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New Russian Drama took shape at the turn of the new millennium—a time of turbulent social change in Russia and the former Soviet republics. Emerging from small playwriting festivals, provincial theaters, and converted basements, it evolved into a major artistic movement that startled audiences with hypernaturalistic portrayals of sex and violence, daring use of non-normative language, and thrilling experiments with genre and form. The movement’s commitment to investigating contemporary reality helped revitalize Russian theater. It also provoked confrontations with traditionalists in society and places of power, making theater once again Russia’s most politicized art form.
This anthology offers an introduction to New Russian Drama through plays that illustrate the versatility and global relevance of this exciting movement. Many of them address pressing social issues, such as ethnic tensions and political disillusionment; others engage with Russia’s rich cultural legacy by reimagining traditional genres and canons. Among them are a family drama about Anton Chekhov, a modern production play in which factory workers compose haiku, and a satirical verse play about the treatment of migrant workers, as well a documentary play about a terrorist school siege and a postdramatic “text” that is only two sentences long. Both politically and aesthetically uncompromising, they chart new paths for performance in the twenty-first century. Acquainting English-language readers with these vital works, New Russian Drama challenges us to reflect on the status and mission of the theater.
Maksim Hanukai is assistant professor of Russian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Susanna Weygandt is instructor of Russian at Saint Louis University.
“As the second decade of the twenty-first century draws to a close, this timely and skillfully edited anthology of plays written in Russian introduces us to the inventive genius and sheer courage of young dramatists, who continue to defy the aesthetic, social, and political conservatism of Putin’s Russia.”
—Julie Curtis, University of Oxford
“This new anthology of contemporary Russian plays will be invaluable to scholars and theater makers alike. The early years of this young century sparked an unprecedented flourishing of new writing for the theater in Russia. During a window of relative freedom from censorship, these writers dug underneath the surface of Russian society to explore previously taboo subjects like drugs, sex, violence, the fallout from war, and the reality of life in a new economy. With abundant theatricality and often mordant wit, these plays represent some of the best and most enduring works from a vital generation of new Russian playwrights.”
—Christian Parker, Columbia University
“There has never been a more important moment to stay connected to the Russian theater and culture. This rich, comprehensive, and timely anthology offers a vital and inspiring lifeline for scholars, students, theater makers, and the general public alike.”
—Duška Radosavljević, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London