Our Venture Reading Series comes to a conclusion on Monday evening, with our free reading of Alexander Pushkin's "Little Tragedies." While Pushkin is relatively unknown to American audiences, he is massively popular in Russia. Artistic Associate Katherine Fritz sat down with director Ellen Podolsky to learn more.
Hi, Ellen! So -- first things first, tell me a little about yourself.
I'm originally from Ukraine. I studied in Moscow before moving to Philadelphia. I graduated from Arcadia University a few years ago, studying theatre and directing. My passion for classical theatre lead me to the PAC, and being part of the work PAC does makes me very happy.
That's right -- you've assistant directed three of our five productions before -- Timon of Athens, Creditors, Duchess of Malfi. Great to have you in the director's chair this time around! Ok, next question - Who is Pushkin? Can you explain his significance to American audiences who might not know his work?
Pushkin is the greatest Russian poet. That says is all and it does not say anything! Unfortunately, poetry is very difficult to translate and his work remains largely unknown outside of Russia. In the West, he is known for the operas set to his work (Eugene Onegin, Queen of Spades, Boris Godunov) and songs that Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and other composers wrote. His language is simple, yet elegant and beautiful. He wrote poetry, prose, dramas, histories, fairy tales, and other works. His life was both vivid and short - he was killed in a duel when he was 37. You could almost say he's the Russian equivalent to Shakespeare - his influence on the contemporaries and future writers and poets is significant and unquestionable. He is called "sunshine of Russian poetry" and "Pushkin is our everything."
Why do you like these plays? What is it about "Little Tragedies" that appeals to you?
“Little Tragedies” are concise and clear, and full of action. I think they explore human nature in the most insightful and profound way -- each story uncovers the deepest desires and conflicts in human relationships. They deal with morality of society and individual human passions. Each tragedy includes a hero possessed by an overwhelming passion, whose conflict between free will and the will of Heaven inevitably leads to downfall. In their structure, the tragedies are close to the classical Greeks – a noble hero is destroyed, defying Fate. The depth and the power of the tragedies feel comparable to Shakespeare. This combination of power and depth with clarity and brevity what has always attracted me to “Little Tragedies” and presenting them to the American audiences is like sharing a favorite book with a friend.
Ok, last question, and this one's kind of silly -- have you been watching the Olympics in Sochi? It's the most "America - Russia" contemporary reference I could think of...
Yes! I was trying to catch whenever I could. Mostly figure skating and skiing.
Our free reading of Pushkin's "Little Tragedies" is Monday, March 3rd, at 7pm. This reading will take place at the Off-Broad Street Theatre (NOTE: NOT in our typical home at Broad Street Ministry!) We hope to see you there. Tickets are free, but reservations are recommended.