The Master & Margarita

"One of the Great Theater Events of the Decade"   The Stranger

Generated and adapted into a headlong experience by the ensemble from the novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, this 95-minute pellmell rollercoaster features one trunk, 3 screens (2 on wheels) a ghostlight and 5 actors.
Originally created in 1996, it toured to sell-out engagements at festivals in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver, made an SRO appearance on the Bagley Wright stage at Seattle Repertory Theater during Bumbershoot, played to sold out houses at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, where it was named one of three Best Plays of the '96 season.. During a run at Spoleto, in the Piccolo Theatre Series, to yet MORE sold-out shows and even a little controversy over the equal-opportunity nudity. (And the opening night visit by the resident theater ghost! Seriously! The South brought the gothic!)

theater simple has also custom-built three different venues for the show (one in a bomb shelter, one a bar in a former synagogue and one a former naval brig -which was pink.)

M&M (as we call it) will be coming back in 2018! (and there was a sneak peek at the MASH UP SEPT 6, 2017 at ACT Theater in Seattle - please see pix to the right to admire the showcase performers. The rockstars included Chris Morson, Monique Kleinhans, Brandon Simmons, Mara Palma and Llysa Holland)

WANT TO HELP?!  Please consider donating to theater simple to support this project by clicking here for the Shunpike link - or by encouraging the presenters in your town, college, university to PRESENT US - we are starting to organize a tour outside of Seattle NOW... (hello, World...)


Credit where credit is due:
Adapted by theater simpletons Amy Augustine, Rachel Katz Carey, James Cowan, Llysa Holland, Monique Kleinhans and Andrew Litzky
(additionally - on tour we had the pleasure of Martin Buchanan to fling about nekkid as Ivan)
Directed by Rachel Katz Carey
Original music by Brent Arnold
supplemental translation/dramaturgy by Chris Albus
lighting design - Jason Meininger
set design - Paul Boehlke

Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor's 1993 edition for Ardis Publishing.
(But - they are all pretty interesting for varied reasons... always fascinating to read the translation bias.)


 “this vigorous Seattle company delivers the quality goods once again simple balances the grotesque with the sublimely elegant, juxtaposes absurdity with profundity and makes light of darkness. Superb.”  The Adelaide Advertiser

“5 talented actors, 13 lights, a simple set and a handful of props - a wild, chaotic, nightmare-drenched hallucination - razor sharp and air tight. Characters and scenes transform in an instant, gallop away and then return to their starting point with a symmetry that is breathtakingly unexpected yet inevitable.” The Stranger, Seattle

“A surreal, carnival-esque tone - a fantastically and darkly funny story in which the various characters and plots twist, wend and unpeel on their way to making the author's points. Remarkable. It's one of those rare plays that you still contemplate days after it's over. ”  The Seattle Times

“The company launches into the text with a sort of ingenuity that makes you laugh out loud - the journey has so much interesting scenery that you're sorry to have it come to an end.” The Seattle Weekly

“A heap of giddy inventiveness... satire predominates, but also slapstick comedy, music-hall hijinks, historical pageant, hallucinatory surealism, low tech special effects and rarified philosophy. Ingenious.”  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“theater simple conjures huge effects from the tightest economy... broadcasting magic more evocatively rich than the high-dollar confections seen on main stages elsewhere around town. Director Rachel S. Katz choreographs the carnival complexity into a flawless movement.”

“Treat yourself to the Master & Margarita . It's pure theatrical poetry - in it's ambitions, concerns and form - and poetry in the theatre is as startlingly unexpected as spiritual honesty in everyday life.  Georgia Straight - Vancouver, Canada

.. An extraordinary piece of work from a team of artists who are establishing themselves as true masters of the Fringe.” The Province - Vancouver, Canada

“theater simple magically transforms an almost bare stage - it makes you want to go back and see it again and again.” Edmonton Journa

“A polished gem - If you catch - and you must - theater simple's engrossing version of The Master & Margarita, you'll see a company with it's wits about them - and the Fringe at it's finest....a supple, hallucinogenic production that uses the simple resources of a Fringe stage with great panache. This is the kind of apparent simplicity that demonstrates real theatrical sophistication - an invitation for an audience to take a leap of the imagination. A stunning combination of stagecraft and storytelling.” SEE Magazine,  Edmonton, Canada

“a theatrical yarn that is positively exhilarating in scope, structure and sheer energy. Nothing short of an amazing performance spectacle. If you're going to see one show at the Fringe, go to this one.” The Edmonton Sun, Edmonton, Canada

“ - magic, vaudeville, tragedy and stark drama are all used by this superb troupe to tell this vivid tale ...seamless direction - ingenious and theatrical. A memorable fringe experience - don't let this one get away.” Saskatoon Star Phoenix '5 Stars!'

“ - glittering, gripping - 90 minutes that grab the audience and shake it up. It presents story within story, truth within lie, lie within truth, good within evil, asking questions, forcing reconsiderations - all cohere into a magnificent whole. Don't miss it.” CBC 24 HOURS Winnipeg  #2 of Top 10 Picks of the Fringe 

“ simple's Master & Margarita does what this company is unsurpassed at: taking difficult, inspiring texts and turning them into engaging and challenging performances. ..taut and voluptuous at the same time. Everything they do onstage is interesting. A wonderful piece of theater beautifully realized. ” Winnipeg Free Press

“...lightning speed, detailed finesse- vital, strong and committed. The direction is crisp, clean and tight. A play for the fringer on the prowl for quality. ” CBC Radio Saskatoon 

“RIVETING! Brilliantly done! Brilliantly done! EVERYBODY should see this!”

Chris Morson as Behemoth
(Seattle, 2017)

Chris Morson as Behemoth (Seattle, 2017)

theater simple balances the grotesque with the sublimely elegant, juxtaposes absurdity with profundity and makes light of darkness. Superb.”

— The Adelaide Advertiser

FRINGE AWARD - BEST PLAY - 1998 Adelaide Fringe  (in a venue theater simple curated, that SWEPT all three Best Play Awards) 

BEST SHOW  - Victoria & Vancouver Fringes 
(also, awarded Moby-Dick-in-a-Goldfish-Bowl prize for Adaptation in Victoria) 
One of the Five Best Things to Happen in Seattle Theater in 1997 - Seattle Weekly 
Footlight Award  - Seattle Times 
Best Of the Fringe or Critic's Pick by : 
    Winnipeg Free Press,  CBC Radio(Saskatoon & Edmonton), CBC TV(Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton) Edmonton Journal, 
Edmonton Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist, The Georgia Straight, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, The Stranger, Seattle Times, 
The Seattle Weekly and , Adelaide Advertiser(AU), Sunday Mail (AU), ABC-TV(AU) 

THE AUTHOR from whom all our mischief springs:
Mikhail Bulgakov 1891-1940 

Novels and Plays (just a few)
The White Guard
Heart of A Dog (political Frankenstein satire)
Flight (the first of his plays to be banned before it's premiere)
Days of the Turbins (banned)
The Crimson Island (later banned)
Moliere (aka A Cabal of Hypocrites) banned - soon after burned his drafts in the fire
Adam and Eve
The Master and Margarita

Gogol's Dead Souls
Tolstoy's War and Peace (bad!)
Moliere's Bougeois Gentilhomme
Gogol's Inspector General(for a film)
Cervantes' Don Quixote
and several of his own short stories or novels to the stage and cinema 

Stylistic, rapid alternating between farce, realism and melodrama are characteristic trademarks of Bulgakov's writing.
note: In '66-67, there were (finally) two Russian publishings of The Master and Margarita. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, they were both censored and incomplete.
The complete text was not published until 1973, when a textologist had access to ALL drafts of the novel. 


Born in Kiev in May 1891, Bulgakov graduated as a doctor in 1916. Fought in 1919 for a few months with the White armies in the Caucasus. In February 1920 he abandoned medicine as a career and turned to literature. From 1923-25, his chief source of income was journalism. He began publishing novels in 1925. 

Married three times - Tatyana Lappa (married 1913-24), Lyubov Belozerskaya 1924-32 and Elena Shilovskaya, who was the model for Margarita (1932-death.) 

In 1925 Bulgakov's career began to take off - his novel The White Guard attracted the attention of the Moscow Art Theatre, and they asked him to adapt it to the stage. In October 1926 Bulgakov made his debut as a dramatist with plays at two of Moscow's leading theatres. 

He was known primarily as a playwright during his life, working extensively with the Moscow Art Theatre. Stanislavsky and Meyerhold vied for his scripts, many of which were banned before they made it to their premieres. 

He died in 1940, in his bed, pretty good for a writer who had pursued his own goals and resisted pressure to conform to the official literary demands of the Stalinist 1930s. The price was high: his reputation as a twentieth-century novelist is almost entirely posthumous. 

The Master and Margarita was written secretly during the harshest period of Stalinist rule. It is difficult to conceive of the act of writing a novel you know with utter certainty will never be published during one's lifetime - indeed - knowing that if it was seen by the wrong people, it could mean a death sentence. 

From the mid -1950s onwards, in the Post-Stalin thaw, the Russian reading public gradually became aware of the literary heritage left for posterity. In 1966-67 the publication of The Master and Margarita furthered his reputation in the Soviet Union and abroad. With glasnost, all his works, including Heart of A Dog,(which had been banned since the 30's) were published in the Soviet Union.

recommended reading
Bulgakov by Ellendea Proffer,  Ardis Press, 1984 

The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, translated by Burgin and O'Connell,  Ardis Press, 1996