• What is ARTEL?

    1. An old Russian word that means a labor collective. Historically, artels were semi-formal associations for various enterprises: fishing, mining, commerce, collections of loaders, loggers, thieves, beggars, etc. 2. It also means a cooperative association, a commune of democratically-minded artists. 3. To us it stands for American Russian Theatre Ensemble Laboratory.

  • Beginnings

    One for all and all for one.

    Our Quest

    ARTEL is a collective for explorers on the ocean of theatre. Our ship is the ensemble, which changes shape, size and type depending on the needs of the expedition, and the questions each sailor is asking. No matter what type, the vessel is always powered by sluchai and serious fun. The Russian word sluchai means literally ‘leaning into the perhaps’ but equally means ‘chance’, ‘incident’ or ‘event’. We trust in sluchai to bring us to the most fantastic unknown lands. We equally rely on the power of festivity, or serious fun, to keep the ship afloat. Collective work takes a lot of collaboration. And collaboration requires the unlocking of individual potential. Serious fun hones our imaginations, greases our interpersonal skills, and develops the possibilities of collective action.


    Our ensigns are Play, Joy and Revelation. Under these flags we aim to surprise, delight, shock, inspire, and transform. We hope our work evokes memories and associations, engulfs our audience in dreamscapes and offers the potential to discover new landscapes, both emotionally and visually.

    A Touch of History

    ARTEL was founded in Los Angeles in March 2006 by Olya Petrakova and Bryan Brown. Taking as a starting point models from European and Russian theater studios (such as those created by Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, Chekhov and Grotowski), ARTEL is dedicated to the responsibility and citizenship of the actor through engagement with the tradition of artistic practice and theatre craft. As a laboratory, we spend much of our process discovering connections between impulse, spirit and expression, investigating the roots of the performance tradition on which we stand while uncovering new ways of challenging and expanding the role of theater in society.


    By focusing our lens on Russian culture and themes, Artel researches and re-imagines theatrically the histories and cultures of the USA and Russia in efforts to bring the audience and performers into a visceral and sensorial experience of innate human questions. Our devising is a quilt-like gathering of our physical based laboratory research, our cultural research and our literary research.


    As we have recently found ourselves on British shores, we have exciting new puzzles to tackle, ones that reflect the nomadic condition of an increasingly globalized world.


    We are currently developing “The Black Hen Society”, a collaborative production with Animal Cracker Conspiracy. This project has been supported by the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, the Network of Ensemble Theatres, and the University of Exeter.


    We have also collaborated with Slava Polunin/Moulin Jaune, Awake Projects, Studio Matejka, and Teatrika. We have also given workshops and presentations on ARTEL at the Grotowski Institute (Wroclaw, Poland), University of Kent (UK), and the Centre for Performance Research (Aberystwyth, Wales).


    Give us a shout.

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    ARTEL is itinerant. Currently we reside in Exeter, UK. Best way to get ahold of us is via email: contact AT arteltheatre.org or via social media.