The Use ofáFlooring ináRussian Theater
Jenna Clark Embrey
Russian theater isámade from the ground up. Ináseveral productions currently inárepertory onáMoscow stages, floor treatment factors ináheavily toáthe design aesthetic.
Dmitri KrymovĺsáOpus 7 begins with the floor covered ináaáthick vinyl tarp, taped down atáthe corners with aápatchwork ofáduct tape. For the first few minutes ofáthe show, the space isácompletely still and silent, except for aáyoung woman rapidly pushing aádry mop across the ground. The resulting sound isáaálow-humming screech ofáfriction, and itábounces off the high ceiling ofáthe theater. InáKing Lear at the Satirikon Theater, director Yuri Butusov blankets aásection ofástage ináwarped wooden planks that rattle and clang together asáthe royal court stampedes over them. The noise produced byásuch floor treatments may seem secondary toáthe physical action onástage, but the sounds are subtle, organic additions toáthe aural world ofáthe productions. The flooring works with the actorĺsámovement toáadd another layer toáthe audienceĺsásensory experience.
When the floor isáanáintegrated part ofáthe set design, actorsĺ movement has the chance toáconnect toáthe ground ináaávisceral way, and therefore the characters become literally rooted ináthe world ofáthe play. InáRussian theaters, directors and actors treat the floor asáaáconstantly viable playing space. InáLear, Reagan crawls across large jigsaw pieces ofáasphalt; ináButusovĺsáRichard III, tow young men prance and roll across anáexpanse ofámuslin asáfour others hold the corners ofáthe fabric and billow waves through the material. Ináthese instances, movement isánot confined toávariations onáwalking. All forms ofálocomotion are possible expressions ofámovement onástage, and the actorsĺ relationship with the floor changes with the nature ofáwhat isáunder them.
The use ofácreative flooring not only expands the movement vocabulary ofáactors, but itáalso allows flexibility for the directors. Byáexchanging one sheath ofáfabric for one ofáaádifferent color and texture, the stage isáelegantly transformed from one locale toáanother. Aáfabric floor treatment also allows for aáplaying space that isáeasy toáconfine, and thus, clear. When Edmund and Edgar ináKing Lear cover themselves hastily ináwhite paint, their mess isásimply cleaned off the stage along with the fabric onáwhich they sat. The stage isáleft clean for the next scene, and nothing has been disrupted.
Inásuch Russian productions asáOpus 7, King Lear, and Richard III, the floor ofáthe stage creates the expectation ofácreative movement, infinite settings, aámyriad ofásounds and endless gestures. With the flexibility ofáeasily foldable fabrics and easily moveable pallets, the director isánot limited byáthe practicalities ofáaásingle floor. The result are production that fully integrate action with all elements ofáthe space ináaásimple, subtle, and organic manner.