Acting existed as an art on the territory of the Vologda Oblast since the 18th century. The first real actors were amateurs who performed plays which were religious in character and actors of the serf theatres belonging to princes Gorchakov, Volkonsky and landlord Mezhakov. The first mentioning of the Vologda city theatre dates back to late 18th century. At that time it was called "noble". In the first half of the 20th century there were 16 theatres in the Vologda Oblast. Veliky Ustyug, Tot'ma, Belozersk and other towns boasted prominent actors.
The Vologodians are noted for their love for theatre. Theatre-going is a popular habit. At present there are five professional repertory theatres in Vologda - the Oblast's Drama Theatre, the Theatre for Children and Youth, the Chamber Theatre, the Puppet Theatre and the Cabaret-Theatre "Art Reprisa". They keep Russian stage traditions alive and compete strongly with each other to attract a larger number of visitors.
Today, theaters of the Vologda Oblast stage productions ranging from Russian and other classics to the latest contemporary works. Most of the theatres have very classic repertoire and perform in Russian language only.
The Vologda Drama Theatre was founded in 1849. It is one of the oldest theatres in Russia. Boris Solovyov, the founder of the Drama Theatre acted as the director and an actor. In the 19th century this theatre became a favourite place for the city's intellectuals to meet.
Nowadays the Vologda Drama Theatre also plays an important role in the cultural life of the city. A full house is a common enough occurrence in the Vologda Drama Theatre. It has gone down in history thanks to its classical productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" by Shakespeare, "Marriage" by Gogol, "Mashenka" by Afinogenov, "A Lier" by Kornel and other plays. Many performances have a long train of production record behind them. The actors, actresses and producers of the drama theatre are known all over the region. They are Petrov, Shubin, Yufa, Savchenko, Renno, Kazarin, Shchuko and others.
The Theatre for Children and Youth was established in 1976 and it is one of the youngest theatres in the region. The main part of the theatre company became graduates from Novosibirsk and Yaroslavl theatre colleges. It is popular not only with children but also with grown-ups. The director of the theatre is Boris Granatov. Creating this theatre, Granatov attempted to preserve the home-like atmosphere, which encourages semblance of actor-director fraternity under the same root. The theatre stages classical and modern plays. But Granatov adds elements of author's direction to the works by Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin, Ostrovsky and Vampilov. In the 1980s the theatre achieved renown in the Vologda Oblast. It took part in different festivals held both in Russia and abroad, and won many prizes. According to the results of the competitions “The Window to Russia” organized by the newspaper “Culture” Granatov’s theatre was recognized as the best provincial theatre of Russia among 39 professional theatres in 2000.
The Vologda Puppet Theatre "Teremok" was founded in 1937 by Anany Badaev, a Muscovite, who having graduated from the school attached to the Moscow Art Academic Theatre, left for the North of Russia to boost theatrical movement there. He was convinced that culture and traditions should be fostered since childhood. The puppeteer Natalia Dyuperron, actors Lidia Dyomina, Vera Osovskaya, Maria Volkova, Nina and Boris Bakhtenko, and Ivan Shebalin made a tangible contribution into development of the theatre. They sculptured, sewed and painted the puppets and the scenery. The Vologda Puppet Theatre took part in many theatrical festivals and won many prizes. It gave performances in the USA, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland and the actors performed in the languages of these countries.
There are also chamber theatres in Vologda. They are the Vologda Chamber Theatre and the Cabaret-Theatre "Art Reprisa".
Being remarkable for the modern performances these theatres became a favourite venue for Vologda's residents in the 1990s. In contemporary theatrical life of Vologda the Chamber Theatre stands apart. Headed by Yakov Rubin the theatre lives up to it name entirely. It is in every way a chamber theatre. Its hall seats just a few dozen spectators; its productions involve one or two actors. The theatre company toured Germany, Luxembourg, Tunisia, with evident success. The Vologda Chamber Theatre is in every way an experimental theatre. It achieved renown by modernizing works by classical writers. The stage director surprises and shocks the audience yet again. Not long ago a new musical piece "The Sky in Diamonds" was staged. It is a combination of dramatical pieces by Anton Chekhov, the great Russian writer, and Russian, German and French songs of the 20th centuries from the repertory of Edith Piaf, Zarah Leander, Marlene Dietrich, Vladimir Vysotsky, Yves Montand und Jacques Brel. Russian, German and French cultures meet head on in this wonderful performance. The Chamber Theatre became popular with the theatre-goers thanks to its productions based on the works by Varlam Shalamov, Kobo Abe, Tennessee Williams and Jean Cocteau.
In the 1990s a real theatrical boom began not only in Vologda, but also in Cherepovets. The Cherepovets Chamber Theatre became very popular at that time. It entered the theatrical life of the region as a hobby group established in the 1860s and rose to a real theatre by the beginning of the 20th century. It is interesting to know that the actors in this theatre were teachers, doctors, lawyers, shop assistants, etc. In the years of World War I the box-office takings were channelled mostly for the wounded treated in the hospitals of Cherepovets. During the Great Patriotic War the Cherepovets Chamber Theatre toured the Vologda Oblast. By 1947 the theatre had 42 actors on its payroll. Tickets for the performances were impossible to get your hands on. At present the theatre stages classical plays written by Alexander Ostrovsky, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, and modern plays as well.
The Children's Musical Theatre, a brainchild of Yuri Zagryadkin, appeared in Vologda in 1991. The actors of it are children who are involved in operas, ballet and muscal performances. The young actors were on tour in Moscow, Murmansk, the USA, Italy, Finland and Germany.
Drama is so popular with people of all ages that there are 34 amateur dramatic and folklore societies throughout the Vologda Oblast.
No account of Vologda theatrical life would be complete without mentioning the drama festival "Voices of History". Since 1991 Vologda has been home to the Russian theatrical festival "Voices of History". It is arranged jointly with the RF Ministry of Culture, the RF Union of theatrical workers, the Vologda Oblast Government and the administration of the city. The festival merits great attention. The success of it has been conditioned by the professionalism of the participants and serious experience, and the ability to combine these qualities with Russian national characteristics. The performances are shown in the open air, in the historical setting of the Vologda Kremlin, which is a point of interest itself. Holding such a festival near the Kremlin is hardly a matter of chance. "The Voices of History" attracted the most skilful actors and repertory theatres from Moscow, St.Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Vladimir, Arkhangelsk, Samara and other Russian cities. Theatres from Greece, Italy, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries came to give performances in Vologda. The focus of the festival is on the history of Russia and the world history.
Тhe popularity of the theatrical festival “Voices of History” boosted creation of another project – “Summer in the Kremlin” . The concerts and performances during the festival also take place in the open air in the unique historical-architectural environment of the Vologda Kremlin. The founder of the festival is the Department of Culture and Tourism of the Vologda Oblast.