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Mikhail Sholokhov: “Bring a Genuine, Greate Art to the Folk Masses!”


The building of the excursion and exhibition center of the Sholokhov Museum-Reserve "People’s House", constructed at the beginning of the twentieth century, is one of the forming elements of the administrative area of ??the stanitsa Vyoshenskaya.

People’s houses in Russia were created from the end of the 1880s, with the aim of combining educational and leisure activities of the population. They housed a library with a reading room, a theater and a lecture hall, a Sunday school, evening classes for adults, a choir room, a tea shop, and a bookstore. At some people's houses museums were arranged.

A huge influence on the development of the unique Cossack culture in the Soviet period was exerted by the campaign “for the Soviet Cossacks” launched by the USSR leadership in February 1936, with the goal of involving the Cossacks in strengthening the collective farm system and the country's defense capability. During the campaign, Cossacks were given the right to develop and promote their culture, create Cossack choirs, ensembles, theaters, etc.

So, in 1936 in Vyoshenskaya at the initiative of Mikhail Sholokhov Theater of collective farm Cossack youth was created. December 13, 1936 is the official opening of the theater. In the newspaper "Molot" dated December 15, they wrote:

“Conversation with the director of the Vyoshensky theater of collective farm Cossack youth, Koshelev.

In the stanitsa Veshenskaya, the construction of a theater of Cossack youth is underway. The new stanitsa theater will have a large revolving stage with ceilings and combined lighting. Stylish and upholstered furniture has been installed in the lobby and lounges.

The theater group of the collective farm Cossack youth has already completed the rehearsals of the play "Lyubov Yarowaya" by K. Trenev. The rehearsals were brilliant. The theater staff proved to be friendly, efficient. Cossack youth showed remarkable abilities in mastering the technique of theatrical art.

Along with hard work on the first play, the theater team was engaged in theoretical studies. In 103 academic hours, a program was passed on acting and speech technique, as well as in general subjects - mathematics, the Russian language, and social sciences. 8 Don folk songs were learned. Listened to several special lectures on theatrical art.

Now the theater is beginning to work on the play by M. Sholokhov, "Virgin Soil Upturned". In an interview with the theater staff, Mikhail Sholokhov expressed approval for the staging of his play. He agreed to help the theater of Cossack youth not only in the design of the production, but also in the directorial development of the plot and types. The first performance of “Virgin Soil Upturned” will take place on July 20 in the newly rebuilt theater”.

The script for the play “Virgin Soil Upturned” was developed by the writer himself, together with the Rostov director Boris Barabanov. The performance was a great start for the further development of the theater. In 1937-38 the theater’s repertoire included the performances “Thunderstorm” (A. Ostrovsky), “Glory” (V. Gusev), “Lubov Yarovaya” (K. Trenev), “Alien Child” (V. Shkvarkin), “How Steel Was Tempered” (N Ostrovsky), “Full-time” (br. Tour and L. Sheinin), “Earth” (N. Virta), “Poverty is not a vice” (A. Ostrovsky), “Border guards” (B. Belotserkovsky).

Subsequently, Mikhail Sholokhov actively participated in organizing the work of the theater, approved the successful play of the actors, helped in the formation of the theater wardrobe, which was a very difficult task at that time. Vyoshensky Theater successfully toured in Rostov-on-Don, Shakhty, Millerovo, Taganrog, Armavir, Novorossiysk. For two years, the theater showed 10 premieres, 200 performances, attracting over 75 thousand spectators.

It is known that the biennium of the theater was widely celebrated and covered by the press. Sholokhov’s speech about the celebration and the article in the journal “Smena” were preserved and give the reader an idea of ??how important the work of the theater was for the population, how it contributed to the development of culture on the Don land.

Speech on the biennium of the Vyoshensky Cossack Theater

“Comrades, today we are celebrating the second anniversary of the opening of the Veshensky theater of collective farm Cossack youth. Do you remember how things were with art in these deaf villages and farms that are far from large cultural centers. Sometimes seedy troupes came, hastily assembled by some enterprising, dexterous entrepreneur. These people took care of making more money, they had nothing to do with art, they were engaged in a miserable imitation of art. And then some "disabled war" appeared. He was tired of making spoons at “Mestprom”, and he became a “representative of art” —wandering around the villages and hamlets with tricks. It happened that some vagrant musicians appeared, it was scary to listen - this music, as the locals say, took for a necklace. A lot, quite a lot of residents did not even know what the theater was; they had never seen an actor in their life. Not only collective farmers - our student youth grew up without knowing the theater.

And the Soviet government, the party, tirelessly showing concern for the cultural growth of the population, created this theater to serve the inhabitants of the northern region of the Don.

On anniversaries it is usual to congratulate, greet, bow. This anniversary is joyful. The theater team have done a good job, and of course we congratulate, welcome, and bow. But we need to seriously talk about the future paths of our theater. Now it is still in its infancy. This is still a child, but this child must grow and grow stronger. Eighteen years with us are considered years of adulthood, but we have no desire to wait sixteen years for our theater to become an adult. We are sure that it will grow quickly and in the coming years will show itself as a mature theater.

What is necessary for this? The main thing is to work with good plays. Among modern plays the best ones must be selected, and sometimes bad works are stretched under the flag of relevance to the stage. Not every trendy play is a good play. Our audience desires the plays of Griboedov, Gogol, Ostrovsky, plays of the western classics. The theater has already shown two plays by Ostrovsky, and how well they were received by the audience!

We should consider how to show the performances of our theater on the farthest collective farms. We need to bring there not concerts, not vermicelli from poorly selected show items, but integral, good performances. Bring genuine, great art to the masses!

The regional arts department clearly underestimates the importance of this theater. Frequent change of art directors reduces the quality of the team. It is time to send there such an art director that will work in Vyoshenskaya for several years, who will gladly give all his knowledge and abilities to the creation of a theater of true craftsmanship here, who will be loved by the team so that he will be sorry to part with them.

The bright spark of art that has been lit in the stanitsa Vyoshenskaya, I am sure, will soon flare up in the regional centers of our region. Art will penetrate more and more into the masses.

Vyoshensky Theater will live up to our hopes, will become a theater of high-quality performances, socialist realism.

We wish our theater to work in such a way as to deserve even greater love from the audience!

1939 year”

The war of 1941-1945 found the troupe of the theater on a trip to the Kuban and Don. Many actors volunteered for the front. The building of the People’s House during the bombing of the stanitsa received significant damage.

In 1952, they decided to reconstruct the destroyed building and adapt it to a department store. From 1957 to 1997 it was used for commercial purposes, subsequently it was transferred to the authority of the National Sholokhov Museum-Reserve. In 2007, the excursion and exhibition center "People's House" of the Sholokhov Museum-Reserve was opened in this building. It hosts exhibitions of domestic and foreign museums, workshops, conferences, concerts and presentations, museum classes and many other interesting events.


Marina Furmanova