under “pseudonyms”, but the commander of the recruiting squad figured out the situation on time and returned the “fugitives” to the theater – the work of the artists was extremely important for local residents, evacuated rear workers and wounded soldiers who were treated in local hospitals.

In 1942, the theater showed seven new performances and resumed seven more old ones. In addition to performances, the troupe was engaged with children in circles, studios, amateur groups, helped the wounded write and read letters, and also introduced them to classical works daily. Like many other groups, the theater set aside part of the revenue for the front. By April 1943 collected 50 thousand rubles, which was made and sent to the front on behalf of CDT.

At the same time, a theater crew of eight artists worked in the advanced military units, who not only showed performances, but also fought along with the rest of the soldiers. The front-line team showed “more than 60 performances and concerts on the Voronezh and Stalingrad fronts and made three trips to the 3rd Ukrainian and 2nd Baltic fronts”.

The concert of the front-line brigade is distinguished by great warmth, deep topicality <...> The artists’ team has recently arrived from the front. And this gives a particularly sincere flavor to the things performed.
– The newspaper “For Coal!”, March 24, 1943

According to reports, during the evacuation, the troupe held 467 performances and concerts, 1214 art performances in wards for wounded soldiers and organized three shows of Red Army amateur performances. Among the performances were, for example, “Lyubov Yarovaya”, “Jokers”, “Fatal Hour”, “Day of the Living”, “Great Expectations”, “Russian People”, “Children’s stage – 2 hours without a break from experienced grandfather”, “Tricks” Skapena”, ”Undergrowth”, ”Tales”, ”Twenty Years Later”, ”Pupil”, ”Professor Polezhaev”, ”Jean Fearless”.

Postwar years
In October 1943, the theater returned to Moscow, after which the troupe was headed by Leonid Volkov. A studio-school was opened in the theater, in which future collective artists were trained, teachers from the Moscow Art Theater and the Bolshoi were engaged with them. At the same time, the artists had to huddle for six months at temporary venues: during the absence of the troupe, the empty building was transferred to the Maly Theater. For another four years, the performances had to be shown in a small room on Pushkin Street. The theater returned to its native building in 1947, by which time the troupe had partially changed and the number of playwrights and directors had increased.

In 1948, the Moscow Art Theater actress Olga Pyzhova became the artistic director, and Konstantin Shah-Azizov was appointed the new director. In 1950, the director Maria Knebel got a job in the theater, and five years later she became the new director of the theater and invited Anatoly Efros and Oleg Efremov to work. Both directors after many years of work in the team went to create their own theaters. In 1960, Maria Knebel left the post of leader, but in 1966 she returned and worked for two years as the main director. After her dismissal, director Konstantin Shah-Azimov combined both positions until his death in 1974. After that, Vladimir Kuzmin became the artistic director of the theaterand the director is Vladimir Poluparnev. When they began to put on performances about the school, as well as for adolescents and their parents.

From 1975 to 1985, the director of the theater was Sergey Yashin, from 1980 the artistic director of the Central House of Artists was Alexey Borodin. In 1987, the theater received the title Academic, and in 1992 it was renamed the Russian Academic Youth Theater (RAMT).

In the postwar years, the audience was presented with the performances “Son of the Regiment” based on the work of Valentin Kataev, “Volodya Dubinin” based on the novel by Lev Kassil and Max Polyanovsky, “Somewhere in Siberia” based on the play by Irina Iroshnikova, “Forgotten Dugout” based on the play by Sergei Mikhalkov, “Young Guard” based on the novel by Alexander Fadeev,”Salute”based on the play by Y. Yakovlev,” We are faithful to this memory”,”Alpine Ballad”based on the novel by Vasil Bykov,”Alyosha”based on the script by Valentin Yezhov and Grigory Chukhrai “Ballad about a soldier”.

At the end of December 2017, a new, fourth, stage set, called the White Room, opened in the theater. The premiere performance was “Konovalov” based on the story of Maxim Gorky. An open rehearsal took place on the day the scene opened. On the same day, the theater was awarded a certificate of the Potanin Charity Fund to create a RAMT support fund, created on the initiative of director Sofia Apfelbaum.

In December 2017, Sofya Apfelbaum was charged with involvement in the criminal case of embezzlement of state funds allocated in 2011-2014 to the autonomous non-profit society Seventh Studio. In those years, she served as director of the Department of State Support for Art and Folk Art of the Ministry of Culture of Russia. The main accused of the case is the artistic director of the theater “Gogol-center” by Kirill Serebrennikov. The investigation considered that Sophia Apfelbaum, together with Kirill Serebrennikov, on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, signed agreements on the provision of subsidies to the Seventh Studio for 214 million rubles and coordinated the reporting documentation, “which contributed to the theft of Serebrennikov and other persons budget funds in the amount of at least 68 million rubles”. As of June 2018, Sophia Apfelbaum is under house arrest. Since May 2018, Yegor Peregudov became the main director of the theater.

Prizes and awards
The Russian Academic Youth Theater has been repeatedly awarded for its contribution to the development of theatrical art. So, he was awarded the Moscow City Prize, the Certificate of Honor of the President of Russia, the International Stanislavsky Prize, the Breastplate of the Ministry of Culture, the Appreciation of the Mayor of Moscow, the Prize of the President of Russia in the field of literature and art for works for children and youth, the Prize of the Government of Russia, the Prize of the Union of Theater Workers Russia, theatrical award “Crystal Turandot”, “Star of the theater”, “Harlequin” and many others. RAMT also became the first winner of the prize of the Moscow Association of Theater Critics at the Oleg Efremov Charity Fund “For achievements in the field of theater art”.