In 1977 a delegation from the Cul-   tural Workers Union of the (then) Soviet Union visited New York. Theodore Bikel, then President of Actors’ Equity Association, was       performing on the road so, as 1st   V.P., it was my happy responsi- bility to be their host, taking them to theatre & sightseeing around N.Y.C.  They reciprocated by invit- ing me to visit their country, all expenses paid in the summer of 1978.  In spite of my excitement by this incredible opportunity, I told them I could not accept the hospitality of their government because of the anti-Semitic policies as demonstrated by the persecution & trial of Anatoly Scharansky then in progress.  I was sure that was the end of it & so was amazed when, in 1983, they extended a 2nd  invitation for me to bring a delegation of American actors to visit Moscow, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) & Tbilisi (then, the capitol of Soviet Georgia). We would arrive the day before Pesach & I had accepted only with the understanding that they would arrange for us to go to a seder.                                         

I invited Jean Stapleton (former Councillor of Actors’ Equity), Earle Hyman (current 
Equity Councillor & one of my earliest mentors) & Edie Behr (Equity Councillor repre-   senting Chorus) to join me.  Once in Moscow, all of our expenses: hotels, meals, trans-portation, theatre tix, interpreters, etc. would be covered by the Cultural Workers Union.  The photo above was taken shortly after our arrival at Hotel Sputnik in Moscow, where we were welcomed by our host, Mikhail Pashkov, President of the Union.

Being interviewed shortly after       our arrival on March 27th,  I was asked (very pointedly, I thought)  if I agreed with President Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" statement which he'd made only a few days earlier.  In the photo, the inter- preter is translating my re- sponse, that  "It surely did not re-

flect the warm & gracious wel- come we'd been receiving from 
everyone.  And, as an American, 
it was my right to disagree with 
the President where & whenever I pleased." 

We were the 1st delegation of 
"Western" actors invited to visit the Soviet Union.  There was great interest in our trip & a news- paper reporter traveled with us around the country.   This is an   excerpt from the lengthy article he wrote, published in Trude, then   the newspaper with circulation 
second only to Pravda.

Arriving w/ Jean Stapleton at the State Film Studio in Tbilisi.

I'm responding to questions at a televised press conference, regard- ing the Peace & Friendship Agree-ment, I had just signed with the   Cultural Workers Union.  

In 1984, when another delegation 
from the Cultural Workers Union 
visited N.Y.C., I invited them to meet my students at Circle in the Square Theatre School, where I’d been teaching Acting Technique since1980.  We were joined for the event by Theo Bikel & Jean Stapleton.  Shortly after this meet- ing,  I was, invited to bring my stu- dents to visit theatre schools in Moscow, Kiev & Minsk.  Like my   previous trip, all our expenses in the U.S.S.R. would be covered by the Cultural Workers Union.  I was told that my Circle in the Square students were the first American Theatre students to be honored with such an invitation.

N.Y. TIMES, Sept. 7, 1984

My Circle in the Square students     w/ Moscow Art Theatre students.   I had just taught a Master Class, in which I had partnered each of my students w/a Soviet student in Risk/Trust improvisations.  

A copy of the American Constitu- tion & Bill of Rights, printed in English was presented to me by the Moscow Art Theatre School grad- uating class. The students had all signed the cover page where one young man had written, "We are like you Americans.  I have friendship."

In 1987 I was invited to bring a delegation of my students  (Amer. Academy of Dramatic Arts) to perform in theatre schools in Moscow, Frunze (now Bishkek) Capitol of Khirghizia & Tallinn, Capitol of Estonia. I created a production of American theatre scenes, music & poetry which I called Theatrebridge: From America With Love.  


My students with students from 

the State Theatre School of 
Khirgizistan.  I am holding a
komuz, the national Khirghiz
musical instrument, given to 
me by the actors of the Khirghiz 
State Theatre.  The legend says
that every Kirghiz baby is born 
with a komuz in their hand.

TALLINN, ESTONIA, State Theatre School hosted a luncheon in our honor, Sept.1987

With Sergei Seliverstov, who was responsible for all my invita- tions to visit the Soviet Union. In 1989, Sergei & I created Theatre-bridge, a non-profit organiza- tion, to bring American tourists to visit countries with a different social, political, economic, or educational system from the U.S. The Board of Directors included 
Theo Bikel & Jean Stapleton.


Created by Barbara Colton