Supporting small town theatres of Russia traditionally has been one of the priorities of the State Theatre of Nations. Today, nearly a third of all professional theatres in the country is located in small towns. Events supporting companies of the “small” theatrical Russia aim at enhancing one of the most important tasks of the state cultural policy – to bring small towns of the nation to a brand new “non-provincial” height, which means also equal access to culture for all Russians.
Thus, the Small Town Theatre Festival of Russia, held by the State Theatre of Nations along with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, has become an important part of this activity. As for today, ten festivals have already been conducted, with latest editions held annually (2010, 2011, and 2012).
In 2010, the Theatre of Nations with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation developed a new program, which is not limited to the festival activities. It includes the entire range of different events aimed at developing theatrical culture of small Russian towns, meeting a wide variety of artistic needs – from providing them with qualified professors in various theatre disciplines to aid in organizing their repertoire. Under this Programme, the Theatre of Nations conducts workshops and laboratories, rehearsals of new plays, and organizes visits by critics, as well as workshops and laboratories by professors from Moscow, doing its best at attracting new creative resources to work in the "small" theatres of Russia. Sketches of the performances created under Laboratory often end making part of theatres’ repertoire after a follow-up revision. The Programme supporting small town theatres is flexible enough so it can be tailored according to artistic needs of each theatre.
Over eighteen month of its life, the project’s workshops and laboratories have already been held in the following towns: Velikie Luki (Pskov region), Rybinsk (Yaroslavl region), Balakovo (Saratov region), Novoshakhtinsk (Rostov region), Prokopjevsk (Kemerovo region), Tuapse (Krasnodar region), Yeletc (Lipetsk region), Sovietsk (Kaliningrad Region), Gatchina (Leningrad region). Workshops and laboratories, young as they are, already have something to be proud of. Many productions created as part of them, participated in various theatre events (including various editions of the Small Town Theatre Festival of Russia) and were awarded Prizes by the Jury, getting media interest.
In 2011, at the Ninth Festival, held in Balakovo , Saratov Region, the Governor’s prize was awarded to actor Oleg Pryadko for his role of Ivan Sidorovich Zhukov in The Russian National Postal Service after O.Bogaev (E.A. Lebedev Balakovsky Drama Theatre) staged by Marfa Gorvits. The ‘Nadezhda’ (Promising Talent) Prize awarded by the same Festival went to Ilya Rotenberg, director of The Battle Front Veteran after A. Baturina (Rybinsk Drama Theatre). The following season, I. Rotenberg took the lead of the A. Savinov Lysvensky Drama Theatre (Perm region). Both of the above mentioned productions were conceived as part of the Laboratory.
The last Tenth Small Town Theatre Festival of Russia, held in 2012 in Lysva, featured three “Laboratory - conceived" plays: Endless April after Y. Pulinovich (directed by Paul Zobnin) by ‘Benefit’ Eletsky Drama Theatre, Helver's Nigh after Ingmar Vilkvist (directed by Kirill Vytoptov ) by the Novshahtinsky Drama Theatre; Pagans after A. Yablonskaya (directed by Vera Popova) by the Prokopievsky Drama Theatre. All performances were to a great public and critical acclaim, arousing fierce discussions and accompanied by an enthralling professional analysis, traditionally offered by the Festival. Vladimir Gromovikov, Venya in Endless April, won the "Best Actor" award.
March 2012, Pagans by the Prokopievsky Drama Theatre took part in the ‘Maska Plus’ non-competition programme, part of the Golden Mask National Theatre Festival.