UBC Publications

UBC Publications

UBC Publications

The Suicide Mar 7, 1984

Item Metadata

Download

Media
ubctp-1.0118818.pdf
Metadata
JSON: ubctp-1.0118818.json
JSON-LD: ubctp-1.0118818-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): ubctp-1.0118818-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: ubctp-1.0118818-rdf.json
Turtle: ubctp-1.0118818-turtle.txt
N-Triples: ubctp-1.0118818-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: ubctp-1.0118818-source.json
Full Text
ubctp-1.0118818-fulltext.txt
Citation
ubctp-1.0118818.ris

Full Text

 Nikolai Erdman
Tt>e Suicide University of British Columbia
Frederic Wood Theatre
Presents
Nikolai Erdman
The Suicide
Directed
By
Klaus Strassmann
March 7-17,1984
The Suicide
is produced by special arrangement
with SAMUEL FRENCH (Canada) Ltd.
Volume 1, Number 4, Spring 1984
Published by
University Productions Inc. "Onto my back the age, like a wolfhound leaps../'
from Osip Mandelstam's March 17-28,1931
It seems like a cliche to us that a dramatic writer, a champion of the individual, might be suppressed
in Russia. But when Nikolai Erdman (born 1902) wrote his two famous plays, The Mandate (1925)
and The Suicide (1932), no-one questioned a person's right to speak freely in the USSR. In fact it
seems that Erdman, whose famous older brother, Boris, was a poet and set designer, started his
career as a satirist, writing parodies of Soviet agitprop theatre with his brother, and a comic revue
for the debut of the Moscow Theatre of Satire which opened in 1924. He must have felt that he
lived in a very exciting age. After the October Revolution of 1917, there was a general tendency
towards artistic and political freedom in the country. In Moscow, new cabarets opened, and in
an atmosphere of gaiety and relaxation, a vigorous young society gathered to discuss current issues
of the day. Mingling with some of the most famous theatre people of the 20th century, Erdman
met Vladimir Mayakovsky, the great director, who agreed to produce The Mandate in the coming
season.
The Mandate, a brilliant satire on the malcontents in Soviet society, gained immediate success.
Mayakovsky produced it as a stylised farce and it was hailed as the "first truly Soviet play," and
the best comedy of the '24-'25 season. It was greatly admired by Maxim Gorky, who saw it in the
company of Chekhov's wife, the actress Olga Knipper-Chekhov and Constantin Stanislavsky. Its
fame spread through Europe: Bertold Brecht commended its political satire.
Riding the crest of this success, Erdman wrote The Suicide, and Russia's three greatest theatre
companies, the Vaktangov Theatre, Stanislavsky's Moscow Arts Theatre, and The Meyerhold
Theatre, vied with each other to produce it. But the political tide which had been so conducive
to the growth of his humanising wit had already changed. Meyerhold worked on the play for 18
months and took it right to the dress rehearsal. But with the beginning of Stalin's first Five Year Plan,
the tolerant atmosphere faded, and a ruthless attack on the dissident elements which remained
was enforced. The Suicide was suppressed, and within a few years Erdman had disappeared, never
to write another play.
What little is known of the playwright after 1932 comes from various sources. In 1934 it seems he
worked with a film collaborator of Sergei Einsenstein on movie scenarios; and his work is praised
in one of the letters of Stanislavski. The Soviet Theatre Encyclopedia credits him with sketches and
and adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain in the early 40/s, and later for work on
cinematic cartoons. He was known also to delight in composing little fables, one of which, read by
an irresponsible friend at an evening in the Kremlin, first brought the wrath of the authorities down
on his head. But we surmise that although he may at some point have been exiled, he was at least
probably not arrested — though reports vary.
Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of a much less fortunate writer, occasionally came across Erdman,
who was a long-time friend. She describes his 40-year silence as "anything just to stay alive." Of
course, in an environment where it was impossible to tell who might be obliged to inform on a
writer, few spoke. But, Nadezhma says of Erdman, "very occasionally he would put his head close
to mine and tell me the plot of a new play he had just thought of but would never write." And
years later, during World War II, when she saw him once: "Erdman just sat and drank, without
saying a word."
Nikolai Erdman died just fourteen years ago, in 1970, in Moscow. He preserved his life, and how
can we know if he did so at the expense of his art, or possibly for its sake? But we don't expect
that more Erdman plays will come to light. He had learned too well the lesson of one of his own
little fables, which he wrote just before he was sent into exile for the first time:
Once the CPU came by
And grabbed old Aesop by the Ass.
The moral of this tale is clear —
No more fables needed here. "Shhh...did you hear someone?"
An artist in Russia in the thirties had much to fear besides the possible failure of his artistic powers
or the price of writing paper! In her memoir, Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda Mandelstam, a friend
of Erdman's, describes the atmosphere in which writers lived, once Stalin came to power and curtailed his early, more liberal view of the arts. She details four types of spy who knocked on the
doors of writers' homes at any time of the night or day - and especially at midnight! For like
most people, spies too have a sense of the dramatic!
Early in the thirties appeared the "brisk young men of military bearing" who appeared simply to
confiscate a writer's latest work — no questions asked, and no pretense of interest in the arts either.
There was, Mandelstam thought, something almost wholesome about their directness.
The second category was more subtle. This was the "admirer" — a colleague or neighbour (for in
housing collectives one's neighbour is, more likely than not, one's colleague too) who might in a
better age have sat at the table and listened to the latest poem or story over a glass of wine.
The third category, the people Mandelstam names the "adjutants", were usually young devotees
of literature, often graduate students who loved writing and knew a great deal about it. They were
sincere admirers and first visited a writer just to hear about literature and perhaps read him their
own compositions. But the scond visit? or the third? A young writer is in a very vulnerable position
when publication is controlled by the government, and one does not get published unless one
makes a candid report of conversations held with the great... At her table, Mandelstam saw young
men and women suddenly look down uncomfortably, or change the subject, making obscure
warnings. Perhaps they left quickly and never came back. Or perhaps one of the established
writers suddenly disappeared from the community, and the shadow of suspicion fell on friends
and strangers alike. The adjutant was a most dangerous spy — dangerous because his love of the
arts could be so cruelly compromised.
And the fourth category, of course: those who enjoyed their role of informer. No wonder Erdman
and many like him fell silent!
Unhappy is he who, like his own shadow,
Fears a barking dog or the wind after dark.
—Osip Mandelstam
In Reference to Mayakovsky
Vladimir Mayakovsky, Russia's most talented poet and the author of The Bedbug and of numerous
other works, from political satire to political propaganda, was at the height of his fame when
The Suicide was composed and in "production. He was a spectacular figure, a huge, brooding,
witty, exuberant genius. He dominated everyone who met him, and the whole artistic environment
of his time. As the poet whom Lenin praised as "the best and most talented" of the Soviet epoch,
whose work it was a crime to ignore, Mayakovsky created his greatest scandal by his suicide in
April of 1930. Explanations may be his broken heart, his recognition of what the USSR was about
to become under Stalin, or frustration with his own work: none is completely accepted by anyone
to this day.
The possibility exists that the reference to Fedya Petunin in The Suicide is to Mayakovsky himself.
Without a draft of the play, we can never be sure/as it was composed before he died, and we need
evidence of a revision before the truth can be known. PH°T°S    .M****"*' Caf@
IHADBfaeine
Espresso Bar
Open Daily till 11:30 p.m.
3763 w. 10 ave.
224-5558
(TOfl&TO
RESTAURANT
next to the Waterfront Theatre
on Granville Island
1540 Bridge Street,
Vancouver
PRE THEATRE OR
AFTER THEATRE
MENU INCLUDES:
• Desserts baked on premises
• Cappuccino
• Appetizers and seasonal specials
• Licensed premises
• Am pie parking
* targe parties welcome
Drop in or phone:
681-8816
'z&r.
'"0U
U
custom designed
fine jewelry
3619 w 4th. ave,
734-3259
LTD.
Production Specialists for the
Entertainment Industry
(604) 687-6713 (604) 253-7860
702 -1155 Pacific Street, Vancouver, B.C.
John J. Fedyk
Consulate of Ecuador
Suite 420-1155 W.Georgia
689-0481 "The Suicide, a play of self-immolation"
The Suicide has yet to be performed in the USSR. But when it was written in 1928, the Vaktangov,
Meyerhold, and Moscow Arts Theatres all dropped the plays they were working on and competed
for the rights to this second of Erdman's two plays. Obviously they all felt — even the politically
canny Vsevolod Meyerhold and Konstantin Stanislavsky — that it was not only a great play, but a
revolutionary one as well, and that it would be quite acceptable to the authorities of the new
Stalinist government. No less a figure than Maxim Gorky championed Erdman's cause with Stalin,
and obtained permission for the play to go ahead.
Meyerhold already had the contract to do the play when Stanislavsky too decided to produce it;
so Meyerhold challenged him to "socialist competition." Both men realised the play was controversial; and to forestall possible censorship, Stanislavsky wrote to Stalin himself, and received the
following answer on Nov. 9, 1931, almost a year before the play was banned:
Dear Konstantin Sergeiyevich
I do not have a very high opinion of the play The Suicide. My closest comrades consider it empty
and even harmful. You can see the opinion (and reasons) of the Repertory Committee in the
enclosed document. It seems to me that the Repertory Committee's opinion is not far from the
truth. Nevertheless, I am not against the theatre experimenting and showing its skill. Provided
that the theatre achieves its aims. The Cultural Propaganda Department of the Central Committee
of our party (Comrade Stetski) will help you in this matter. Comrades will judge who know about
artistic matters. I am dilletante in this.
Regards,
). Stalin
In light of the subject matter of the play, we see now that what is remarkable about The Suicide
is not that it was finally banned, but that it could possibly have remained in production for as long
as it did! Meyerhold rehearsed it for a year and a half. We know that originally, the play was to
feature a crowd of intellectuals — that segment of the culture most often satirised at the time as
"puny" and "spineless" - in repulsive masks. The greatest comic actor of Meyerhold's Theatre, Igor
llinsky, played Podsekalnikov. But on the night of the dress rehearsal, with the show to open the
following night, the show's "supervisor", one of Stalin's new tough young men, was in the audience:
the show was banned.
One reason might lie in the style of Meyerhold's directing. His principle for actors, unlike Stanislavsky's, was that they show the character, rather than be the character and so gain the audience's
empathy. Still it might be difficult not to find Podsekalnikov endearing. Meyerhold advocated the
use of many long-held theatrical devices — music, spectacle — and traditional popular theatrical
devices — but none of these were really in keeping with the new movement towards socialist
realism on the stage. Meyerhold had praised both Erdman and Mayakovsky to the Party as follows:
their plays "are splendid; with their poetry and their satirical wit, they attack the weakest points of
our society without driving the spectator to despair." But Meyerhold was under pressure to abandon much of his progressive experimentation in the areas of constructivism and biomechanics.
Even while Meyerhold championed the writer of "the first great Soviet play", funds were being
withdrawn and the arts entered a period of financial crisis. Several years later, in 1938 when his
theatre was closed for good, one of the main reasons given was his production of The Suicide.
Espresso Bar
Cookies, Truffles and Desserts
Delectable Take-Home Dinners
4448 West Tenth Avenue Phone 322-CAKE
Delectable. Eaissa
fker  m,
MARG-ft^J TA ALEXAK3l>E.f^.
Costume Design
Sketches
By
Brian H. Jackson THE SUICIDE
by
Nikolai Erdman
Directed by
Klaus Strassmann
Set and Lighting Design by Costumes Designed by
Allan Watts Brian H. Jackson
CAST
Semyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov SIMON WEBB*
(a man refused employment)
Maria Lukianovna (his wife) PAM DANGELMAIER
Serafima llinichna (his mother-in-law) CAROLYN SOPER
Alexander Petrovich Kalabushkin MARK HOPKINS
Margarita Ivanovna Peryesvetova LISA KLINGSPON
Aristarch Dominikovich Golashchapov BRUCE DOW
(a member of the intelligentsia)
Cleopatra Maximovna ('Kiki') SHAUNA BAIRD
Egor Timovyeyevich (a postman) CARLO CIOTTI
Nikifor Arsenyevich Pugachov (a butcher) DREW KEMP
Viktor Viktorovich (a writer) PHILIP SPEDDING
Raissa Filipovna LA VONNE GIRARD
Father Elpidi JOHN WOODS
Oleg Leonidovich DON PLANT
Zinka Padespan SYLVIA SWIFT
Groonya CONSTANCE BRILL
Old Woman BERYL BAYLIS
Deaf Mute JOEY CRAMER
Coffin Makers NICK CURALLI, MICHAEL FERA and SCOTT IVERSON
Two Suspicious People MARK ABBOTT and DON PLANT
Boys with Wreaths JANET CHILD and ROD TUTTLE
Church Choir NADINE CADESKY, TRICIA LANDRY, JANICE PULLEY
and DEBBIE SCHMIDT
Gypsy Band DAVID U. GARFINKLE, NATASHA LOZOVSKY, TINA MAURER,
JANICE TKACHUK, LIANNA WALDEN and DAVID WESTWICK
Informers CONSTANCE BRILL, DAVID U. GARFINKLE, LA VONNE GIRARD,
SARAH RODGERS, ROBYN STEVAN and CARA TEKATCH
Fedya Petunin ***
THERE WILL BE ONE INTERMISSION
* Appearing through the courtesy of Canadian Actors' Equity Association.
8 PRODUCTION
Technical Director IAN PRATT
Properties SHERRY DARCUS
Lighting Execution ROBERT EBERLE
Set Construction DON GRIFFITHS and JOHN HENRICKSON
Costume Supervisor ROSEMARIE HESELTON
Cutter CHRISTINA MCQUARRIE
Scenic Artist DON. S. DAVIS
Stage Manager KAIRIIN ASELTINE
Properties Coordinator COLLEEN WILLIAMSON
Assistant to the Director SYLVIA SWIFT
Assistant Stage Managers .. LORREEN BELL, PENNY CONNELL and JANET WILSON
Sound CAROL FORNATARO and CHRIS PLUNKETT
Makeup CAROL NESBITT
Wardrobe Mistress SE KEOHANE
Crew DAVID HAY and the STUDENTS OF THEATRE 350
Musical Coordinators BRUCE DOW and DAVID GARFINKLE
Business Manager MARJORIE FORDHAM
House Manager OWEN LOCK
Box Office CAROL FISHER, ROSEANN JANZEN and LYLE MOON
Program Book JOSEPH MacKINNON
Production NORMAN YOUNG
Suicide is no laughing matter; but Nikolai Erdman places it at the centre of this
political farce in which Podsekalnikov's intended act of self-immolation is greedily
politicized by a mob of Muscovites, each anxious to claim it for his own political
cause. Both Stanislavski and Meyerhold were to have produced this dissident comedy
of post-Revolutionary life in the U.S.S.R., but THE SUICIDE was banned by the Soviet
Censorship Committee in 1932 and has still not been seen in that country. The play
takes a comic stand against any ideology which denies man's humanity.
Front Cover Photo
Semyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov
(Simon Webb)
Photo by Marcel Williams REMEMBER
PUNJAB
RESTAURANT
Walking distance from B.C. Place
The first to serve Vancouver with
India's finest cuisine since 1971
Exotic Foods at competitive prices.
From a superb selection of 16 meat and
6 vegetable dishes.
Open: 7 days a week for lunch
and dinner.
688-5236
796 Main St. (at Union!
3 blocks south of Chinatown.
Free Valet Parking at Rear
\J\ozma
\Jazniond Jlta.
EXCLUSIVE IMPORTED and
CUSTOM MADE GOWNS
4419 West 10th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C.
Phone: 228-6133
A
X
ices: INTERNATIONAL HOUSE
• Language bank
• Speakers' bureau
• Work & study abroad opportunities
• Monthly newsletter
• Study/reading room
•CUSO office
Facilities:
• Meeting rooms
• Clubs room
• Licensed lounge
• Stage
• Tibetan refugee aid society
Special Events:
• Lectures
• Films
• Folk nights
• Dances
• Pol-luck suppers
PS1
\
INTEHWATTOMAL
HOUSE
1783 West Mall   228-5021
Fully
Licensed
Lounge
I
/
1 lours:
Mon.-Thurs. 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 a.m.
Saturday 4:00 p.m.-3 a.m.
Sunday 4:00 p.m.-i p.m.
Steak & Pizza • Lasagria
Spare Ribs • Ravioli
Chicken • Greek Salads
Souvlaki
Fast Free Local Delivery 224-4218 224-0529
2136 Western Parkway
10 Don't  Let  Essay Typing Send   You Off The Deep End!
If your essays have been piling up and you're not sure what your
next move is, ifs time you called
ADINA TYPING SERVICE
{and Word Processing)
Fast • Efficient • Affordable • Friendly
#1 - 4326 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C.
Phone:222-2122
"We hop to it"
(trOrfu&adv
scrawrc
.M
matte
,~restawmt
NEW MENU
• Smaller portions • Lower prices
• Many half servings offered
NEW WINE LIST
• Over 70 wines • Including 11 by the carafe or glass
CLASSICAL MUSIC
SUNDAY BRUNCH
Open 7 days a week
4473 W. 10th
228-8815
12 UNIVERSITY OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA
B.F.A. in Acting and in Technical
Theatre / Design
The University and its Setting
The University of British Columbia, established
in 1915, has a present enrolment of 30,000.
It is located six miles from downtown Vancouver
on a campus that is regarded as one of the
most beautiful in North America. The Vancouver
area offers a flourishing cultural scene and provides excellent opportunities for summer and
winter sports.
The Department of Theatre
Over the years the Department of Theatre at
UBC has assembled a very strong faculty of
specialists. Their teaching covers all aspects of
the theatre, both as a practical craft and as an
academic discipline: Acting, Directing, Design,
Technical Theatre; Theatre History, Dramatic
Literature, Theory; Film Production and Film
Criticism.
Degrees range from the B.A. and B.F.A. over
the M.A. and M.F.A. to the Ph.D.
The B.F.A. Programme
In its continuous attempt to strengthen its
curriculum, the Department is now offering a
B.F.A. in Acting, a B.F.A. in Design and a
B.F.A. in Technical Theatre. These new programmes give the exceptionally talented student
a thorough training of professional scope,
without neglecting any academic values. The
programme consists of a carefully arranged
combination of classroom work, private tutorials
and stage exposure. Its breadth and focus make
this B.F.A. one of the strongest and most
comprehensive on the continent.
The Facilities
The departmental complex houses two fully
equipped and professionally manned stages:
the 400 seat Frederic Wood Theatre with its
season of large-scale productions, and the 90
seat Dorothy Somerset Studio, which offers a
series of chamber plays each year. Both theatres
have become an integral part of Vancouver's
artistic life. Students in any of the B.F.A.
programmes will be expected to participate in
these productions according to their expertise.
The University Library now has over two million
volumes, including a rich collection of periodicals; its theatre collection is undergoing a
vigorous and systematic expansion.
The Departmental Reading Room has its own
collection of relevant critical and reference
material.
Entrance Requirements
In order to maintain the highest standard, only
the most promising applicants will be accepted
into the programme. Thus, apart from the
regular entrance requirements set down by the
University, the Department will judge the candidates' potential by either audition (Acting) or
portfolio (Technical Theatre/Design).
Faculty Involved in the B.F.A.
John Brockington, Don Davis, Brian Jackson,
Peter Loeffler, Ian Pratt, Charles Siegel, Donald
Soule, Klaus Strassmann, Stanley Weese, Norman Young, Arne Zaslove, J. Amburn Darnall,
and Steven Thome.
9
Alpha
Decks
>
Treat your friends or treat yourself
Books make lasting gifts!
4480 Dunbar 738-4514
13 uac
Thunderbird
Winter Sports
Center
228-6121
Public
Skating
^ c
Hockey    Courts     Curling
14 Ts
Wilh a Seiko metal shutter, and
All other multi-modes
are now outmoded.
a top speed o( 1/2000 sec. Flash syncrtromia-
I ion of 1/125 sec. High contrast LCD readouts m
(he viewf intler. and on the top deck. And fast,
act'urate push-button shutter speed control,
buuiisi Programmed Automation: Pick your
subject, and the camera automatically selects the optimum
shutter speed find aperture.
Kjmit=w Shutter Priority: Select shutter speeds from
1/2000 set:, lo l!j sec., and the camera automatically selects the
proper aperture.
miiiiMi Aperture Priority: You choose the aperture, and the
Super Program automatically selects the proper shutter speed.
ii:mn*i{ nn|.li-.l Metered Manual: You're in full control.
Wiih exposure information (including how far over or under-
cx|x>sed your setting is) displayed m the viewfinder.
i.Miina.1 til  Auto Rash: Select an aperture of your choice,
ivith a TTI. flash unit. Correct flash output automatically
[lelermined off the film plane.*
i.miw.1 Programmed Auto Flash: The Super Program
automatically sets both shutter speed OHri aperture.*
□
EUROPEAN
CAMERA
OF THE
YEAR 1983
PENTAX
SUPERPROGRRdl
ENMARK
JEWELLERS
¥
Value in Quality Cold &  Silver Jewellery
4315   DUNBAR   STREET,  VANCOUVER,   B.C.    V6S   2GZ
TELEPHONE   224-3513
15 I «    *«$
449 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6B 2P9(6Mmi-639I ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Susan Boyd
The Playhouse
The Students of Theatre 250/251
i Ramus Music Rentals
I CBC
w
•COMING EVENTS-
An M.P.A- Thesis Production
WATCH FORI
Sertoli Brecht's
THfc GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN
THE SPORTS SHOW
March 27   11 Presented by the Department of Theatre
Dorothy Somerset Studio at the Vancouver Children's Festival
May 7-13
ror information and reservations phone 228-2678 '      7
^""SEYeI^^
ONE ROOF AT" THE NEW U.B.C. BOOKSTORE
• Arts & Humanities
• Language & Literature
• Social & Behavioral Sciences
• Professional
• Health Sciences
• Science & Engineering
BOOKSTORE'General
I upi
University Productions Inc.
Photography • Graphic Design • Advertising
i
Graduating?
UPI is pleased to announce that
graduation and resume portraitures
can now be arranged on campus
at your convenience.
733-9658   733-3908   434-4945
J

Cite

Citation Scheme:

        

Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics

Share

Embed

Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                        
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            src="{[{embed.src}]}"
                            data-item="{[{embed.item}]}"
                            data-collection="{[{embed.collection}]}"
                            data-metadata="{[{embed.showMetadata}]}"
                            data-width="{[{embed.width}]}"
                            async >
                            </script>
                            </div>
                        
                    
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:
https://iiif.library.ubc.ca/presentation/cdm.ubctp.1-0118818/manifest

Comment

Related Items