EAST TO MEET WEST AT MOSCOW'S 6th CHEKHOV THEATER FESTIVAL

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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti correspondent Anatoly Korolev) - Anton Chekhov has become one of Russia's iconic brands, alongside caviar, vodka, Faberge eggs and the Kremlin.

Arguably, no other author is as well-known worldwide as he is. His plays are staged by theatrical companies in Europe, the Americas and even in Africa, with "The Cherry Orchard" being the most popular pick.

As many as twelve different productions of "The Three Sisters" were released last year in Germany and Switzerland alone. They were directed by Michael Thalheimer, of the Deutschen Theater in Berlin, Antoine Uitdehaag, of the Schauspiel Leipzig, and Peter Helling, of a Luzerne-based theater.

Almost all of these newer interpretations try to modernize Chekhov. In Helling's interpretation, the three sisters live on board the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, killing the entire crew. Given Chekhov's realism, such metamorphoses on stage look very surprising indeed.

Regardless of how Chekhov is interpreted, his genius remains relevant just as Shakespeare's genius continues to strike a chord.

The famous Russian author's pince-nez and soft felt hat decorate the billboards of the 6th Chekhov International Theater Festival, which opens in Moscow on June 1, will run through July. This time around, the theme will be 'East meets West.'

The opening ceremony in Aquarium Garden will be quite an unusual prologue to the two-month event. Here, Russian clown Slava Polunin will present his new show with 50 saxophonists of the French outdoor theater Urban Sax and flying acrobats in the background.

The 6th Chekhov Festival has quite a lot of unusual theater experiences to offer. Among the most compelling will be Swiss director Christoph Marthaler's "A Shield Against the Future," scheduled to be performed in Moscow's former Lenin Museum, near Red Square.

Another highlight of this year's program will be British director Simon McBurney's production "The Noise of Time." The dramatic company Complicite and the Emerson String Quartet unite in this beautiful show, which contemplates the haunted life of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Another London-based company, New Adventures, will feature its "Play without Words," which won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.

There will be a lot of Chekhov plays to check out, including English director Declan Donnellan's who is staging his new production of "The Three Sisters" with an all-Russian cast.

The Taipei-based U-Theater will introduce Moscow audiences to a very special style of stage presentation. Its show "The Sound of Ocean," an amalgam of acting, dancing, drumming, and martial arts, will raise its viewers above the hustle and bustle of modern life. The idea is to get them involved in the stage action rather than letting them be passive onlookers, and to have them go through mind-purifying Zen meditation along with the actors.

The festival's Asian dimension will have a Chekhovian aspect to it, as well. The celebrated Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki, a long-standing contributor to the Chekhov Festival and a darling of Russian theatergoers, is staging his production of "Ivanov," to be shown as part of the Japanese Season in Russia.

Among this year's homegrown hits will be Peter Fomenko's production of Alexander Ostrovsky's "Forest," which he staged at Paris' Comedie Francaise, and "Rothschild's Violin," another Chekhov play directed by Kama Ginkas.

The Chekhov Festival, held in Moscow biannually, is arguably one of the most prestigious theater forums. Along with those at Avignon and Edinburgh, this triad sets theater trends in Europe.

And Moscow, alongside Paris and London, remains the theater capital of the Old World, with up to 250 shows released every season.

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