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Elena Gremina: “We are ready for anything” (

posted 3 Nov 2014, 06:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Nov 2014, 06:41 ]
29 October 2014

by Kristina Matvienko 


An interview with Elena Gremina, co-founder and director of Teatr.doc, about how the Moscow municipal authorities have thrown one of the leading national theatres out into the street 

Yesterday it was announced that the Moscow City Property Department unilaterally terminated its rental contract with “Teatr.doc”. The co-founder and director of the theatre, Elena Gremina, has commented on the situation at the request of COLTA.RU.

– What happened with the premises of “Teatr.doc”?

– Like any current leaseholders, we have the right to an extended rental lease. And, in accordance with established procedures, we brought the documents for the lease extension. Yesterday we found out that seemingly the Department of Property has broken the contract with us. And we now cannot extend the lease.

— So how come you did not know that the contract had in fact been torn up in May 2014?

— Nobody told us anything about this.

— But now you have found out about the situation because some sort of notification came through?

— No, because they did not extend the contract with us.

— And you received no comments at all from officials?

— None at all.

— In a practical sense, what does this mean?

— That if this is how things will be, we shall have to leave the premises and just clear out.

— How long have you been given to vacate the premises? And if the contract was terminated back in May, why have you been working the whole summer in the place?

— We have to leave in a month. But nobody has told us any such thing and we are paying the rent as before. Possibly this might be backdated – I don’t know.

— What has “Teatr.doc” got to do now in accordance with the established procedures?

— Just now we need to see if we can somehow bring some kind of influence to bear on the Property Department so that they extend the contract. If not – we’ll have to vacate the premises and find some other place.

— “Teatr.doc” has paid its rent without fail, and now they are treating you like this. Is this quite legal?

— I have no idea. This is all a mystery to me. What are the grounds for tearing up a contract if we have been renting this place for 12 years? Fire checks? We have passed them all. Here we can only think of conspiracy theories – why else would they suddenly have to destroy a place which has been used as a theatre for the past 12 years?

— Is it important that “Teatr.doc” has been located exactly in Trekhprudny Pereulok, and not somewhere else?

— Yes, it seems to me that if we have been in this place for 12 years, it’s already history, but basically we are ready for everything.

— So it’s important for you that the theatre simply survives?

— No. It’s simply that when we already have such a history as this when they try to wipe us out (and driving us out of the premises we have been renting for 12 years is an attempt to wipe us out), naturally I think that our responsibility is to do everything to make sure the theatre survives. An awful lot of people are writing that they consider themselves part of this community, and therefore there is an obligation to continue.

— But from a legal perspective, are you able to contest the situation?

— I think that the Property Department is a monopoly and it can do what it likes. It’s not as if it has found sort of violation against you and said, “How can you explain this? You now have three days to make amends.” It can simply do whatever it wants. They can simply throw you out onto the street if something doesn’t please them. Without explaining anything.

— It is hard to resist asking: do you think yesterday’s events are linked with the worsening social and cultural situation in the country?

— I am not a conspiracy theorist. I can only work with the facts. I think you could possibly talk about some kind of link, but nevertheless we were not prepared for such a thing happening.

— Does “Teatr.doc” have active enemies?

— No. On the contrary, we are on the up for some reason, and we have our own following.

— I didn’t mean audience attendance, but in the sense that your performances could be seen by some as a serious irritation?

— Well, of course, there are such performances and such people. But if you read customer comments, let’s say, in “Afisha”, we have one of the most popular theatres in Moscow. A lot is written about us and it is clear that we reflect the real interests of people. We have a wide range of shows: innovative, traditional, all kinds.

— Was there something high-profile that happened recently at the theatre that could have prompted such a clampdown?

— There was the reading of “The Maidan Diaries”, and there was a project by COLTA.RU, “Dangerous Plays”, which we put on after it was cancelled at the Moscow International Book Festival. “Berlusputin” is on as before, “1.18”, and a reading of Oleg Sentsov is currently being worked on. We are always putting on something or other like this.

— What are you planning on doing now?

— Losing our premises is, of course, a tragedy for us. But basically “Teatr.doc” is not walls, but people. And in this respect, of course, we will think up something. But one thing is certain: it’s still a serious blow.

Translated by Frances Robson