The Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) presents Theatre-Atelier Piotr Fomenko performing the U.S. Premiere of Family Happiness on January 18-20 and 22-23 at Baryshnikov Arts Center's Jerome Robbins Theater. This production, based on the novella by Leo Tolstoy, is adapted for the stage by one of Russia's most renowned master theater directors, the late Piotr Fomenko.
Throughout his illustrious career spanning half a century, Piotr Fomenko developed more than 60 works, and, through his teachings, helped to shape contemporary Russian theater. Following in the rich Russian theater tradition of master teachers such as KonstantinStanislavsky, Fomenko led his own actor's studio. Several of his students now comprise the Theatre-Atelier Piotr Fomenko, established in 1993. The internationally acclaimed company's North American debut and last U.S. appearance was in 2004 at the Lincoln Center Festival. At BAC, the company makes its return to New York with Family Happiness, based on Tolstoy's story about the evolution of love.
Departing from the novella's straightforward narrative, Fomenko's production of Family Happiness alternates betweenpast and present, told from the viewpoint of the principal character, Masha. She recalls her infatuation and first few months of marital bliss with an older man, her late father's friend Sergey. Growing bored and discontent, however, she is swept up by social life in St. Petersburg and abroad. Ultimately disillusioned by the false values of high society, she returns to a quiet family life with Sergey in the country, having gained renewed understanding of love, with bittersweet acknowledgement of the passage of youth.
The award-winning production, which premiered in Moscow in 2000, highlights Fomenko's skill at crafting psychologically complex productions of classic texts. "Fomenko's notion of "happiness" is more elusive than the institution of marriage scrutinized by Leo Tolstoy…" writes Segodnya. "Fomenko's Family Happiness raises questions without answers, using ellipses in place of Tolstoy's drawn out sentences. It is as dramatic as a quarrel between two people who love each other." The play will be performed in Russian with English titles.
Family Happiness will be performed at the Baryshnikov Arts Center's Jerome Robbins Theater, located at 450 W. 37th Street. Performances are Friday and Saturday, January 18 and 19 at 8PM; Sunday, January 20 at 2PM; and Tuesday and Wednesday, January 22 and 23 at 8PM. Tickets range from $25 to $35, and can be purchased at www.bacnyc.org or by calling 866-811-4111. All five performances are sold out.
These performances are made possible, in part, by a four-year grant from The AG Foundation in support of Russian cultural programming at BAC.
Piotr Fomenko (1932-2012) trained at the famed Moscow Arts Theater School, but rebelled against its conformity and left to continue his studies at The Russian Academy of Dramatic Arts (GITIS), graduating in 1961. One of his earliest theater works, the 1966 production The Death of Tarelkin at the Mayakovsky Theater that was banned after a handful of performances, has achieved legendary status. Blacklisted by several theaters in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Fomenko began working at a small student theater at Moscow's Lomonosov University where he continued his defiant theatrical experimentation in productions of plays from the "Theater of the Absurd" by Ionesco, Beckett, and Mrozek, all banned by the Soviet regime. In 1985 he finally established a firm foothold at GITIS where he built up, in his own words, "a rare ensemble made up of actors whose personalities are equally rare." Fomenko's students joined some of Moscow's most dynamic theater troupes and now are the core members ofTheatre-Atelier Piotr Fomenko. In the course of his long artistic career, Fomenko created a large body of work for theater, television and movies. His stage adaptations and directorial work have been seen in theaters throughout Russia and Europe, and won numerous international awards.
Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) is the realization of a long-held vision by artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov, who sought to build an arts center in Manhattan that would serve as a gathering place for artists from all disciplines. BAC's opening in 2005 heralded the launch of this mission, establishing a thriving creative laboratory and performance space for artists from around the world. BAC's activities encompass a robust residency program augmented by a range of professional services, including commissions of newwork, as well as the presentation of performances by artists at varying stages of their careers. In tandem with its commitment to supporting artists, BAC is dedicated to building audiences for the arts by presenting contemporary, innovative work at affordable ticket prices. For more information, please visit www.bacnyc.org.