Some Details About the Misha's Party Collaboration
Sasha Gelman and Richard Nelson first met in Moscow in October 1991 as part of a
Russian-American Exchange Program set up by Lawrence Sacharow during his tenure as artistic
director of River Arts Repertory in Woodstock, N.Y. The program's initial aim was to pair
playwrights in the hope of engendering an interest in
adapting each other's plays for each one's respective country. Nelson, took this a step further, and
proposed that he and Gelman write an original play together.
The playwrights worked together for two weeks during that first meeting, then met again, months
later, at the MacDowell Artists' Colony in Petersborough, New Hampshire where they developed
the basic story line.
When Gelman completed his script treatment of the story line worked out at MacDowell, they
met once again (in Moscow). Revisions and translation/adaptation into English and Russian
Neither playwright speaks the other's language, so both relied heavily on
Moscow and the US translators Ella Levdanskaya and Irina Vechnyak. As Nelson writes in the
Williamstown program notes, "they may have written more of this play than they know."
Some Details About the Events of August 19-21, 1991
In the early hours of August 19th Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was placed under house
arrest in his Crimean dacha. The hardliners from the Kremlin leadrship --Vice-President Gernady
Yanayev and his associates--had taken over and introduced a state of emergency.
On the night of August 20th (the night of Misha's Party), Yeltsin and his followers who had taken
refuge in The White House seemed under imminent attack from tanks and KGB troops outside
the doors of the building.
On August 21, the troops withdrew and Gorbachev was brought back to Moscow which Yeltsin
now controlled. The Ukraine, Moldavia and Byelorussia declared themselves independent. It was
the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.