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"My original agenda was to seek out the famous Moscow Arts Theatre and immerse myself in their productions."


THE JOURNEY Image from the West End production poster of
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

early influences

It is significant that my background and interests as a director were not those of most directors of my generation, since I only arrived in London, at first briefly in 1973 and then permanently in 1978, the year before I founded The Gate Theatre Company. My upbringing in the melting pot that was New York City (Brighton Beach and Coney Island) in the 1950’s and 1960’s immediately put me in touch with vibrantly strong European cultures and literature. A life changing opportunity presented itself in the early seventies, when, through a University connection, I was invited to be a guest of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow. My original agenda was to seek out the famous Moscow Arts Theatre and immerse myself in their productions, and rehearsals. However, when I arrived, I was disappointed to see how old-fashioned and stilted the productions seemed to be. Small wonder when many of the Chekhov productions, for example, had remained in the repertoire, unchanged for decades. However, I discovered the theatre of Meyerhold there in an unexpected way. I befriended a curator of one of the Moscow theatres, who said that in the basement of one of his theatres were actual cardboard scale production models of many of Meyerhold’s productions. We crept, secretively, downstairs, and he revealed about a dozen scale models from many of his productions (including “The Bedbug” which I was later to direct at The Gate).

The highlight of my academic training was my own adaptation of Gogol’s The Nose”, which I directed twice: once with a group of Northwestern University actors with whom I had formed a company called the Chicago Chamber Theatre Ensemble, dedicated to the performance of novels, poetry and short stories. The first time though was with a group of children aged 8-13 who performed this European classic for other children throughout parks and playgrounds in the city. The Chamber Theatre Ensemble went on to become a highly recognised company in Chicago, performing literary dramatic works in venues as diverse as the Hull House Theatre and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

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