Andrei Malaev-Babel: How it was Done in Odessa
Andrei Malaev-Babel holds an M.F.A. from the renowned Vakhtangov Theater Institute in Moscow, Russia. He trained and worked under Alexandra Remizova, co-founder of the Vakhtangov Theater, Stanislavsky’s student and Vakhtangov’s protégé. In 1985, he co-founded the Moscow Chamber Forms Theater, one of the first private professional theater companies in Russia. He headed the Chamber Forms Theater’s Laboratory where he led the first Russian workshops in Michael Chekhov theater technique since Chekhov’s exile from the Soviet Union in 1928.
Since 1997, Mr. Malaev-Babel has served as the Producing Artistic Director for the Stanislavsky Theater Studio (STS), an award-winning company and conservatory in Washington, DC. He has been nominated for a Helen Hayes Award as an Outstanding Director, and under his artistic direction, STS has received five Helen Hayes Award nominations and won two. Mr. Malaev-Babel is a recipient of the Washington theater Mary Goldwater Award and The World Bank Community Outreach Recognition Award. His work as producer, director and actor has been praised by national and international media, and he has presented work at The Kennedy Center; The National Theater; The Smithsonian Institution; The World Bank; The Keenan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholar; the Ministry of Culture of Russia; and the Russian Embassy in the US.
Mr. Malaev-Babel has served on the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and he is a member of the international faculty and board of MICHA, the Michael Chekhov Association. He developed The Art of Acting, STS' extensive acting training program in residence at Montgomery College, and he is the author of the Guide to the Psychological Gesture Technique published in the 2003 Routledge edition of Michael Chekhov's seminal book, To the Actor. He currently serves on the faculty of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory in Sarasota, Florida. His two groundbreaking volumes on the Russian theatrical innovator Yevgeny Vakhtangov came out from Routledge in 2011 and 2012. He is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
Babel: How it Was Done in Odessa celebrates the vibrant, colorful life of Odessa and its citizens; it teams with characters of all ages, races and nationalities, just as the city was before the Russian Revolution. At the heart of the production is the character of Benya Krik, a larger than life gangster with a sense of humor, justice and honor, almost an Odessan Robin Hood. Other infamous figures in the Jewish quarter, such as Froim Grach and Kolya Shvarts, add to the richness and variety of the production’s texture. Yet in the celebration of life, its end is never far away: each story touches on one or more deaths, most of them met in untimely and violent fashion. Life thus becomes something all the more precious, all the more worthy of celebration, its exuberance and excesses to be savored. This is tangible in Babel’s colorful and finely chiseled writing style, where every word counts.
This production celebrates not only Isaak Emmanuilovich Babel’s writings but also his life, lived at times so carelessly, perhaps even recklessly, and ended so suddenly and anonymously. Little tangible has remained of either his life or his unpublished writings: all the more reason to celebrate on stage the diverse and unique creative wealth of this Russian-Jewish writer, recognized by the New York Times as “…a literary genius framed by twentieth century tragedy.” The following writings form the basis of Babel: How It Was Done in Odessa: "The King" and "Froim Grach" from The Odessa Stories; "The Cemetery in Kozin" from Red Cavalry; "Di Grasso" and "Guy de Maupassant" from Stories 1925-1938.
Babel: How It Was Done In Odessa was created in 2004 in celebration of the 110th anniversary of Isaac Babel’s birth. Since then it has been presented over 50 times. One of the most recent presentations was produced by the United Nations in July of 2011 in Moscow, in support of the Red Ribbon AIDS awareness campaign. Other recent presentations include а September 2011 performance at the Odessa Philharmonic, Ukraine, with the National Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, headed by Hobart Earle, а July 2011 performances at the International Literary Festival in Odessa, Ukraine and а May 2011 performance at the National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA.
At its inception in 2004, Babel: How It Was Done In Odessa enjoyed two full runs at the Stanislavsky Theater Studio in Washington, DC and another full run at the Baltimore Theatre Project. Baltimore City Paper named the show one of the ten best productions in Baltimore in 2004. In July of 2005 the performance was presented at The World Bank in Washington, DC as part of “Theatre in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” exhibit. Thanks to generous support from New York's Trust for Mutual Understanding, in November of 2005 Babel: How it Was Done in Odessa was presented as part of the Sixth International Volkov Theater Festival in Yaroslavl, Russia. (The festival is organized by the historic State Academic Volkov Theater, the oldest Russian theater company.) In 2004, Babel also participated in Loyola College’s Solo Performance Festival, as well as “The Isaac Babel Festival” and “Getting Our Act Together: Performance Studies in Uncertain Times”, the Performance Studies Conference in Amherst, MA, organized by the Five Colleges, Inc. In December 2005, Babel was presented in Washington, DC twice as part of the AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and Eastern European Languages) Conference and as part of the AJS (Association for Jewish Studies) Conference. In December of 2006 the performance enjoyed a month-long run in the Washington, DC area, as part of Montgomery College’s popular Arts Alive series. A special presentation of Babel took place at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington DC, for the closing ceremony of the National Society of Arts and Letters’ 2009 Conference and Drama Competition.