A. S. Makarenko Reference Archive
All that has been related in the previous chapter formed only a very slight part of our winter evening occupations. Looking back I feel a certain shame in confessing it--but almost all our spare time was devoted to the theatre.
In the new colony we got possession of a real theatre. It would be difficult to describe the rapture we experienced on having the mill shed placed entirely at our disposal.
Our theatre could have seated up to six hundred persons--as many as the spectators from several villages. The importance of the dramatic circle was greatly increased, and the demand for it increased accordingly.
True, there were certain inconveniences in the theatre. Kalina Ivanovich considered these inconveniences so great that he proposed turning the theatre into a cart shed.
"If you put a cart in it, it won't suffer from the cold," he said, "and you won't have to put a stove in. But for an audience you need stoves."
"All right, then, we'll put stoves in."
"It'll be as much good as a handshake to a beggar. You can see for yourself there's no ceiling there, just an iron roof with nothing under it. When you heat the stove it'll be just heating the kingdom of heaven for the cherubim and seraphim, not the audience. And what sort of a stove can you put in? You'll need some sort of an iron stove, and who's going to let you put in an iron stove--it would be asking for a fire. You'll have to begin the performance and call out the fire brigade at the same time."
But we did not agree with Kalina Ivanovich, especially as Silanti said:
"It's like this, you see. The performance will be free, and a fire won't be any trouble, no one will hold it against us."
We put in various iron stoves, and only heated them during performances. They were never able to heat the theatrical atmosphere, since all the heat from them flew right up and escaped through the iron roof. So that, although the stoves themselves always became red-hot, the spectators preferred t, sit in their coats, taking care only that the side next to the stove should not be scorched.
We only once had a fire in our theatre, and that not from a stove, but from a lamp falling on to the stage. A stampede did break out, but it was rather an original one, the audience remaining in their seats, and the colonists clambering up on to the stage in unreigned delight, while Karabanov shouted at them:
"You idiots--haven't you ever seen a fire before?"
We made a real stage--spacious, high, with a complicated system of wrings, and a prompter's box. Behind the stage was a large free space, but we were unable to make use of it. In order to create for the actors a bearable temperature, we screened off from this space a small room, put a temporary stove into it, and made up and changed there, maintaining somehow or other order of precedence and the division of the sexes. In the rest of the space behind the wings, and on the stage itself, it was as cold as out of doors.
In the auditorium were a few dozen rows of plank benches, a vast ocean of seats, a marvellous field for cultural work, fairly asking to be sown and reaped.
Our theatrical activity in the new colony developed very rapidly, and in the course of three winters, its tempo never for a moment relaxing, and its scope never contracting, it expanded to such imposing dimensions that it is hard for me to believe now what I am writing.
During the winter season we produced about forty plays, but we never went in for the usual light entertainment found in clubs, offering only full-length, serious plays in four and five acts, mostly taken from the repertoire of the theatres in the capital. This may have been the most in- comparable cheek, but it was certainly not hack work.
From our third performance, the fame of our theatre spread far beyond the boundaries of Goncharovka. We were visited by the inhabitants of Pirogovka, Grabilovka, Babichevka, Gontsy, Vatsy, Storozhevoye, by the dwellers in the Volovy, Chumatsky, Ozersky farmsteads, by workers from suburban settlements, railway workers from the station and from the engine works; and soon the town dwellers also began to come to us--teachers, people from the Department of Public Education, military men, Soviet employees, co-operative employees and supply workers, and just young men and girls, friends of our own boys and girls, and friends of their friends. By the end of the first winter, on Saturdays, a regular encampment of folk from afar would begin from dinner-time to form around our theatre shed. Moustached individuals in sheepskins and heavy coats would be unharnessing their horses, covering them with sacking and horse blankets and clattering with their pails around the well sweep, while their womenfolk, muffled up to the eyes, after dancing about in front of the shed to warm their feet, chilled by the journey, would run into the bedrooms of our girls, swaying on their high ironshod heels, to warm themselves and renew recently formed friendships. Many of them drew out bags and bundles from beneath the straw. They had brought with them provisions for the distant theatrical excursion--pies, wheat cakes, squares of lard scored across, and various kinds of sausages. A great part of these provisions was intended for treating the members of the colony, and there were sometimes regular feasts, until the Komsomol Bureau flatly prohibited the acceptance of any presents whatsoever from visiting spectators.
On Saturdays the stoves in the theatre were heated from two o'clock, to enable our visitors to warm themselves. But the closer their acquaintance with us, the more they tended to make their way into the premises of the colony. Even in the dining room a group of privileged visitors could be seen, general favourites whom our monitors felt entitled to invite to the table.
The performances came heavy on the funds of the colony. Forty or fifty rubles went on costumes, wigs and other appurtenances. One way or another about two hundred rubles a month was spent. This was a great outlay, but we never sank so low as to charge our spectators a single kopek by way of entrance fee. It was the young people we aimed at, and the village youth, especially the girls, never had any pocket money.
At first no tickets were required for entrance to the theatre, but the time soon came when the shed could no longer hold all who wanted to come, and we had to introduce a system of tickets, distributed beforehand among the Komsomol organizations, the Village Soviets, and our own particular local representatives.
To our surprise we encountered remarkable eagerness for the theatre on the part of the rural population. Quarrels and misunderstandings over tickets were continually arising between individual villages. Agitated secretaries would use quite aggressive language to us:
"Why have we only been given thirty tickets for tomorrow?"
Zhorka Volkov, the box-office manager, would shake his head sarcastically in the face of the secretary.
"Even that's a lot for you."
"A lot! You sit here like bureaucrats, and you think you know what's a lot for us!"
"We sit here, and we see how the priest's daughters come in on our tickets."
"The priest's daughters! What d'you mean?"
"The priest's daughters. The red-haired ones."
Recognizing the description of the local priest's daughters, the secretary changed his tone, but stuck to his guns.
"Well, all right--the two daughters of the priest. But why did you cut us down twenty tickets? There used to be fifty, and now we only get thirty."
"We've lost confidence in you," replied Zhorka severely. "Two priest's daughters, and how many priests' wives and shopkeepers' wives we don't know. It's not our business to find out how far the rot has spread among you."
"And who's the son-of-a-bitch who gave us away, I'd like to know?"
"We don't keep a list of sons-of-bitches either. Thirty's a lot for you."
The secretary, stung to the quick, hastened home to investigate the newly-discovered rot, but his place would instantly be filled by another malcontent.
"What d'you mean by this, Comrade? We have fifty Komsomols, and you send us only fifteen tickets!"
"According to the report of mixed detachment 6-P, only fifteen sober Komsomols came last time, and four of these were old women. All the rest were drunk."
"Nothing of the sort! Whoever says they were drunk is lying. Our members work at the distillery, and of course they smell of the fumes...."
"We checked up on them--their breaths smelt, it's no good trying to put it on to the distillery."
"I'll bring them to you, you'll see for yourself, they always smell, and you're just trying to pick holes, and invent things. What sort of a line d'you call this?"
"None of that! We always know when they only smell because of their work, and when they're drunk."
"Well, add five tickets at least--you ought to be ashamed of yourselves! You give out tickets to all sorts of girls in the town, and friends, and our Komsomols come last."
Suddenly we realized that the theatre was no mere entertainment or amusement for ourselves, but our duty, an inevitable social tax, the payment of which could not be evaded.
Our Komsomol Bureau thought it over earnestly. The dramatic circle could not carry such a weight on its shoulders. It had become unthinkable for a single Saturday to pass without a performance, and we gave a different play every week. To repeat a performance would have been to lower our banner, and spoil an evening for our nearest neighbours, who were our constant visitors. Various complications arose in the dramatic circle.
Even Karabanov cried for quarter.
"Am I a pack-horse, or what? Last week I was a high priest, this week a general, and now you want me to be a guerrilla fighter. D'you think I'm made of iron? Rehearsals every night up till two, and on Saturdays move tables and do scene shifting!"
Koval, supporting himself on his fists, which were pressed against the table, shouted:
"Perhaps you'd like a couch put under a pear tree for you to rest on? It's got to be done!"
"If it's got to be done, then organize it so that everyone works."
"We will organize it."
"Go on then--organize!"
"Call a Commanders' Council!"
At the Commanders' Council the Bureau resolved: no more dramatic circle--everyone must take part, and no nonsense!
In the Council they were fond of formulating matters by an order. This is how they formulated it:
By resolution of the Commanders' Council, work on preparations for performances to be considered binding on each member of the colony, hence mixed detachments are assigned for work in connection with the performance of The Adventures of the Non-Such Tribe.
Further followed a list of mixed detachments, as if the matter was not one of high art, but of weeding beetroot, or earthing potatoes. The profanation of art began with the appointment of mixed detachment 6-A, consisting of twenty-eight persons under the command of Vershnev, for work on a given performance, instead of the dramatic circle.
And the mixed detachment meant compulsory attendance and no unpunctuality, offenders named in the evening report, the commanders' order, the familiar "Very good!", accompanied by a salute; the slightest dereliction of duty was brought before the Commanders' Council or the general meeting, as breach of colony discipline, of which the result at the best would be a talking-to from me, and a few extra jobs or home arrest on a non-working day.
This was a real reform. After all, the dramatic circle was a voluntary organization, and as such always a little inclined to excessive "democratism" and fluctuation in membership, moreover, a dramatic circle is always the battlefield of individual tastes and claims. This was especially noticeable during the choice of a play and the distribution of roles. And in our dramatic circle the personal element, also, was beginning to make itself felt. But a resolution of the Bureau and the Commanders' Council was accepted in the colony as a settled thing, admitting of no doubts, and a theatre in the colony was thus placed upon the same footing as work on the land, the repairing of the estate, order and cleanliness within doors. The particular part taken by this or that colonist in connection with a performance had become a matter of indifference so far as the colony's interests were concerned--each must do what was demanded of him.
As a rule I announced at the Sunday Commanders' Council the play for the following Saturday, and the names of the colonists cast for the respective roles. All these colonists were immediately included in 6-A Mixed, and a commander appointed from among their number. The rest were divided up into theatrical mixed detachments, all hearing the number 6, and functioning till the end of a given performance. There were the following mixed detachments:
Six-LE.....lighting- and stage-effects
If it is borne in mind that up till now there were only eighty colonists, it will be quite obvious that there was never a single colonist left over, and if the play chosen had a great many characters in it, our forces were quite inadequate. While making up the mixed detachments, the Commanders' Council naturally did its best to take into account individual desires and inclinations, but this was not always possible. It often happened that a colonist would ask:
"Why have I been appointed to 6-A? I've never acted in my life!"
"You're talking like a muzhik," he would be told. "Everybody has to act for the first time one day or other."
Throughout the week all these mixed detachments, especially their commanders, spent their spare time rushing about the colony, and even the town, like madmen. It was not our way to accept excuses, however good, and our mixed detachment commanders were often in difficulties. True, we had friends in the town, and there were many who sympathized with our cause. Thus, for example, we were almost always able to get hold of suitable costumes for any play whatsoever, land when this was impossible, 6-W Mixed knew how to make them for any historical period, and in any number, from all sorts of stuff, and from various articles in the colony itself. It was, moreover, considered that not only anything belonging to the colony, but also anything belonging to the staff was entirely at the disposal of our theatrical detachments. Six-P Mixed, for example, was firmly convinced that properties were so named because they were the property of the staff. With the development of our enterprise, permanent theatrical supplies began to be accumulated, to a limited extent, within the colony. Since we frequently produced plays of a military nature, demanding the firing of shots, we acquired a veritable arsenal, as well as all sorts of military uniforms, shoulder straps and medals. Gradually experts, and these not only actors, began to emerge from the colony collective. We had splendid machine gunners, producing, with the aid of inventions of their own, proper machine-gun fire, and there were artillerymen, Elijahs, who could produce the most convincing thunder and lightning.
One week was allowed for the study of roles. At first we tried to do the thing properly--copying out the parts and trying to memorize them--but we soon gave this up. There was no time either for copying or memorizing, for after all we had our everyday work to do in the colony, and school to attend, and the learning of lessons had to come first. Ignoring all theatrical conventions, we relied entirely upon the prompter, and it was a good thing we did. The colonists became adepts at picking up their words from the prompter; we even allowed ourselves the luxury of fighting against individual interpolations and all sorts of license on the stage. But for a performance to go smoothly it was necessary for me to add to my duties as producer those of prompter, whose functions comprised not only prompting, but the direction of all that went on on the stage as well--seeing to correct staging, pointing out mistakes, timing shots, embraces and deaths.
We never suffered a dearth of actors. There were many gifted individuals among the colonists. Our star performers were Pyotr Ivanovich Gorovich, Karabanov, Vetkovsky, Butsai, Vershnev, Zadorov, Marusya Levchenko, Kudlaty, Koval, Gleiser and Lapot.
We tried to select plays with a long list of characters, for a great many of the colonists wanted to act, and we were anxious to increase the number of persons capable of behaving naturally on the stage. I attributed great importance to the theatre, since through its agency the colonists' way of speaking was greatly improved, and their horizons broadened. Sometimes, however, we did not have enough actors, and then we invited members of the staff to help us out. Once we even made Silanti go on stage. At rehearsals he showed himself to be but an indifferent actor, but as he only had to utter the one sentence. "The train will be three hours late," the risk was not great. But the reality exceeded our expectations.
Silanti came on at the proper moment, and seemed to be all right, but what he said was: "This here train, you see, it's three hours late, and that's how it is."
This statement produced an extraordinary impression on the audience, but that was nothing--it produced a still greater impression on the crowd of refugees waiting at the station. These waltzed about the stage in utter helplessness, paying not the slightest heed to my appeals front the prompter's box, the more so that I myself was obviously not unmoved. Silanti observed all these goings-on for a few moments, and then lost his temper.
"You've been told, you oafs, you! This here train will be three hours late--what's so funny?"
The refugees heard Silanti out with delight, and then rushed off stage in panic. I recovered my senses, and whispered:
"Get the hell out of here! Silanti, just you go to the devil!"
"Well, you see!
I stood the book on end--a signal for the curtain to be lowered.
It was difficult to get actresses. Levchenko and Nastya Nochevnaya could act after a fashion but no one excepting Lydochka could be found among the staff. And these women were not born for the stage; they were too shy, flatly refusing to take part in embracing or kissing, even when the play absolutely demanded this. And we could not get on without lovers. In our search for actresses, we tried out all the wives, sisters, aunts, and other relatives of our staff, and the people at the mill, and persuaded friends in the town to lend a hand, and even then could hardly get ourselves provided. And so the day after their arrival at the colony, Oksana and Rakhil were already taking part in rehearsals, winning our admiration by their marked ability to kiss without the slightest embarrassment.
Once we managed to rope in a chance spectator, some friend of the miller's, arriving from town on a visit. She turned out to be a treasure--her beauty, her soft rich voice, her eyes, her gait--she had everything required for the part of some depraved great lady in a revolutionary play. At rehearsals we melted with pleasure, and looked forward to a brilliant success on the first night. The performance started off with the utmost verve, but in the first interval the treasure's husband, a railway telegraph operator, came backstage and said to his wife, in front of the whole troupe:
"I can't allow you to act in this play. Come on home!"
The treasure whispered in dismay: "How can I? What about the play?"
"The play is none of my business. Come on! I'm not going to allow my wife to be hugged and pulled about the stage by all and sundry!"
"We can't do that!"
"You've been kissed ten times in the first scene alone. It's disgusting!" At first we were simply aghast. Then we tried to talk the jealous spouse round.
"But Comrade, kissing on the stage means nothing," said Karabanov.
"I can see whether it means anything or not. D'you think I'm blind? I was sitting in the front row."
I addressed Lapot.
"You're a clever chap, try to get round him somehow or other!"
Lapot went to work with the utmost thoroughness. He caught hold of the jealous spouse by the button, seated him on a bench, and began murmuring caressingly in his ear.
"You're a funny chap! And such a useful, cultured cause, too! If your wife kisses somebody in such a good cause, nothing but good can come of it!"
"It may be good for somebody, but it's not a good for me," insisted the telegraphist.
"But it's good for everyone!"
"According to you, then, anyone can kiss my wife!"
"Funny chap! It's better than if she found one guy to do it."
"It happens sometimes. And then, think! Here it's in front of everyone, and you see it, too. It would be much worse if it was somewhere under a bush, without you knowing anything about it."
"She wouldn't do that!"
"Wouldn't she? Your wife kisses so nicely--do you think, with her talent, she'll let it run to waste? Better she should do it on the stage."
The husband with difficulty allowed himself to be won over by Lapot's arguments, and, setting his teeth, permitted his wife to finish the play, on the sole condition that the kisses were not to be "real" ones. He left us still resentful. The treasure was upset. We were afraid the performance would be ruined. The husband sat in the front row, hypnotizing everyone, like a boa constrictor. The second act proceeded in a funereal atmosphere, but to the delight of all, by the third act the husband was no longer in the front row. I couldn't think where he had got to. The mystery was only cleared up after the performance.
"I advised him to go," said Karabanov modestly. "At first he didn't want to, but then he agreed."
"How did you do it?"
Karabanov's eyes flashed, he pulled a diabolical grimace, and hissed:
"Listen! We'd better come to an understanding. Today everything'll be all right, but if you don't go at once, I give you my colonist's word of honour, we'll make a cuckold of you. We have such guys here that your wife won't be able to resist them!"
"And then what?" asked the actors delightedly.
"Nothing! He only said: 'Very well, see you keep your promise,' and went to the last row." There were rehearsals every day, and the whole play would be gone through. We did not get enough sleep as a rule. It must be borne in mind that many of our actors were still unable to cross the stage properly, and so whole episodes had to be learnt by heart, beginning with a single movement of a hand or foot, a single pose of the head, a glance, a turn. It was to all this that I turned my attention, trusting that the lines would be supplied by the prompter, anyhow. By Saturday evening the play would be considered ready.
It must, however, be admitted that we did not act badly--many of the townspeople were very pleased with our performances. We tried to act artistically, without overdoing it, or pandering to the tastes of the public, or striving after cheap success. We produced Ukrainian plays and Russian plays.
On Saturdays things got lively around the theatre from two o'clock onwards. If there were many characters, Butsai, assisted by Pyotr Ivanovich, would begin making them up immediately after dinner. From two to eight p. m. they could get as many as sixty people ready, and make themselves up afterwards.
When it was a matter of getting properties for a performance the colonists behaved more like wild beasts than human beings. If a lamp with a blue shade was needed on the stage they would raid not only the rooms of the staff, but the rooms of friends in town, and the lamp with the blue shade would be sure to be forthcoming. If they sat down to supper on the stage, the supper must be a real one, without any evasions. This was demanded not only by the thoroughness of 6-P Mixed, but by tradition. To have supped on the stage upon dummy dishes would have seemed to our actors unworthy of the colony. Our kitchen, therefore, was sometimes confronted with difficult tasks--the preparation of hors d'oeuvres and entrees, the baking of pies and cakes. For wine we used cider.
In my prompter's box I was always in a twitter during a supper scene: the actors at such moments became so engrossed in their roles that they ceased to heed the prompter, dragging the scene out till nothing was left on the table. I was usually forced to speed up a scene by such remarks as:
"That'll do! D'you hear? Stop eating, confound you!"
The actors would glance at me in astonishment, motioning with their eyes towards a half-eaten goose, and would only leave the table when, in a white heat of rage, I would hiss:
"Karabanov--get up from the table! Semyon, you devil, say: 'I'm off!' "
Karabanov would hastily bolt the half-chewed mouthful of goose, and say:
And in the wings, during the interval, I would be reproached.
"Anton Semyonovich, how could you? How often does one get a chance to eat such a goose? And you wouldn't let us finish it!"
But the actors were not as a rule anxious to stay too long on the stage, where it was as cold as out of doors.
In The Riot of the Machines Karabanov had to stay a whole hour on the stage, with nothing on but a loincloth. The performance took place in February, and, unluckily for us, the thermometer sometimes fell to thirty degrees below zero. Ekaterina Grigoryevna insisted on the performance being cancelled, assuring us that Semyon would certainly be frozen. But everything was all right--only Semyon's toes were frozen, and after the act Ekaterina Grigoryevna rubbed him with some sort of a warming mixture.
But the cold did sometimes stand in the way of out artistic development. We were giving a play called Comrade Semivzvodny. The scene was laid in the garden of a landowner, and there was supposed to he a statue. Six-P Mixed could find no statue, though they looked in all the town cemeteries, and they decided to do without. But when the curtain went up, to my astonishment I did see a statue--there was Shelaputin thickly powdered with chalk, and wrapped in a sheet, looking slyly down at me from a draped stool. I lowered the curtain and chivied the statue off the stage, to the great disappointment of 6-P Mixed.
The efforts of 6-SE Mixed (sound-effects) were particularly conscientious and ingenious. We were producing Azev.Sazonov was to throw a bomb at Plehve. The bomb was to explode. Osadchy, the commander of 6-SE mixed, declared:
"We'll make that a real explosion."
Since I was acting Plehve myself, I was more interested in this question than anyone else.
"And what d'you mean by 'real'?" I inquired.
"One which could blow the theatre to smithereens."
"That's a bit too much," I said cautiously.
"It'll be all right," Osadchy assured me. "It'll all come right in the end."
Before the scene with the explosion, Osadchy showed me his preparations--in front of the wings were placed a few empty tubs, beside each tub stood a colonist with a double-barrelled gun, charged with about enough to kill an elephant. On the other side of the stage, bits of glass were strewn about the floor, a colonist with a brick posted beside each bit. On the third side, opposite the entrance to the stage, about half a dozen kids were placed with lighted candles in front of them, and bottles containing liquid of some sort in their hands.
"What's the funeral for?" I asked.
"That's the chief thing. They've got paraffin. When the time comes they'll fill their mouths with paraffin and blow'it on to the candles. It'll be splendid!"
"Confound you! There might he a fire!"
"Don't worry, only take care not to get any paraffin in your eyes--if there's a fire we'll put it out."
He pointed to yet another line of colonists, at whose feet were pails full of water.
Surrounded on three sides by these preparations, I began to feel in sober earnest the unfortunate minister's sense of impending doom. I told myself quite seriously that, inasmuch as I personally was not required to answer for all the crimes of Plehve, I had the right, if the worst came to the worst, to escape through the auditorium. I endeavoured once more to moderate the conscientious zeal of Osadchy.
"But can paraffin be extinguished with water?" I asked.
Osadchy was invulnerable, he knew all this side of the business and could explain it iin the most erudite manner.
"When paraffin is blown on to the flame of a candle, it is converted into gas, and does not require extinguishing. Other objects may have to be extinguished."
"Me, for example?
"We'll put you out first of all."
I submitted to my fate. If I was not burned to death I should at least be doused with cold water, and that at a temperature of nearly twenty degrees below zero! But how could I expose my pusillanimity in front of the whole of 6-SE Mixed, which had expended so much energy and inventiveness on the preparations for the explosion?
When Sazonov threw the bomb I once more had the opportunity of getting into Plehve's skin, and I did not envy him. The hunting rifles were fired at the tubs, and the tubs shivered, bursting their hoops and my eardrums, the bricks descended with terrific force upon the glass, five or six mouths blew the paraffin with all the force of youthful lungs on to the candle flames, and the whole stage was suddenly converted into a suffocating, flaming vortex. I could not have played my own death badly if I had wanted to, and fell down almost unconscious, beneath a deafening roar of applause and the enthusiastic yells of 6-SE Mixed. From above, 'black, greasy paraffin ash fell upon me. The curtain was drawn, and Osadchy helped me up by my armpits, asking anxiously:
"You're not burning anywhere?"
I was burning inwardly, but I said nothing about that--who knows what 6-SE Mixed had prepared for such a contingency!
In the same way we blew up a steamer during one of its unfortunate cruises to the revolutionary shores of the U.S.S.R. The mechanics of this event were still more complicated. Not only was it necessary for a spurt of flame to come out of every porthole, but it had to be shown that the steamer really did go up into the air. For this purpose a few colonists look up their position on the other side of the steamer, and threw up boards, chairs and stools. They managed to shelter their heads from all these objects, but the captain, Pyotr Ivanovich Gorovich, was not so fortunate--the paper gold lace on his sleeves caught fire, and he was badly bruised by the falling furniture. However, not only did he not complain, but we had to wait half an hour, till he had his laugh out, before we could learn for certain that all the captain's organs were in order.
There were some parts which were difficult for us to play. The colonists refused to admit, for example, of any shots "off stage." If you were to be shot, then you must prepare yourself for a severe ordeal. For your murder, an ordinary revolver was usually employed, the bullets removed from the cartridges, and all the free space stuffed with hemp and wadding. At the critical moment a volley of fire would be poured out on you, and as the marksman would inevitably be carried away by his role, he was sure to aim at your eyes. If several shots were to be fired, the whole of the barrel would be filled for your benefit, using the same infernal device.
The audience, after all, had the advantage of us: they could sit in warm coats, with stoves placed about the room, and the only prohibitions were against nibbling sunflower seeds and arriving drunk at the theatre. According to an old tradition, any citizen found, after the most searching investigation, to smell the least little bit of spirits, was considered drunk. The colonists were able to spot persons giving off this smell, or even the hint of it, among several hundred spectators, and were still better able to drag them from their seats, and turn them out of the theatre in disgrace, ruthlessly ignoring the most plausible protests:
"Upon my word, I've had nothing but a mug of beer I drank in the morning!"
As producer I had yet more sufferings, both during and before performances. There was a certain phrase, for example, which Kudlaty boggled every time, with ridiculous effect, and while the colonists acted splendidly in Gogol's Inspector General, by the end of the performance they had reduced me to blind fury, for even my strong nerves could not bear it when, in the last act, my fellow actors insisted on calling me Anton Semyonovrich, while I was acting the part of the Governor--Anton Antonovich. In their version the scene went as follows:
Amos Fedorovich: Is it true, Anton Semyonovich? Has such an extraordinary stroke of luck come your way?
Artemi Filippovich: I have the honour to congratulate Anton Semyonovich on his extraordinary good fortune. I rejoiced cordially when I heard of it. Anna Andreyevna! Maria Antonovna!
Rastakovsky: Anton Semyonovich, I congratulate you! God send you and the young couple long life and an innumerable progeny. grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Anna Andreyevna! Maria Antonovna!
Korobkin: I have the honour to congratulate Anton Semyonovich!
The worst of it was that on the stage, in my Governor's uniform, I had no way of dealing with these monsters. I was only able to give vent to my wrath in the wings, after the final dumb-show scene.
"Confound you--what's all this? Were you making a fool of me? Was it on purpose?"
Astonished countenances gazed at me, and Zadorov, who had been playing the postmaster, asked:
"What's the matter? What's happened? It all went so well!"
"Why did you call me Anton Semyonovich?"
"And how ought we to.... So we did!... Damn!...the Governor is Anton Antonovich, so he is!"
"At the rehearsals you called me right."
"What the hell... that was rehearsals, and somehow on the stage one loses one's head...."