The Vakhtangov Theatre

26 Arbat
Three of M. Bulgakov’s stagings are associated with the Vakhtangov Theatre (Zoyka’s Apartment, Pushkin and Don Quixote), but only one of these was ever put on in the author’s lifetime after a long battle with the censors. The premier of Bulgakov’s Zoyka’s Apartment took place on 28th October 1926, and ran with astonishing success alongside The Days of the Turbins at the Moscow Art Theatre. For the season of 1926/1927, one hundred performances were put on (they ran almost every day). The premier had been preceded by almost a year of complicated and dramatic relations between the author, the theatre and the censors.
The agreement on the play was signed on 1st January 1926, and the first full dress rehearsal of Zoyka’s Apartment took place in April. However the process ground to a halt – the censors (the Main Repertoire Committee) and the Theatre Council demanded adjustments from Bulgakov. Jaded and indignant, Bulgakov wrote to the stage manager, A. Popov, on 16th July: ‘I get headaches, I’m very ill, I’m harassed and hunted, I’m sitting over the adjustments. What for?... If the play comes out worse than the first version, the responsibility lies with us all (not least with the Council!)’. In the autumn, the premier of three acts rather than four took place. It was a decided success. Reuben Simonov remembered that, ‘There was howling in the auditorium, the actors on the stage were sobbing with laughter’. Because of external pressure on the theatre, the play was withdrawn from the repertoire for good at the end of the 1920s. Two other collaborations between Bulgakov and the Vakhtangov Theatre turned out to be unsuccessful – his play Pushkin, coauthored with Veresaev, which was begun in 1934, was eventually staged at the Moscow Art Theatre only in 1943, and the staging of Don Quixote, which was submitted to the Vakhtangov Theatre in September 1938, was eventually put on for the first time in the A.N. Ostrovsky Theatre in Kineshma on 27th April 1940, after the writer’s death.