The Mystery in Kratovo. Photo: Maxim Stolpovsky, 1990
The Mystery in Kratovo. Photo: Maxim Stolpovsky, 1990

Boris Yukhananov is a theater and film director, theoretician and teacher, who, in just one season, turned the tired, former Stanislavsky Drama Theatre into the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, one of contemporary Moscow’s most exciting venues. With the goal of creating an innovative director’s theatre, he opened his stage to European masters of various artistic schools — Theodoros Terzopoulos, Romeo Castellucci and Heiner Goebbels — while unveiling three of his own ground-breaking productions that blur the boundaries between opera and drama. In the first year of the theatre’s existence (2015-16), the Electrotheatre premiered fourteen new shows by eleven vastly different directors. Yukhananov graduated from the legendary directing class of Anatoly Efros and Anatoly Vasilyev at the State Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in 1986. He was Efros’s assistant director on the latter’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1983), and assisted on Anatoly Vasilyev’s famous production of Viktor Slavkin’s Cerceau (1983–85).

He was a key figure in the Soviet artistic underground in the 1980s, and was a founding member of the so-called “parallel cinema,” which appeared under the banner of CINE PHANTOM in 1986 as an antidote to official Soviet cinema. CINE PHANTOM created independent films that quickly attracted the attention of the international film world. These films were frequently shown abroad at festivals and in stand-alone showings. The group published a samizdat magazine called CINE PHANTOM, and was an important influence on the formation of an independent, non-official creative culture.

Yukhananov created the first independent theatre troupe, Theatre-Theatre, in 1985. With this company he shot an ambitious video project, the so-called Mad Prince “video novel” on 1,000 VHS cassettes (1986–93). His other experimental video projects include: Uncontrollable for All (1995), Yes! Downs... (1997), the documentary video-mystery Nazidanie (Edification, 2017) and others. He was a co-founder of the St. Petersburg Little Ballet, that city’s first private ballet company.

He has taught directing since the 1980s, and in 1988 he founded the Workshop of Individual Directing (MIR). This independent educational organization has the goal of teaching directing as a universal profession. The first big project to grow out of MIR was Orchard (1990–2001), a massive, constantly-changing theatrical performance based on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. It played at the Michael Chekhov festival at London in 1994 and at the Fringe Festival at Edinburgh in 1995.

Yukhananov has directed over 40 productions in in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Vilnius, Vicenza and others.

Yukhananov was hired to run the former Stanislavsky Drama Theatre in 2013, after he emerged as the most convincing candidate in a public job search for the position of artistic director. For the first time in Russian history, a major state theatre in the center of Moscow was entrusted to an artist with such a rich background in the underground and counter-culture. Yukhananov completely rebuilt the old, historic building at 23 Tverskaya Street — taking extreme care to preserve any and all original architectural elements – renamed it the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre, and opened it to the public on January 26, 2015 with Theodoros Terzopoulos’s production of The Bacchae. This was followed by productions from Romeo Castellucci (Human Use of Human Beings), Heiner Goebbels (Max Black, or, 62 Ways of Supporting the Head with a Hand) and Yukhananov himself, with his monumental five-day opera series Drillalians, a three-day version of The Blue Bird (based on the play by Maurice Materlinck and the reminiscences of Vladimir Korenev and Aleftina Konstantinova), a two-day piece called The Constant Principle, based on Calderon’s The Constant Prince and Alexander Pushkin’s A Feast in a Time of Plague, Galileo: Opera for Violin and Scientist, and two new processual projects: a five-day ​performance of The Golden Ass. The Open-circuited Workspace, and the six-day Orphic Games. Punk-macrame.

"This theater will not represent a single point of view," Yukhananov told the press shortly before opening the Electrotheatre. "No! I don't want that. My mission is to present this city with many different kinds of art."

Opera Drillalians

Drillalians is an opera series spanning five evenings with music composed by six leading contemporary Russian composers, based on the verse libretto-novel by Boris Yukhananov. All the composers are members of the Structural Resistance Group (StRes): Dmitri Kourliandski, Boris Filanovsky, Alexey Sioumak, Sergej Newski, Vladimir Rannev and Alexey Sysoev.

Drillalians recounts the tale of a Drillalian Prince’s journey through time and space. The prince is a magician, a pagan priest and a classical hero. He undertakes his journey in order to save an ancient, other-worldly civilization called Drillalia from destruction. The opera is set in the future but is interwoven with elements of the past and present. The first prologue to Drillalians premiered at Moscow's ARTPLAY Design Centre in December 2012. The full five-day serial opened in June–July 2015 at the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre.

Theatre Maeterlinck and The Blue Bird

Boris Yukhananov’s three-day production of The Blue Bird uses Maurice Maeterlinck’s classic play about a young brother and sister in search of the blue bird of happiness as a starting point, but, in an experiment with documentary drama, it is enhanced by the life stories of Aleftina Konstantinova and Boris Korenev, two of the Electrotheatre’s veteran stars who play the lead roles of the eight and ten year-old children. Korenev’s tales of stardom as a film actor in the 1960s, and Konstantinova’s tales of surviving WWII combine with their tales about the history of the former Stanislavsky Drama Theatre, as well as of the recent history of the Soviet and Russian nations as a whole. The production features 300 handmade costumes and the set design includes the cross-section of a real Boeing jet fuselage. The premiere took place in February 2015.

Boris Yukhananov, from the interview for the internet edition of, 2013: “We want to create a kind of documentary play made according to certain rules, which will become fleshed out in Maeterlinck’s fairytale. Actors will move along the emerging mysteries of memory and their destiny. Their own real recollections, dreams, phantasms will appear. The 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s- back in childhood, where in the fears and mysteries of children’s experiences the Blue Bird is hiding.”

The Constant Principle

Boris Yukhananov's production of a mystery-play titled The Constant Principle premiered in November 2015 on the main stage of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre. It is a combination of two plays that run over two consecutive nights. The first night features the performance of The Constant Prince by Pedro Calderón de la Barca; the second combines various scenes from The Constant Prince performed in contrasting contemporary styles and concludes with a so-called “concert in a cemetery,” a performance of Alexander Pushkin's A Feast in Time of Plague.

Calderon's play tells the tale of Don Fernando, a Portuguese prince, who is taken prisoner by the Sultan of Morocco after an unsuccessful military expedition. In exchange for his freedom, the prince is ordered by the Sultan to destroy the town of Ceuta, a Catholic stronghold in North Africa. Prince Fernando decides that his life is not worth such a sacrifice. He prefers to live and die as a slave in an Arab prison.

The Golden Ass project, 2015 to present

Beginning in 2015, newly graduated directors from the Studio of Individual Directing began staging works at the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre based on texts by various Russian and European writers. However, the beginning point was their work on The Golden Ass by Apuleius (this novel, translated into Russian by the great Silver-age poet Mikhail Kuzmin, is generally known in English as The Metamorphosis of Apuleius). Apuleius’ story of a would-be magician who mistakenly is turned into an ass, thereby putting the protagonist through 20 years of humiliation and deprivation before he achieves salvation thanks to the goddess Isis, embodied the overall concept of this project. In the spring of 2016 Yukhananov revealed a new aspect of this project, the so-called “open-circuited workspace,” in which various directors and actors staging various segments or chapters of The Golden Ass, gave public showings of their work as Yukhananov, in the role of Isis, offered commentary and advice.

Orphic Games. Punk-Macrame, 2018 to present

Orphic Games. Punk-Macrame, created by Boris Yukhananov and his students from MIR-5, has emerged as one of this director's most ambitious and radical projects in both composition and conception. Based on the myth of Orpheus and plays by Jean Cocteau and Jean Anouilh, this single work, consisting of 33 acts, and arranged in 12 performances according to the principle of frescoes, plays in one space and, in its entirety, is virtually inaccessible to a single spectator. This mixed composition of multiple fragments composed by young directors from MIR-5 evolved and entered into complex relationships with one another over a six-day period on the main stage of the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre. The spectator of Orphic Games travels not only through the space of myth, but also through the styles of modern theatre in their various manifestations. An essential part of the project is the work of contemporary composers Vladimir Gorlinsky, Fyodor Sofronov, Dmitri Kourliandski and Kirill Shirokov, who created a unique acoustic environment for the performance. Orphic Games, in fact, highlights the stylistic, substantive and generational diversity that exists among contemporary artists.

Pinocchio, 2019

Pinocchio premiered at the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre in November 2019. The play by contemporary playwright Andrei Vishnevsky was based on Carlo Collodi's famous Italian fairy tale. Yukhananov and Vishnevsky immersed their project in "Pinomythology," at the center of which was the notion of the "twin myth." In the play this ancient genre is embodied in the “bifurcation” of the protagonist: Pinocchio is played simultaneously by two actresses, Svetlana Naidyonova and Maria Belyaeva. The character takes a long journey, dies and is reborn, comprehends the mystery of the enchanted forest, and the temptation of Mangiafuoco's Theatre. The play was in gestation for forty-eight years, the set design was developed in sixty versions, there were over one hundred and fifty costumes involved, and rehearsals lasted nearly three years. The theatre's entire company performs in Pinocchio. A Diptych.

Theatre productions

1986 The Misanthrope after Molière. Theatre-Theatre, Moscow/St. Petersburg

1986 Mon Repos based on Vladimir Nabokov, Brodsky, Molière and original legends by Yukhananov and Yury Kharikov. Theatre-Theatre, Moscow/St. Petersburg

1986 Ha-Ha Funerals (Khokhorony) based on Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Viktor Slavkin, and newspaper articles. Theatre-Theatre, St. Petersburg

1987 AIDS in a Time of Plague, a co-production of Theatre-Theatre and Post-Theatre, Moscow

1987 Vertical Flight, co-produced with the Chempiony Mira (Champions of the World) group, Moscow

1988 The Observer by Alexei Shipenko. Premiered at the Metropol theatre at Berlin Festspiele, West Berlin. Performed in Moscow at the School of Dramatic Art

1989 Octavia after Seneca and Trotsky. The Free Academy, Moscow

1989 A Laboratory Based on Borges, Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-1), St. Petersburg

1990 Chuchkhe Principles, Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2)

1990 The Garden, 1st generation. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2). A miracle-play in Kratovo near Moscow

1990 Black/White, Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2) 1991 The Garden, 1st regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2). Oranzhereya (Greenhouse) Gallery, Moscow

1992–1993 The Garden, 2nd regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2). 5-day program at The Kindergarten

1993 Cicadas, a ballet. St. Petersburg Little Ballet theatre. Premiered at the Hermitage Imperial Theatre, St. Petersburg

1994 The Three Reveries, St. Petersburg Little Ballet theatre. Premiered at the Hermitage Imperial Theatre, St. Petersburg

1994 The Garden, 3rd regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2). Premiered at Michael Hall, London, Forest Row, London, the Michael Chekhov festival. Performed at Southwork Playhouse, London, and at School of Dramatic Art, Moscow

1995 The Garden, 4th regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2), Contemporary Art Center, Moscow. Premiered at Mossovet Theatre, Moscow. Performed at Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh, Fringe Festival, KukArt-95 festival, St. Petersburg

1991–1996 Genre: the Drama Game, Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2). Premiered at Oranzhereya (Greenhouse) Gallery, Moscow. Performed afterwards at The Kindergarten, the Contemporary Art Centre, and the School of Dramatic Art

1995–1996 Hello and Farewell, Don Juan after Molière. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-3). Contemporary Art Center, Moscow. Premiered at KukArt-95 festival, St. Petersburg. Performed afterwards at School of Dramatic Art, Moscow

1996 The Garden, 5th regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2), School of Dramatic Art, Moscow

1996 The Seagull after Anton Chekhov. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR-2), School of Dramatic Art, Moscow

1997 The Garden, 6th regeneration. School festival, School of Dramatic Art, Kiev

1998 The Crystal, a mysterial project for Dakh center of contemporary art, Kiev

1998 The Constant Prince, a mysterial project. Actors/directors course at Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS), Moscow

1998 The Garden, 7th regeneration. Studio of Individual Directing. Premiered at the On the Way to School festival within The Garden project at the Vladimir Vysotsky museum, Moscow

1998 Don Juan, the Royal Rehearsal, Studio of Individual Directing. Premiered at the On the Way to School festival within The Palace project. Vladimir Vysotsky museum, Moscow

1998 Marquise de Sade after Yukio Mishima. Studio of Individual Directing. Premiered at the On the Way to School festival within The Palace project. Vladimir Vysotsky museum, Moscow

1999 Faust after Goethe. Premiered at the Pushkin and Goethe festival, Moscow, supported by the Goethe Institute, Moscow

1999 Faust, 2nd edition. Young Spectator Theatre, Moscow

1999 The Minor after Denis Fonvizin. Russian Drama Theatre of Lithuania, Vilnius. Participant of The Second Festival of Russian Theatres of the CIS and Baltia (St. Petersburg, 2000)

2001 Theatre and its Diary, a project encompassing three works: Archaeology by Alexei Shipenko, The Constant Prince, and Bothmer Gymnastics

2001 Rehearsals of the Sunflowers or The Outcry, after Tennessee Williams’ Two-Character Play, featuring Lia Akhedzhakova and Viktor Gvozditsky, Moscow

2001 Faust, 3rd edition. Studio of Individual Directing (MIR) – POZITIV Producer Center. Premiered March 15 at the Stanislavsky Drama Theatre, Moscow

2001 The Garden, 8th regeneration. Shown June 6–7 within the Third International Theatre Olympics at Meyerhold Centre, Moscow.

2002 Faust, 4th edition at the Stanislavsky Drama Theater, Moscow

2002 Sunflowers, a performance shown at various festivals: Baltic House, St. Petersburg; Slavic Bazar, Vitebsk; Siberian Transit, Irkutsk; Kamerata, Chelyabinsk

2002 Theater and its Diary, premiere of a theatrical project for the New Drama festival, Moscow

2003 Faust, 5th edition, premiered at the School of Dramatic Art

2004 The Tale of an Upright Man, premiered at the School of Dramatic Art

2005–2006 The Marathon, LaboraTORiAH, Moscow

2005 The Diaspora Symphony, LaboraTORiAH. Moscow

2007–2011 LaboraTORiAH. Golem, a performance-project performed at the School of Dramatic Art, Moscow, At Tikkun olam (Vienna, 2007) and Gogolfest (Kiev, 2008)

2009 Faust, 6th edition, School of Dramatic Art

2015 The Blue Bird, a trilogy based on the fairytale by Maurice Maeterlinck and the real-life stories and memories of the actors Vladimir Korenev and Aleftina Konstantinova

2015 The Constant Principle, a duology based on Caledron's The Constant Prince and Alexander Pushkin's A Feast in a Time of Plague

2015 Drillalians, an opera serial that runs over five nights

2014 to present The Golden Ass project whose genre is described as “the open-circuited workspace”

2017 Octavia.Trepanation, an opera that premiered at the Holland Festival

2017 Galileo: Opera for Violin and Scientist premiered at the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre

2018 Orphic games. Punk-macrame

2019 Octavia. Trepanation. The Russian premiere of this opera by Boris Yukhananov and Dmitri Kourliandski took place on October 17, 18, and 19 during the Territory festival.

2019 Pinocchio, based on a play by Andrei Vishnevsky, is performed over two evenings: Forest and Theatre. The premiere took place during the NET (New European Theatre) festival from November 21 to 24.

Cinema and video works

1983 The Toy, a short, 35 mm, operator Vladimir Brylyakov

1986 Private Residence, chapter one of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes. The final version is in production

1986 Reverse Perspective, after an article by Pavel Florensky. The final version is in production

1986 Cafe, the final version is in production

1987–2005 Game of Хs and Оs, chapter two of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1988–2005 «"The Mad Prince Fassbinder"», chapter three of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1988–2005 Hamlet, chapter four of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes. The final version is in production

1988–2005 The Mad Prince Esther, chapter five of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1988 Theatre-Theatre, after Dialogues by Plato

1988 Dreams of a Queen

1988 Self Portrait, a plug-in chapter of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1989 Photographer, a plug-in chapter of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1989 King Kong

1989 Interview, a plug-in chapter of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1989 A film about Theatre-Theatre

1989 The Mad Prince Actor, chapter eight of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes. The final version is in production

1989 Wings, a video

1989 Octavia, chapter nine of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes. The final version is in production

1989 The Zoo

1989 Program about independent Russian video for Hungarian TV

1990 Pop Culture, a TV-show, the Bridge broadcasting company, Russia channel

1990 Mad Prince Godard, Leben nach Tot festival, Hamburg. This film was lost in the Hamburg subway

1990 The Garden, based on The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, 13 hours matrix

1992 The Mad Prince Nikita, chapter twelve of The Mad Prince, a Video Novel in 1000 Cassettes.

1995 Uncontrollable for Anybody, a video film

1995 No Budget, a special for the Cinematograph TV program (over 10 series), ORT (Channel One)

1996 Moscow. 20th Century, an art-documentary film about Andrei Bely's novel, Moscow (2 series), ORT (Channel One)

1996 The Garden: the 5th Regeneration

1997 Yes! Downs... a documentary

1997 Zenboxing, a feature film (producer, co-writer)

1999 INDUCTIVE TV - the National Serial, producer, screenplay, director

2003 Hunger, production director of reality show, Berlin – Moscow, ТNТ channel

2005 The Garden: the 8th regeneration, a TV film

2008 to present Theatre-Theatre Mystical Travels, art director, producer, ТNТ channel 2017 Nazidanie (Edification), a television novel (work in progress)

2011 Chapiteau-Show, (director Sergei Loban), feature film, producer

2011 Branded, feature film (USA-Russia, executive producer)

2017 Nazidanie (Edification)