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Podcast: Russian Theatre Panel

The Russian Theatre: Broadway Bullet Educational Focus Special Episode. Russian Playwright Sophia Romma organized this great panel which also features Russian director, Sergei Grabbe, and actors Brandon Despain, Yelena Shmulenson and Marina Klochan. They discuss the history of Russian Theatre as well asthe changes brought around by modern society.

Sophia Romma

 Sophia Romma, playwright/screenwriter/poet has graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts (Dramatic Writing/Film and Television Department) at New York University with her M.F.A. in 1997.  Her play, “In The Eyes of Hope” has been produced at the Jewish Repertory Theater and ran for three weeks in October of 1998 at La MaMa Experimental Theater, on the Lower East side of Manhattan.  Her critically acclaimed musical “Coyote, Take Me There!” directed by the Obie Winning and Tony nominated Playwright, Leslie Lee, was also performed at La MaMa E.T.C. in January of 1999.  The playwright has witnessed the grandiose success of her play, “Defenses of Prague” her third musical stage-play at
La MaMa E.T.C. (2004). Sophia has co-directed this mystical play about the Legend of the Golem coupled with the unearthly magic of the Gypsies.

The young author emigrated with her parents from Russia twenty-five years ago.  Her first screenplay, Across Sadovo Ring Road was optioned by the Disney Motion Picture Group.  Her second screenplay was finally made into a full length motion-picture.  Poor Liza, loosely based on Nikolai Karamzin’s 18th century short story of the same title, directed by the cult-classic director of Liquid Sky, Slava Tsukerman, was received with flying colors.  The film went on to compete at the Cairo Film Festival, participated in the hors-concourse competition at the 21st Moscow International Film Festival, was shown at the Anthology Film Archives in Greenwich Village, and was presented numerous times at the Sochi Film Festival, Kinotaur.  Most importantly, the film has won the coveted Grand Prix Garnet Bracelet for best screenplay at the prestigious Gatchena Film Festival in St. Petersburg (Feb-March, 2001).  Poor Liza starred Academy Award Nominee, Ben Gazzara and Academy Award Winner, Lee Grant.  The story, laced with phantasmagorical lyricism, is about a beautiful peasant girl who is seduced and then forsaken by a Russian Aristocrat.  

Sophia Romma’s book of poetry entitled “God and the Good” was published in Moscow.  Her play, “Coyote, Take Me there!” along with nine shot stories has been published as well, in an anthology entitled: Blue Devils. In 2004, the poet won the Bronze medal for her poem dedicated to the memory of her sister, “Emerald May”.  The poem was published in a lavish anthology from the International Library of Poetry, entitled: Invoking the Muse.  The poet has seen the publication of her poems in the “Who’s Who in Poetry”, has won a publishing contract from the International Poetry Society, and was nominated for poet of the year, 2005.  Most recently her poem, also dedicated to the memory of her sister, entitled “Our Fatal Wound” was published as well.  
Her poem, “What If?” was published in the International Who’s Who in Poetry 2005 edition. “His Fingers Clenching My Guitar” was published in a collection of poetry entitled: “Labors of Love” (2006) by Noble House Press in London, England. The writer is also most proud of having authored a monumental catalogue in Contemporary Avant-garde Art “Essence of Life—Essence of Art” which was exhibited this July at the State Russian Museum (Marble Palace) in St. Petersburg.   
Currently Sophia resides in New York where she is a professor at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center running an Advanced Playwriting and Screenwriting workshop. She occasionally instructs screenwriting at the New York Film Academy and serves as guest lecturer at McGill University in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies. The playwright has received her Ph.D. in 19th Century Russian Literature from the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow, Russia, which has just published her musically endowed bouquet of poetry
“God and My Good.”  Sophia’s most controversial Off-Broadway play,
“Shoot them in the Cornfields!” has enjoyed a run at the Producers Club Theaters in New York City’s Theater Row from April 2nd until May 3rd, 2006. Her new spiced-romantic play, “Absolute Clarity,” loosely based on Edward Radzinski’s play, “She, In the Absence of Love and Death” premiered Off-Broadway at the Players Theater in the heart of Greenwich Village, on February 2nd, 2007.  Ms. Romma’s anthology of poetry entitled, “Garden of the Avant-garde” has just been published.  In March 2007, Sophia served as grand jury on the panel for the annual Russian Film Festival “Literature in Cinema” held in legendary Gatchena, St. Petersburg. She is currently engaged in literary adapting a stage-play on the tender poetic life of martyr Marina Tsvetaeva, entitled:
“The Past Is Still Ahead” which shall premiere in English at the Mayakovsky Academic Art Theater, on April 25th, 2007.    

For more information on Sophia Romma’s literary career, please visit the following website: or


Graduated from Kiev Theatre Arts College where later on worked as Acting instructor (Stanislavski acting method classes for Drama department students). For 10 years worked as actor and director in various professional theatres in Kiev, Ukraine. Acted in numerous theatrical dramatic as well as musical productions totaling more then 1000 performances, directed 5 theatre productions. Took advanced contemporary Theatre Directing course from Moscow Institute for Theatre Training (GITIS), Anatoly Vassiliev’s Workshop “School of Dramatic Arts” in Moscow, Russia. At the same time worked as an actor at the “School of Dramatic Arts” – Anatoly Vassiliev’s internationally renowned theatre.
The US experience:
As Artist-in-Residence for Kentucky Arts Council, Frankfurt, KY:Presented Stanislavski acting method classes for Drama department students of the Louisville Performing Arts School in Louisville, KY. Presented Stanislavski acting method workshop for students of Walden Theatre. Directed a World premiere of “A Thief” by N. Kolyada at Lexington Theatre Festival. As Visiting Scholar/Actor at Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training (BRITT), Jupiter, FL:Presented classes/workshops and lectures on Stanislavski acting method for professional actors within the Burt Reynolds Institute for Theatre Training. Acted in 2 productions of the BRITT. As President of Grabbe, Inc., New York, NY: Coordinating and producing Theatrical and Musical stage performances/shows/US tours for overseas artists. List of specific projects available upon request.

Marina Klochan

 Marina’s theater credits include: Titus Andronicus (Emilius/Nurse/Mutius); Three Sisters (Olga), Brothers Karamazov (Katerina); Monkey, Monkey Bottle of Beer (Anna); King of Four Harts* (Joanne *original production), Vagina Monologues (Dominatrix).  Staged readings: Plasticine, Terrorism.  Russian language TV Commercial.  Marina studied at the HB Studio with Jess Osuna and Jeannie Kaplan.


Yelena Shmulenson

Yelena Shmulenson grew up in Ukraine and emigrated to the US in 1993. US Credits
include 4 seasons  with the National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, 2 seasons at the
Ellis Island Theatre, Bronx Express and The Unlucky MAn in a Yellow Cap (Fringe
NYC), Frank (“Klezmatics”) London’s musical of A Night In the Old Marketplace, the
tour of Lady of Copper, and Off-Off Broadway productions of Flowers For Algernon,
The Lilac Minyan, and Angels In America.  Film: The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro,
dir.) She is fluent in five languages. He next project is a staged musical reading
of Gimpl Tam (Gimpl the Fool), based on a short story by I.B. Singer, for the
Folksbiene in May (see for more info).

Brandon deSpain

Brandon has appeard in New York in "The Seagull," "Three Sisters," "Brothers Karamazov," "1776, " and "The Tempest" just to name a few. He's also appeared in many independent films.  




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