Olga Chepurova, a native of St. Petersburg, earned an MA in International Performance Research 2009 through an Erasmus Mundus scholarship and a BA at the St. Petersburg State Academy of Theatre Arts, where she is currently working on a Phd. She is also earning a second MA in Multimedia Technology in Theatre, Cinema and TV. From 2010-2013 she was a leading specialist at the international department at the Alexandrinsky Theatre and since 2013 has worked as a Chief of the Special Projects Department at the New Stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Somehow she manages to find time to be a freelance theatre critic as well.
So, why did you decide to study abroad and apply for this programme?
I was looking for a long time for a programme in my field of study and I really wanted to try a new style of education. What I learned in this Master’s Programme is that a lot really depends on you. You should be in a dialogue with the professor, something that’s not very common in Russia, although slowly this is changing. Sure, there is some discussion, but it’s also about the authority of the professor. In Amsterdam what I really liked was that you are at the same level as your professor. But you have to be more active, because if you want to be on the same level you have to think more about what you are saying. You’re more responsible for your words and your studies.
After I finished the program I came back to St. Petersburg and finished my thesis at the Theatre Academy. I finished my education in 2010 and immediately applied for a PhD! My course master recommended me. I am still working on it.
I also began working at the Alexandrinsky Theatre. Three years of my career were spent there at the international department where I organised different tours abroad for the Theatre. I negotiated contracts and formed plans, because our theatre is of such a level that it kind of dictates what theatres we can visit. Some of the tours featured 80 people. We held international theatre festivals so we also prepared the visits of foreign theatres. It was great fun and a good experience. My study experience helped a lot with this job, because I knew how to work abroad. I knew how to talk to people from different countries, as well as from other collectives and theatres.
I finished this job in May and began working on special projects. The Alexandrinsky Theatre opened a new stage, a part of a cultural cluster in St. Petersburg whose aim is to unify a new generation of directors and the educational and performance process of young theatre artists and become a bridge between the classical theatre and modern theatre artists and to help in the creation of new artistic experiments. Now I am working with a group of Masters’ students that are studying theatre directing, theatre management, theatre design, dramaturgy and stage technology. The aim of this program is to teach them how to work in teams. We are training the first group that we hope will collaborate with city theatres.
Has this study experience helped your career development?
It is a difficult question. I think partly yes, especially in the social sphere. I do notice the difference in the approach in the work process abroad and in Russia. When I was there I heard a lot of talks about authoritarianism in Russian enterprises, hierarchy at different levels, and it’s still seems somewhat like that. I think that the older generation of people that rule are not so open-minded to ideas from regular colleagues. At first when coming back it was a bit difficult for me to switch this understanding of the interaction between the boss and colleagues. So, I can’t say that this experience was helpful, but it showed me how different the work process and communication can be structured.
So, why did you decide to come back to Russia after this programme?
I think that the answer is quite simple. It’s not so easy to find a job in Europe, especially if you are not fluent in the native language of the country you would like to live in. I know people that have been living in Holland for 9-10 years and still only speak English. For me it would be impossible, because I believe that you can’t integrate into social life without speaking the language well. Perhaps I was a bit too young and just was afraid to stay alone in the other country without any support. I am not sure that today I would make the same decision that I did at that time. If I have another chance I would take it. Why not? If it comes it comes, if not it’s okay. I am happy here too. I have friends, an interesting job, hobbies. I have everything I need.
Is there anything that you miss about the Netherlands?
I miss the feeling of coming to a new country, starting from zero and feeling that you can achieve everything that you want because everything you do depends on you. It’s good feeling. You’re not dependent on different prejudices, you just live as you live. This zero point you have when you arrive somewhere new makes you more powerful.