Cultural unrest Soviet coup may stall exchange programs here Evening Sun staff members Stephanie Shapiro, Lan Nguyen, Phyllis Brill, Mary Maushard, Winnie Walsh and Ellen Hawks, as well as wire services, contributed to this story.

August 20, 1991

TIME WILL TELL what the Soviet Union's change in power will mean for the future of the cultural exchange that blossomed under glasnost.

This week's news of tanks rumbling through Moscow streets has crushed some Maryland performers' hopes for summer collaboration with colleagues a half-world away. For others, the reports have prompted fear for the well-being of Soviet artists who embraced the freedom of expression fostered by ousted President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's rule.

In Maryland, exchange program participants and directors fret as they wait to hear whether they'll be permitted to travel to the Soviet Union -- and whether Soviets who are scheduled to arrive here soon will be safe.


Theatre Buff, from St. Petersburg/Leningrad, the cabaret group that presented "Ah, Cabaret, Ah, Cabaret" last season at the Theatre Project, is scheduled to return with its new work, "Masquerade," for a run Sept. 11 through Sept. 29.

Actor Gennady Vetrov, who was the master of ceremonies in "Ah, Cabaret"; Isaak Shtokbanter, founder of Theater Buff; two musicians; and a sound designer had made plans to come.

"They are due in Baltimore on Aug. 27," said Philip Arnoult, director of Theatre Project.

"We have tried to reach them since Saturday but could not get through," he said. "I'm watching like everybody else. We hope the Russian officials will honor our commitments and contracts. Even in the height of the Cold War, culture moves back and forth. I have been literally glued to the portable computer in front of me . . . taking it one day at a time. I think the next 72 hours will be crucial."


Jill O'Donnell spent yesterday in front of the television set, hungry for the newest developments that will affect her chance to study in Leningrad.

O'Donnell, 20, is a junior dance major at Towson State University. She is scheduled to leave Aug. 30 to spend four months at the Leningrad State Conservatory. She was just a freshman when Towson State began its exchange program with the dance company. Despite the political unrest, O'Donnell said, she may still consider going to study ballet and the Russian language.

"I imagine the decision will be left up to me," she said. "If fighting breaks out and it's not safe, I probably won't go."


William Ellis is concerned for the safety of members of the Odessa Studio Theater, which has participated in an exchange with Cockpit in Court.

"We will be meeting the Odessa group in China at the Shanghai Workers International Art Festival," scheduled Oct. 22-28, said Ellis, chairman of the division of humanities and arts at Essex Community College and producer of Cockpit in Court.

"China's purpose in holding the festival is to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Shanghai," he said. "Also to exchange acting skills, focus on theater, strengthen friendships among the people in the world" and promote mutual understanding.

"I don't feel Odessa will not show up at the festival," Ellis pointed out. "The Chinese regime is pretty conservative. It has been behind the hard-line Soviets all along. The question is: Which members of the Odessa group will show up? Some of the Russian artists are outspoken people. They were safe under glasnost."


At the Maryland Institute, College of Art, plans remain in place for Nicholai Kostin, 19, from Kiev, to come to the United States to study, said Barbara Miller, dean of international programs.

"I don't expect any problems at this point, but I was thinking a lot about him [yesterday]," she said. "He's a fabulous painter and an outstanding academic student."


The Baltimore Film Forum, which has scheduled a Russian film festival for October, does not expect any problems getting the films.

"It probably won't be affected," said Vicky Westover, executive director. "I'm hoping it won't make a difference."

The festival will show six feature-length films, three of which were made after glasnost and are sharply critical of the government. She said most of the films are already in the United States, licensed by American film companies.


Baltimore Operation Sail, a non-profit organization that sponsors international ship exchanges, has extended an invitation to the Soviet tall ship Kruzenshtern to come back for Operation Sail 1992. It's still too early to say whether the program will be affected, said director Mary Sue McCarthy.

"As far as we're concerned, everything is status quo," she said.

The Kruzenshtern left the Inner Harbor on July 23 after an 11-day stay in Baltimore. It left behind two civilian cadets who had left the ship and apparently sought asylum.

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