the tale of our town's own tonys
Published: July 26, 2002 (Issue # 789)
The Golden Sofit awards were created in 1995 to highlight artistic achievements in St. Petersburg's theater world, quickly becoming the most prestigious award of its kind in the city. As well as giving recognition to innovative performances, they also recognize varied genres such as puppetry and musicals, opera and ballet.
With so many performances being put on regularly, even whittling down candidates to a list of nominees is a tricky business, and the members of the Golden Sofit Nomination Committee are fastidious in seeing every production in the city. A secret ballot is then held with the participation of the St. Petersburg Theater Artistic Committee, the management bureau of the St. Petersburg Theater Workers Organization and an expert panel of several leading theater lights and critics.
The nominating committee has its own award, the Golden Symbol, to honor those who contribute financially to St. Petersburg's theatrical life, with past laureates including St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, the general director of the Baltika Brewery Teimuraz Bolloev, and Valery Venkov, director of the Severnaya Verf shipbuilding company. The award has a great deal of prestige among theatergoers who want to see sponsors being recognized for their contribution to their beloved theater culture.
The awards ceremony is a performance in itself, as its director, Rinat Dulmaganov, pointed out at a press conference last Thursday. In past years, the ceremony has been held at the Alexandrinsky Theater but, this year, it will be held at the Theater of Musical Comedy. Dulmganov emphasized that the location has not been chosen by chance as many theaters are in dire need of financial help to restore them to their original grandeur, and seeing a newly renovated theater may inspire contributors to invest.
In many ways, the Golden Sofit is an award that highlights the achievements of St. Petersburg's theaters in order to promote them. As the producer of the Golden Sofit, Evgenei Fradin, explained at the press conference, "More sponsors means more publicity, which in turn, gives theatres the chance to develop."
The actors and producers who receive nominations and awards benefit in a similar way, receiving recognition and the chance to get prestigious roles or productions. Fradin explained that, with recognition from the Golden Sofit, recipients stand a greater chance of gaining both public and private financial support.
Though the prize is intended to promote needy theaters, many of this year's nominations are dominated by well-established theaters, with the Mariinsky - hardly the most under-funded of establishments - perhaps unsurprisingly occupying a very strong position. Fradin drew a simple conclusion here: "Money is very important. Although good productions exist at other theaters, it's hard to compete with the Mariinsky, which, for example, can afford to have Shemyakin design costumes."
In many ways the Golden Sofit embodies a contradictionto be found in the theater life of St. Petersburg. Audiences are no longer interested in the idea of impoverished artists giving their all to their art. The sort of shows that fill seats, pulling in foreign visitors as well as locals, require a fair degree of financial backing. The Sofit, therefore, not only gives prestigious awards to deserving actors, producers, and plays, but also insures that there will be further investment in one of the city's most precious traditions.