March 01, 2007

The Taganka's Master



The spring of 1977... A tranquil, poor, and stable life in a country where it seems nothing ever changes and nothing ever will... A general secretary descending into senility... Lines for sausage... Four television stations, each essentially showing the same fare... Senseless discussions about a new constitution... Jamming stations unable to block the voice of foreign radio broadcasts... Czechoslovakia has long since been forgotten, and, for another three years, Afghanistan will remain just another foreign country of little interest to anybody. 

All is quiet. But in Moscow, there is a place next to the Taganskaya metro station that everyone is talking about, even those who have never been there. Amazing plays are being staged in this theater, unlike anything seen before. The idol of the entire country – Vladimir Vysotsky – is performing here. Tickets are impossible to come by. In order to get in, you have to belong to the intellectual elite… or be a dentist (good dentists were hard to find); or perhaps be a Communist Party boss, who by day denounces these plays during official meetings, and by night takes the family to see them. Or you have to be a student, ready to sweep the entire theater in exchange for a chance to see the performances; or a theater fanatic, constantly cadging extra tickets by the entrance of the revered building. 

Today, when there are so many competing forms of entertainment and you can have tickets to any show delivered to your door (presuming you have the money to pay for them), how can we understand what the Taganka Theater meant to us then? A legend, a dream, an unattainable ideal. 


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