Georgy Tovstonogov was born in tsarist Russia in Tiflis (Tbilisi). However, according to his sister Natela, in fact, he was born in Petrograd, and only in 1919 he moved to Georgia.
Father of Georgy was an engineer, a gentleman and a high-ranking worker in the Ministry of Railways. He expected his son to be an engineer. However, fate interfered.
Georgy was gifted since childhood. He went to school earlier and organized there a theatrical circle. Maybe it was because of the fact that his uncle worked at local Youth Theatre. The boy quickly got bored with school lessons, so he graduated from it at the age of 15 and began to spend all his free time in the theater.
At the insistence of his father he entered the Tbilisi Railway Institute, where his father was head of the department.
However, he stayed there for a short period, and in 1931 he began his career as an artist and assistant of director in Tbilisi Russian Youth Theatre. In 1933 he entered the directing department of The Russian Academy of Theatre Arts (GITIS). In order to pass the age limit he added two years to his age.
When he was fourth-year student, he was expelled as «son of an enemy of the nation» and his father was repressed, suspecting spying for Japan. A few months later Georgy was reinstated thanks to Stalin.
After the graduation from GITIS he worked in Tbilisi Drama Theater named after Griboedov for 8 years.
Bolshoi Drama Theater named after Tovstonogov
In 1956 Tovstonogov was offered to be the chief director of the Bolshoi Drama Theater (BDT). During this period, the theater was “in a trance” — the performances were not successful and took place in empty halls. Tovstonogov doubted, but the challenge was too good. So it began!
Since his arrival theater quickly changed its look and content. It was he who created the theater, which won the title of the leading favorites among the public for many years. For 33 years Tovstonogov was the one ruler, stern and strict dictator. Everyone obeyed his orders. And not because of sadistic methods, but because of his theatrical talent and authority.
During rehearsals Tovstonogov always sat in the twelfth row of stalls, where there always were bottle of Borjomi and an ashtray.
From the memoirs of a sound technician of BDT:
«The chief went to his favorite twelfth row. A microphone, an ashtray and a bottle of Borjomi are always prepared for him there…”
It was impossible to find anything about theater that was unknown to Tovstonogov. Encyclopedic erudition, love for theater and an inquiring mind, combined with the talent to put ideas into brilliant drama made him a great director and playwright.
Sergei Yursky as Ostap Bender
Actor Sergei Yursky invented name to regime that was in theatre – “Tovstonovgovia”. A lot of people were crowding in this kingdom. People spent long time standing in a queue for the tickets to the premiere. In such mode the theater worked until the death of the director and retained its reputation.
In May 1989, Tovstonogov fixed a day of the premiere of a new performance, watched the final rehearsal and went home. At Suvorov Square he made his last stop.
In 1992 the Bolshoi Drama Theatre was named G.A. Tovstonogov. Since that day, the theater is proud to bear his name and to keep values of Russian psychological theater.
Opinions of famous apprentices about the master
We felt fine with him. And it seemed that it would last forever. We did not pay attention to it and considered it as the norm. When he was gone, we suddenly realized the value of loss… And it was the most frightening revelation, which came to us only after his death.
Kirill Lavrov, people’s artist
Michael Reznikovich, the director
» His first lecture he began with the phrase:»I have a rule: push the falling one.” He also explained that there are a lot of non-talented people in many theaters, who negatively affect the creative process. That is why Tovstonogov do not want to taught hams. And you know, half of the students were “pushed”: only 6 among 30 have graduated from the university.”