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The theater was born in 1882, under the direction of renowned stage entrepreneur Fedor Adamovich Korsh. The private company – officially called ‘Russian Dramatic Theater’ at the time, but better known as ‘Korsh Theater’ – performed in a building that is now home to the Moscow Art Theater. In August 1885, Korsh moved his company to a Russian Revivalist structure designed by architect Mikhail Nikolayevich Chichagov, kicking off a new era of performances.
For decades, Korsh Theater was a popular destination, but eventually other venues began pulling audiences away. In 1933, the Moscow Artistic Academic Theater took over the building and hired most of the troupe, effectively ending the life of the Korsh Theater.
In 1987, however, the theater was reborn. The Soviet government reopened it under the name ‘People’s Friendship Theater’ and used it to stage genres from throughout the Soviet republics. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the venue was renamed ‘State Theater of Nations’ and its repertory was expanded to include shows from other countries.
In 2007, Russia began a campaign to modernize its theaters. The Ministry of Culture awarded the Theater of Nations a grant to refurbish its Russian Revivalist building. Yevgeniy Mironov, artistic director of the Theater of Nations, says: “We decided to create the ideal theater.” The four-year renovation project expanded the building from 5,004 square meters (53,862 square feet) to 8,910 square meters (95,915 square feet), with new rehearsal spaces, offices, a restaurant called Korsh Theater, and a blackbox theater.
Included in the grant was €11 million ($13.7 million) to upgrade the technical equipment, from stage mechanics to sound and lighting systems. For the lighting, official ETC dealer Doka Center was tasked with creating a user-friendly system, because the Theater of Nations is lit by touring designers from all over the world who have experience on different equipment run in dozens of languages. “The Theater of Nations has a unique style,” says Aleksandr Kelganov, who worked on the lighting installation. “It’s a universal stage ready for any musical or theatrical group to perform any repertoire without a problem. Therefore, the theater’s lighting system was designed to carry out a diverse range of tasks.” Doka put an ETC Eos control console at the helm of the system to seamlessly control the lighting, including hundreds of ETC Source Four fixtures with field angles ranging from 10° to 90°. The Eos console’s intuitive design makes it an easy tool for any designer, and its broad functionality covers any production with ease.
Another challenge in creating the lighting system was the adaptability of the main hall’s performance space. The hall previously had 1,000 seats, but following the renovation the seat-count was reduced to a more intimate capacity of 570. All of the balcony seats were removed to make way for technical equipment like followspots and other lighting fixtures, and none of the house seating is permanent. The orchestra pit and part of the house floor can elevate to become level with the stage, extending the acting space, and automated hoists can raise and lower different parts of the stage for various arrangements. The hall also has the capability of flipping 180°, turning the house into the performance space and the stage into audience seating.
To keep up with the constantly changing layout, the lighting staff uses ETC’s iRFR application with its Eos system. The app turns mobile devices into radio focus remotes, allowing operators to run the lights from the control room, backstage, sitting in the house or anywhere else in the venue. “I really like and enjoy using the remote control system for the iPad,” says lighting designer Alexander Sivaev. “From a production standpoint, it really helps organize the on-stage chaos that we deal with during every rehearsal, which comes with such big, complex productions.”
The first show to use the Eos system was the televised grand reopening concert on September 15th, 2011. The production covered every genre the Theater of Nations represents – chamber music, dance, dramatic theater, children’s music, poetry readings and more – and featured prerecorded well-wishes from international stars, including Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Robert Wilson. Sivaev says: “It was the first time we’d done such a big show on the Eos. The system worked great, without a single hiccup. I’m incredibly satisfied with the Eos system.”
Since the grand reopening, the Eos and Source Fours have been used on dozens of shows, including Circo Ambulante, Caligula, Miss Julie, Shosha, and a touring production of Sanya, Vanya, Rimas put on by the Minusinsk Drama Theater from the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia.