The warm season may be dragging its heels, but Moscow’s summer theater festival is already in full swing. From May 24 to July 20, the Chekhov International Theater Festival is bringing 21 productions from 14 different countries to Moscow’s biggest stages.

The festival’s goal is “to introduce Moscow audiences to the best of world theater,” said project coordinator Irina Trostnikova. Festival organizers expect the two-month program to draw about 60,000 to the Theater of Nations, the Moscow Art Theater, Mossovet, Pushkin, Et. Cetera, Lenkom, Vakhtangov, and Bolshoi theaters, among others.

According to Trostnikova, over 50 percent of tickets have been bought already, and sales are likely to increase in the next week. The early sales demonstrate a high demand even among lower-income Russians, who often purchase tickets months ahead in order to secure seats they can afford.

“I would say that [ours is] a middle-class audience,” Trostnikova says. “But there are plenty of people who don’t belong to the middle class, but who are still trying to buy tickets for lower prices well in advance.”

The Chekhov Festival started shortly after the collapse of the USSR as a way to bring theater companies to Moscow audiences thirsty for anything previously “off-limits.”

As it grew, however, organizers prioritized audience accessibility, making sure to include programming that would not only draw Moscow’s “professional theatergoers,” but also young people and families.

The festival’s motto is “Theater for People,” and this egalitarian approach is visible in the breadth of the program, which includes events for multiple audiences. The Theater of Nations and the Pushkin Theater are hosting edgy plays for Moscow’s intelligentsia, while the Mossovet Theater has lined up family-appropriate musical spectacles all summer.

Spectaculars at the Mossovet

Mossovet has sent its own troupe on vacation, and rented out its large venue to the festival for the whole summer. Dance-based productions from Cuba, Argentina, France, Taiwan, Brazil, Korea, Netherlands, and Great Britain will blur the lines between drama, opera, dance, puppetry and even circus.