Children's Theater Canceled In Russia Following Promised Investigation Of Alleged LGBT 'Propaganda'

By Current Time

A theater in the southern Russian city of Novosibirsk has canceled a children's play just days after local Culture Ministry authorities said they would investigate whether the performance violated anti-LGBT legislation.

The Siberian city's First Theater on November 20 abruptly announced that that day's scheduled performance of The Princess And The Ogre was being canceled due to technical difficulties.

The local publication Novosibirsk Online cited an unidentified source from the theater as saying that the building had suffered an electricity outage and that there was a burning smell near the stage.

But the cancelation followed calls last week on social media for the play to be investigated for noncompliance with Russia's law banning the "propagandizing of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors," and vows by the Culture Ministry's branch in the Novosibirsk region to follow up.

Representatives from the ministry and media had been expected to attend the November 20 staging of the play, which has an all-male cast, but it was canceled just 20 minutes before showtime.

RFE/RL was unable to obtain comment from the authorities as to whether the cancelation was related to the promised investigation.

The director of the play, Polina Kardymon, has said on social media that the performance is for audiences ages 6 and up.

The play revolves around two characters playing the roles of the late Russian writers Igor Kholin and Genrikh Sapgir, whose works are the basis for the stories in the play.

As the characters of Kholin and Sapgir think up imaginative stories, two other actors act them out on stage. One of the stories is based on a poem, The Princess And The Ogre, that was written by Sapgir and was made into an animated Soviet film in 1977.

Kardymon, in her social media comments, pushed back against suggestions that she replace one of the male characters with a female actor, saying it would be contrary to the concept of the play.

Kardymon also advised employees of the Culture Ministry to read up on Greek theater, "in which men played female roles."

First Theater's artistic director, Igor Yuzhakov, also objected to altering the performance, commenting on social media that "actors are for acting, so they can play animals, and children, and women, and gods, and goddesses, and even objects. What harm can there be?"

President Vladimir Putin signed the law banning the “propagandizing of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” in 2013. Since then, Russia has seen a dramatic spike in anti-gay discrimination, including homophobic vigilante violence.