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Written by   
, 07 2003


A large part of the musical troop of ‘Nord-Ost’, who in October of 2002were among the hostage spectators, are preparing to join the new musical ‘12 Chairs’. At the given moment Alexander Tsekalo, former producer of ‘Nord-Ost’, is making selections. This means that ‘Nord-Ost’ in its present form could cease to exist in May, in spite of the unprecedented pomp that accompanied its resurrection, and the millions spent on the theater's restoration.

Could one have expected this? Is the disintegration of the show by chance or due to a law of nature? Was the resurrection of ‘Nord-Ost’ a mistake, or was it that the resurrection just had some errors? Was ‘Nord-Ost’ flawlessly organized after the act of terror, or was everything decided by money?

Friday, April 4th. Not even 2months since the resurrected show's February 8th premier. Quite enough tickets left, cheap ones and expensive ones. Buses with Moscow plates, used to ferry excursion groups and factories that received wholesale tickets, stand by the entrance. Behind the scenes it is a similar story: a little fuss, but no real excitement. One artist is already in make-up, another is not quite ready, to the side someone is warming up their voice, accompanied by the lonely shriek of an invisible trumpet's high notes as the musicians prepare to perform.

Everything is all right. Yes, but not quite. Something is missing, and Ijust cannot understand what it is.

Aleksei Ivanshchenko, one of the play's creators, tells me what lay ahead for ‘Nord-Ost’: May 10th will be the last show at Dubrovka, but tours are planned in other cities. Not a mobile version, that does not exist, but as a concert without all the decorations and performances. About 15of the 40musical scenes. They will be shown in Israel, Riga, Tallinn, Minsk, Kiev, Kharkov, Zaporozh'ye, and Vilnius. Bulgaria refused, and Broadway did not work out, but this is not terrible, because even without Broadway the demand is enormous, Aleksei assures me. After the tours the troop will take a break, but in mid-July: We’ll put on shows in Moscow again.

But what if they all go to Tsekalo? Who will perform?

Ivashchenko does not believe this, but if it happens, then others will perform.

You have replacements?

No, it appears they are not getting any ready. There is no reason, really, because there is a long line of artists who want to perform in the musical, so it is no big deal if someone leaves, and he several times he repeats: You know this is my whole life. My creation, you understand

I understand, but Iremember that some here got their 'whole life', while others got death. That was how it turned out and there was no getting around it.

Do you agree?

Aleksei agrees in part: But would you also agree that one can't live in the past? We've got to move ahead.

In the sense of 'full speed ahead!'?

Ads for '‘Nord-Ost’' with just such a theme have been hung around Moscow.

Really, wouldn't it be better to write: In eternal remembrance?

Aleksei does not like this approach. Against a background of the main characters' happy faces?

I do not know, and Ihand him a letter that came to our editorial offices. Itwas an open appeal to ‘Nord-Ost’ from former spectator-hostage Irina Fadeyeva. She survived, but her only son died 'during the liberation'.

I will try to explain what it going on in my soul, and why I, a person who stays far away from politics and publicity, why Iundertook to write this letter. Theykilled my son at your play, and to invite the living to it is ridiculous. Life after the loss of a child is impossible. You cannot save him in life, and you cannot protect him after death. You can only stand and observe how the country's tragedy is turned into a 'love story'. The happy faces of the 'heroes' stare at me from the billboards, and in large letters they shout Full speed ahead! This is on the road to the cemetery. This is the story of our country? That this country is converted by your mercantilism, and my helplessness, into a nation where one is permitted to dance on a mass grave? What kind of generation can be raised in a place where, instead of remembrance and grief, they call for the 'show' to go on, and pay no attention to the mothers' tears?

We get hundreds of those, says Aleksei. And so? That means Ihave to shut down the play? Is that what you demand?

It seems to me that your former spectator is not talking about shutting down the play. You didn't read the whole thing.

It’s a little late to charge someone with the loss of my son. There will be other spectators, other actors and musicians. There will be interesting tours. Suchprospects have opened up. Onlywe will not have anything. We came to you, but now we are on opposite sides. Our dead children are only our grief. There is no room for the dead on the wall were you hang portraits of 'our heroes'. What are you afraid of, that a list of names and photographs would introduce a sad note into your happy composition? But think of the ratings! And if they drop? What if people start to understand just what kind of business it is, when it never entered your head to spend a little on security? With minimal expenditures come maximal profits, but what if people suddenly ask this simple question? Who was it that made this clever calculation, but he did not figure into his calculation those who were killed? But everywhere: forget about them as quickly as possible and don't think about what happened! Sing louder! Dance merrier! So that no one remembers!

“Well here Ihave reached the main point of my appeal. I am sure that there is no civilized country anywhere where normal people could enjoy themselves in a place where so many people died, where their last moans and sighs came to them. My deep belief is that ‘Nord-Ost’ has a right to exist only if its goal is to honor those who died there. The musical can serve as a means to help everyone learn that those who were killed are not just a list of names, but individual ones. It is in your power to turn them into immortal heroes. The musical plays every day. Before each performance, say the following to the audience when the people are already in the hall: ‘today we devote this play to Yaroslav Fadeyev who died here. He was fifteen. He played the piano, loved tennis, rain, and was an outstanding fellow. He sat in seat 29, row 11. Let us never forget him’ and so on, one night for each one. And in the foyer, not an entire museum, just that little corner where you have 'the history of the country in faces', let there be photos of the deceased. Don't be afraid to look them in the eyes. Do this, and then Iwill believe that the play must live, that this will help it survive, that this really is a love story.

Tell me, was it done intentional, so that a new spectator, who comes to the play, would know nothing about the act of terror? Indeed, Ilooked in the foyer: there are neither photographs nor even very simple memorial to the memory of the spectators who were killed. Or, perhaps, this emasculation is simply an annoying coincidence?

Aleksei finishes reading, but he keeps silent. Hehears the question, but again keeps silent. Probably, it is very hard for him to talk about what he went through.

However it is for him, there is one rule of life for everyone: when you do not explain others will. Irecall what the artists said about their decision to try out for Twelve Chairs. Yes, of course, the money was important Tsekalo offered more. Everything is that way, but the main reason was something else entirely, something that seemed to naturally occur to everyone after February 8th, at the premier of the resurrected ‘Nord-Ost’, when all around people were saying: ‘they are making enemies on purpose’, ‘it is a matter of principle’, ‘they are making merry out of spite’, all this began to take its toll, and they simply wanted to be liberated from it, nothing more. ‘To make merry’, where people died, and moreover to pretend that they really did not die there. Not everyone can handle this, and besides, why should they?

Ivanshchenko proposes that we go to the winter garden. This is what they call the place where no spectators are allowed. The door is locked, and the glass is curtained from the inside with dark drapes. In the winter garden there is a collection of the projects for the memorial monument to the tragedy of ‘Nord-Ost’: a collection of phoenixes, some simple birds, some fallen, sorrowful mothers, steles, monuments

Aleksei explains that there will certainly be a memorial. Butnot yet, not right now, there are a large number of papers that need to be signed, and agreements, and land parceled out.

But in Irina's letter there was no talk about a grandiose memorial, just a modest memory to the fallen spectators, expressed in words and photographs.

And so, to close? This is my creation. Theyhave sapped our strength

But perhaps the life of your creation disturbs the memory of other children?

Third call, remembers Aleksei. Let's meet during intermission. You'll definitely like this.

The light slowly goes out on the main floor. Does it still smell like gas here? Whatdo you think? A family in front of me mutters. No, it's from the new furniture. Adolescents, brought by bus from the Moscow suburbs, soon begin to fidget: At what point did the Chechens come out?

I finally understand what is so catchy about the play. Perhaps, and against the will of the musical's creators, but the show has proved to be an anti-terrorist demonstration. It means that the high-ranking capital spectator, who pays for the expensive tickets, his tendency to pay any price ‘not to bow his head before the terrorists’ must be satisfied. This theme will be exported with the play, and will attract audiences.

Here it is like being in the movies, and in this context it will be possible to actually make merry in spite of all the deaths. The finale, however, is unavoidable, and pre-programmed, because in this situation emasculation is inevitable: people characteristically have respect for themselves, and they will eventually decide that what brought them here is insufficient.

"I said that there would be a memorial, and there will be,” says Ivanshchenko during intermission. There are funds set up to help the families of those who were killed



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