(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the HEadlings, 6/3.)

Nowadays, most theaters have stopped using prompters, but the Maly Theater cherishes this tradition and regards prompters as indispensable.

Some people always keep their “finger on the pulse,” but Larisa Andreyeva literally keeps her finger on the text. Her long manicured fingers glide across the page without stopping for a second. Andreyeva has a rare profession – she is a prompter at the Maly Theater in downtown Moscow.

A backstage whisperer

How do you imagine a prompter? A person crouched in a box under the stage, bent over a notebook with only their head sticking out, hidden from spectators by the prompter’s “shell”.

“All the dust comes in through the tank peephole, as I call it, and I’m dreadfully allergic to dust and can’t put up with it for even five minutes – I start coughing and sneezing. Once, someone in the first row said ‘Bless you!’ and I almost flipped out,” says Andreyeva.

That’s why she stopped using the prompter’s box a long time ago and now works from backstage – she sits in the wings, either stage left or right, depending on the set. A small desk with a lamp is always ready for her arrival. She keeps a cup of tea close by because her throat feels dry all the time.

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Photo: Mark Boyarsky

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