Director, teacher, theatre scholar. Anna lives in Russia and Finland, actively collaborating with independent and state theatre companies in Russia and abroad, gives lectures and master-classes at various European theatre schools, is involved in the studies of history and theory of puppet theatre.
Art director of “BTK-Fest” and Summer Laboratory of Figurative Theatre (LLFT).
In 2001 Anna, together with a few other colleagues, initiated creation of a division of puppet theatre at the department of performing arts in the Academy of Arts in Turku, virtually giving Finnish puppeteers a professional school. Since 2005 she has worked as a director. She has been nominated for the Russian National Theatre Award THE GOLDEN MASK.
The production Far/Away, staged at St. Petersburg Bolshoi Puppet Theatre (2014), tours around the world with great success, being highly acclaimed by major theatre festivals (including the one at Charleville-Mézières, France).
Among Anna’s works there are productions both for adults and for the youngest audience, just discovering the world around them. This world does not need to express itself through words and consists of animated objects and textures, forming whimsical stories. Otherwise, it may consist of expressive puppet images and visual metaphors, revealing deep philosophical motifs.
Życie I Śmierć W Skorupie – 2009, Wroclaw, Poland
Antigone – 2010, Turku, Finland
Tactil: Tuhkimo – 2010, Turku, Finland
To the End of Love – 2011, Turku, Finland
Meteo — 2012? Vilnius, Lithuania
Noiduttu Leikki – 2013, Turku, Finland
Far/Away – 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Motley Fairy Tales – 2015, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Depuis… les pingouins savent voler – 2016, Paris, France
After Chekhov – 2017, Paris, France
Name: Ivanova-Brashinskaya Anna Arkadyevna
Date of birth: 28 March 1965, Leningrad
Education: MA and PhD in Theatre Studies.
From 1985 to 1990 – theatre department of LGITMiK (currently RGISI);
From 1990 to 1996 – graduate studies at the same department, in 1996 defended a doctoral thesis on the following subject: Theatre Puppet: Semantics of the Traditional Methods of Manipulation.
From 1995 to 2001 – chair of the department of puppet theatre of SPbGATI (RGISI).
From 2001 to 2015 I worked at the puppet theatre division of the department of performing arts in the Academy of Arts (Turku, Finland).
At 2005 I started to work as a director and in the field of practical pedagogy. Alongside lectures and more theoretical master-classes, master-classes on director’s analysis of text and exploration if the language of puppet theatre began to happen.
Favorite authors, subjects, stories: I am interested in the interpretation of the fairy tale and the myth on stage; I am interested in codifying certain adult information in a fairy tale plot.
Favorite traditional system of puppets/texture: The main principle – to invent puppets for every specific production. It is important not to use anything that already existed, anything which can be taken for granted. I do not regard a puppet as a universal instrument, which can be chosen once and for all and used permanently. The content dictates what we are going to work with – as well as the material, color, texture, size, and all the other, reportedly technological, elements of the profession.
Does a performance need text? The text is needed, if it is not the only source of information in order to understand the story. It does prevail over other elements. I try to use it as seldom as possible, because it has discredited itself – not only in theatre, but in the world in general. Minimal processes are happening in the words.
Is the expression “puppet theatre” still relevant today? In my opinion, we should not be too attached to the words and invent the terms – this only causes confusion. “Puppet theatre” is a great expression. The other thing is that, among professionals, I would rather use a different terminology. However, when we are talking about attracting the audience or widening its perception of what puppet theatre is, it seems to me that the name is a secondary problem. Otherwise it seems that we are searching for new words in order to name some new and good things, but a beautiful and well-known expression is used only for some old-fashioned art. If the expression “puppet theatre” is written on the posters advertising very different productions, the audience will understand that “puppet theatre” can be very different.
What, in your opinion, is the difference between puppet theatre in Russia and the West? It is fascinating to speak about the difference. Everything which refers to evaluation categories such as “advantages — disadvantages” is a dangerous territory. One should work on the level of contents and not on the level of words. Only a very superficial, very specific problem can be explained through words.
In every respect, Europe is a more open space, and this refers to mentality, attitude, freedom of experiment. In my opinion, in Russia these things also exist on the level of conscience, but there are no suitable conditions. In European society theatres – especially puppet theatres – are very seldom protected in any way, they are all private; people understand right away that they are supposed to fight for something they want to say, otherwise there will be no opportunity to express themselves at all. And the system of state repertory theatre – there are very many of them and virtually no private theatre companies – provide people with an illusion of guarantee: one can reportedly work, receive a minimal guaranteed salary, and at the same time engage in creative work. Sometimes this works out, but still the freedom of author’s expression is limited by administrative regulations. Everyone who finds him or herself within this system has to reckon with the mandatory annual amount of productions, with the number of actors, who should be cast, with the workshops, technologies, and etc. Thus, the opportunity to try something new is limited by the schedule – standard or inner, which is pulsating anyway.
Besides that, there is such a thing as the scale of the country. If landscape has an impact on people, the scale of the country has an impact on the understanding of certain specific aspects. In fact, everything depends on a specific person. If one finds it necessary, one can create theatre in an apartment, on the table, under the table, everywhere. This can happen both in Europe and in Russia.
What is useful about collaboration and cultural exchange? A promise of a certain revelation, discovery. Very often it happens so that one can understand oneself only in the context of totally different things. Opposites often attract, I am interested in the intersection of parallel realities. In fact, all things have something in common. The farther, the closer: a child from Africa and a certain dignified old man from another part of the world would still find what to tell each other.
“Finding oneself in this assumed ‘beautiful faraway’, one cannot help being struck with wonder: against the black background, traditional for BTK, an exquisitely spectacular story about the first meeting of Eliza’s parents (Vasilisa Ruchimskaya/Vika Korotkova). A white table
(bars over which a piece of cloth is thrown), and behind it we see Him (Dmitry Chupakhin) and Her (Katerina Belevich) standing. A declaration of love. No words. Only gestures. Light, delicate, ethereal.”
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"
“The production of St. Petersburg BTK (director Anna Ivanova-Brashinskaya, designer Vitalia Samuilova) had a tremendous success with the audience: people would come to watch it three times in a row, on the night of the third production the large auditorium of Ekaterinburg Puppet Theatre was sold out; the audience shed tears, and even theatre professionals confessed that they were so shaken by a puppet theatre production for the first time. The famous fairy tale plot about the brothers turned into wild swans by their stepmother, and the sister, who had to rescue them, making a nettle shirt for each of them during one night, transformed here into a poetic parable about love and death, about a deadly sacrifice, which perhaps is the other side of love. All these frightening meanings manifest themselves gradually, whereas at the beginning you fall in love with this production because of its joyful young lightness.”
"St. Petersburg Theatre Journal"