On September, 6th, 2013, the Russian State Art Library presented the new book by Eduard Kochergin, the head of stage design at the Academic Bolshoi Drama Theatre named after G.A. Tovstonogov, the People’s Artist of the Russia Soviet Federated Socialistic Republic.
The presentation of the book, published with “Vita Nova” publishing house, gathered such well-known artists as stage designer Sergey Barkhin, head of stage design at Obraztsov Puppet Theatre Sergey Alimov, head of stage design at RAMT Stanislav Benediktov, head of stage design at LENKOM Theatre Aleksey Kondratiev, head of stage design at Sphera Theatre Vladimir Soldatov, People’s Artist of Russia, EMMY Award winner, Professor at Moscow Art Theatre School Eleonora Maklakova, animator and scriptwriter, People’s Artist of Russia Yuri Norstein, People’s Artist of the Russia Soviet Federated Socialistic Republic Sergey Yursky, film and stage director Andrey Zhitinkin, art historians Anait Oganesyan and Elena Strutinskaya.
Ada Kolganova, the director of the Russian State Art Library, welcomed Eduard Kochergin and opened the event with these words: “We are greeting a wonderful, outstanding artist, People’s Artist of the Russia Soviet Federated Socialistic Republic – Eduard Stepanovich Kochergin. I would like to thank you for all that you do for the literature after all your contribution to the theatre. And I am asking you from the part of all librarian community, please, do write more, write for us, for the future and for all library meetings. Thank you so much”.
Sergey Barkhin in his speech noted: “Eduard Stepanovich Kochergin is more that an outstanding stage designer, he is a master of literature. The books that have been published so far discover his tremendous pencraft”.
Kochergin’s prose is a remarkable phenomenon of literature, it is both innovative and traditional. His books – “Angelova kukla”, “Kreschennye krestami” – became a remarkable event in the cultural environment of modern Russia. His new work – “Notes of the stage-floor rat” (“Zapiski planshetnoy krysy”) – is a collection of memorial stories about theatrical life. It is about actors, directors, stage designers, backstage crew – all the talented professionals the author met and worked with side by side. “This book is first of all an artist’s confession, - said Eduard Kochergin at the presentation. – Do you know what ‘planshet’ means? It is a stage floor. The fact is that I have worked for theatre since 1959: the first 4 years I worked in Leningrad Theatre of Drama and Comedy, then 6 years – in Komissarzhevskaya Thetare, and starting back in 1972 until present I have been working in Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre. All of my theatre accomplices (let me use my own slang) got angry with the fact that I wrote about everything but theatre. That is why my third book is dedicated to my work in theatre”.
It seems like Kochergin feels his duty to the departed. Commitment, talent, “inimitable eccentricity” are the important features for him, that is why he dedicated his bright and exciting narration not only to the celebrities but also to the unnoticed workers of theatre. His characters are still dreamers, inventors, weirdos, the strange people with lively souls.
“Stage-floor rat” is an honorary theatre name. Eduard Kochergin (from his book): “…This name was invented and given to the most skillful masters in theatre. They could be simple theatre carpenters, woodworkers, turners, props men. Or just a model maker, seamstress, tailor or performance designer. Sometimes the name was given to actors with rare qualifications, like Evgeny Lebedev or Oleg Borisov”.
Kochergin is not a theatre critic, he is an artist, but his literary portraits of the great actors are so bright, so multidimensional and recognizable. He managed to put into words all his admiration by the talent of Evgeny Lebedev and actor’s mentality of Oleg Borisov. And we were glad to welcome Alla Romanova, the widow of Oleg Borisov, to take part in the presentation.
Besides stories the book includes a short novel “Goga made of brass” (“Medniy Goga”) – memoirs of a legendary theatre director Georgy Tovstonogov who worked with Eduard Kochergin in the Bolshoi Drama Theatre for 30 years.
Eduard Kochergin: “30 plays is like a whole life to me. We were playing at giveaway with him, passing turns to each other. We were working on equal terms. An intelligent director never presses but speaks of what he wants to do and the more intelligible and figurative his directions are, the easier it is for the artist to put it into his own language of visualization. Tovstonogov was a genius at explaining. He never took a play to put on stage unless he knew what it should be about. He was genuinely intelligent, his intelligence was not acquired, it was absolutely natural. And he had a great sense of humor – a feature that is extremely important when you work. Georgy Aleksandrovich reacted with a speed of lightning, countered retorts, never humiliated - he could call down in a humorous manner. He was a producer making a product out of his actors who are quite a complicated material, as you know, because you need to both convince and make everybody do what you need. Tovstonogov was a kind of person who knew how to do it. And he never changed his ideas, he could make a mistake but never deviated from his plan. Such a masculine, commander’s quality. A colossal personality”.
“Being an actor, an old friend of Eduard at the Bolshoi Drama Theatre, - emphasized Sergey Yursky in his speech, - first of all today I remember the theatre, the story of our life. I always felt Edik was standing by me, but not only like that – together we have made two plays and one film for the television. Eduard is a world class artist; he is a theatre artist who served to the collective, joint activity. It is a pleasure for me to remember myself playing in his costumes and in his interiors. A sense of harmony, the width of his work… The honesty of a genius at work – that was what I saw in his prose then”.
Kind words were addressed to Eduard Kochergin by Sergey Alimov: “Edik showed me a real Leningrad for the first time. “Prohodiagy”, his special routes that he used to trot us round, astonished us with their certain beauty that was hidden from the eyes of those who came to Leningrad, the city of Dostoevsky. When I re-read Dostoevsky I can see now that city showed to mу by Edik”.
It is remarkable that the presentation was visited not only by prominent artists but also by young specialists - the students of the Moscow Art Theatre School, the faculty of stage design and theatre technology and the students of the Russian University of Theatre Arts, the faculty of stage design. Such events provide a better understanding of the artist’s profession. Furthermore, meeting an outstanding stage designer, getting acquainted with his book is a matter of saving culture with the help of a person and saving a person with a help of culture.
Eduard Kochergin (from his book): “The time has come, <…> and I went to work as a theatre designer. I went and I took with me the knowledge of craft secrets that belonged to the old “stage-floor rats” of Saint-Petersburg. These secrets still help me in my work. I went with the memory of the great masters of theatre”.
Aleksey Zakharenkov, the General Director of “Vita Nova” publishing house, presented a several books by Eduard Kochergin published with “Vita Nova” to the collections of the Russian State Art Library in acknowledgement of cooperation, including a unique publication of “Angelova kukla” illustrated by the works of a famous artist Boris Zaborov.