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Ludmila Drobich: Children fall in love with Russian language in theater

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Ludmila Drobich: Children fall in love with Russian language in theater


Svetlana Smetanina

Ludmila Drobich, the Head of the International Association of Russian-language children's theaters, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of her creative activity. But there are a lot of interesting projects and things to do still awaiting ahead. Ludmila Drobich will introduce one of such projects, the Forum of children's theaters of Russian émigré communities, at the coming 12th Assembly of Russkiy Mir in Tver.

You have led the Aprelic Children’s Theater in Paris for many years; however today you have got other projects related to childrens theaters as well.

Recently I attended the Board meeting of the Association of Russian-language theaters of émigré communities in Saint Petersburg; there I supervise activities of childrens theaters of whole Russian-speaking world. Implementation of some of my own projects have commenced there, obviously with support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation. And in the Year of Theater I would really like to implement a new project the Forum of children's theaters of Russian émigré communities. I came up with this idea at the Board meeting in Saint Petersburg; and the initiative was endorsed. Rossotrudnichestvo showed interest in the project as well. I believe we will realize it in the Year of Theater, which was scheduled in Russia for 2019.

Ludmila Drobich

As of today Aprelic has become the leader of international children theatrical movement, since in 2019 we will be 15 years old. Our theater became the foundation for establishing the International center of Russian language and theater. Russian language sector within the structure is supervised by Elizaveta Khamraeva (renown expert in teaching Russian language for bilingual children edit.), who has been a longstanding partner of the Russkiy Mir as well. Her Russian lessons are remarkable; children just look forward to them.

The most significant from my point of view project have been implemented within the International Russian Language Center in cooperation with the Russkiy Mir Foundation theInternational School of Russian Language and Theater in Kamchia, Bulgaria. This project has no equals in the world. 18 countries have already submitted applications there for next year.

Childrens theaters are those that come to Kamchia, which is so important to me as to the project supervisor. Because children, who come there, should speak the same language first of all, Russian, and the theatric one on the second place with all the stage directors, who we invite for teaching. Such stage directors come from the best theaters of Russia; we also have drama teachers from Saint Petersburg and Moscow. The school works for two weeks, and in the end we perform the result.

In classrooms of the International School of Russian Language and Theater in Kamchia

Obviously, there are still a lot of projects. For example, our International Week of Childrens Theater in Paris this year will be conducted for the 9th time. Representatives from more than twenty countries have already taken part in such Weeks of Childrens Theater. This is a very fast-growing project, because we need to communicate and look at each other. There are creative workshops, laboratories, stage performance views or the whole week. Once again, this event is a very important one for Russian theater émigré communities.

How did Aprelic Theater come to life?

Next year I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of my activity as a director and a teacher. Everything started in a town, which is now called Ganja, earlier it was known as Kirovabad, where my Aprelic Theater was born. My graduation play was A Girl and April and everything I have been doing ever since is linked to that lucky name.

The theater was reborn in Paris where I had moved; there it discovered its second mission to preserve Russian language through theater. And such cause turned to be of high demand.

I observed my daughter and noticed that we started loosing Russian language; and it was unacceptable for me. I do not see and do not know what better motivation for preserving the language could be than theater. That was how my own project originated; and now it has been realized in many countries. When we meet at festivals, our children communicate in Russian, and they do understand why they need to know it.

Do children who come to you speak Russian?

I do not accept those who do not speak Russian at all. Why is our Aprelic Theater unique? Because I invite directors from Russia for stage performances, and children should understand them.

Which literature works do you adapt for the stage?

All Russian children classics are mandatory - Chukovskiy, Mikhalkov, Marshak, because what we have here is the territory of Russian language. So we study those works by playing them, in cheerful environment. This is how love for Russian language is born. We have amazing stage performances for three-year-olds based on poems for toddlers by Agnia Barto. We play and sing; and children learn something without even noticing that. The results are just great.

Then we turn to Pushkin and Lermontov. We give children good literature to create high-standard foundation of Russian language. And if they learn it through stage performance, it stays with them for a life time.

Children can be part of the theater starting from age 3

Do you have supportive Russian lessons as well?

We have theater workshops, Russian language, drawing and dancing classes for children from three to seven years old. When they turn eight, they have two hours of theater classes, Russian language and reading. For children of ten years old and over, we have Russian literature, Russian language and quite serious theater workshops conducted by professional directors.

Usually we have classes once a week. But before premiere we schedule more classes - sometimes even five or six times a week. Children easily endure such rush, because they see the result. Our collection includes grand prix and diplomas from festivals in 19 countries, because our performances have been staged by professional directors. And when children see such result, their sense of self-worth and motivation grow.

Does it affect their life in future somehow?

In 40 years I have got hundreds of graduates and can say that they are all wonderful people wonderful parents, and now many of them have already become grandparents.

After our interview I am going to meeting with Vladimir Posner; he is a member of our theaters supervisory board. I am going there with my first students, who are also members of the board; they are grandparents now and bring their grandchildren to the theater. All those generations grew up in our theater.

Your objective is to cultivate their love for Russian language and not merely to give them specific profession, isnt it?

Yes. I believe that the theater is the most magical place on earth, where you can educate, model, teach.

Do children's theaters work in many countries where our compatriots live?

The International Association of Russian Children's Theaters includes representatives from 28 countries. These are our partners only, with whom we have joint projects. Of course, we want to expand. Our international theater school in Kamchia works for this purpose: people can come and study.

Speaking of the International Theater Forum, which you plan to hold in the Year of Theater - what will be there?

It would certainly be great if in the Year of the Theater children's theaters could come together in Moscow. So we would communicate for a week here. Why does it need to be Moscow? Because we can watch good performances in Moscow theaters. There is the Young Spectators' Theatre, and the Puppet Theater, and the Youth one. There are so many treasures! We cannot skip them, because there are no such opportunities abroad.

I want every little student of mine and every little actor in theaters of émigré communities to feel their involvement in this Year of Theater. It should be the Year of the Russian Theater around the world.

Together with Natalya Bondarchuk at the Premier of Red Riding Hood Online

Some days ago the premiere of Red Riding Hood Online, a movie you co-produced with Natalya Bondarchuk, was held in Moscow. Please tell us about this project.

This is a remarkable project; I really admire and value it. On November 26, the European premiere will be held in Paris. The motion picture was in production for three years; little actors from six countries, which are my students and students of Natalya, acted in it. The result is a wonderful movie on childrens co-creation. I believe it to be the special event, the occasion, when children from various countries act in the same movie and are united by Russian language.

I am very grateful to Natalya, because we made it happened. Three years ago we opened the first Sergey Bondarchuk Film School in Paris. And today it works in eight countries.

Recently you came back from Tashkent. Did you introduce your childrens theater there as well?

Tashkent is another homeland of mine. This is where I spent four years to study directing in the Theater Institute. And I came back there 40 years later. I am grateful to the Moscow Compatriot House for being included into agenda of the Language Unites, an international project, and for having opportunity to share our experience in preserving Russian language through theater.
My address was warmly welcomed. I expressed my wish for support of the Russian theater in Tashkent and was encouraged by the Minister of Culture, who had been my teacher. And I also would like such theater to accommodate a research-to-practice conference on the role of the children's theaters in the preservation of the Russian language.

What will your address on the coming Russkiy Mir Assembly be focused at?

I am very happy that that the Assembly has been paying attention to theater for the second year in a row. Last year I introduced the theater school in Kamchia to the Russkiy Mir Assembly. For the first time they gave us the entire discussion platform: we were incredibly happy to finally be heard.

At the Assembly in Tver, there will be a round table discussion on issues of theaters in émigré communities and their role in preservation of Russian language. I am very grateful to the Russkiy Mir Foundation for hearing us; and such support inspires me to work even more.

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