Evreinov was occupied with the spectacle’s theatrical, dramaturgical side. Due to its immense size, the production was directed collectively: Evreinov was the director-in-chief, followed by Kugel, Petrov, Derzhavin, and myself. I also designed the scenery and the costumes. My stage sets spanned the entire width of Palace Square and reached up to the third floor of the General Staff. They consisted of two huge platforms (a White and a Red one), connected by a steep bridge. There were around 8,000 live participants. These live participants were joined by real tanks and real machine guns, as well as the famous battleship Aurora, which was moored on the embankment near the Winter Palace and supposed to fire three “historic” blanks at a signal from our director’s booth. The signal booth where we were located was built on the pedestal of the Alexander Column, armed with all necessary electrical buttons and telephones. The participants were split up into independent groups, so that each hundred persons had their own “responsible person,” who would obey our signals and ask his group to perform movements, shouts, or songs.
We went for several nights without sleep. The technical difficulties of the production proved nearly insurmountable. For example, I required around 150 powerful floodlights for the lighting effects. In the company of the administrative assistant of the composer Dmitry Tiomkin, the spectacle’s organizer, I went to the Petrograd Electrical Center. We were received by “Comrade Supervisor.” I explained what we needed.
“Five or six spotlights might be possible, maybe, but forget about one hundred and fifty,” declared Comrade Supervisor, already heading for the door.
“Comrade Supervisor,” announced Tiomkin’s assistant, “do you have a telephone at home?”
“Yes, I do. What’s it to you?”
“My advice to you is call your wife and tell her that you’re not coming home again.”
A short silence followed.
“As a matter of fact, I can even give you the one hundred and fifty spotlights you need, but with the request that you immediately forget our previous conversation,” said Comrade Supervisor with a voice that was nearly shaking.
“It’s forgotten,” my companion firmly answered. After ten minutes, there was a mountain of spotlights with all necessary accessories next to our truck.
We rehearsed the crowd scenes in the Winter Palace, in the Throne Room and the Armorial Hall. On the patterned parquet, Red Army soldier practiced their charges with cries of “Hurrah,” in tight and scattered formations. In the courtyard field kitchen boiled water for linden tea with sugar. The palace was unheated.
Evreinov lost his voice shouting his instructions from the Throne-Room’s dais.
Hungry and merciless, the Russian Revolution forged a new link in the chain of open air spectacles, an art that works with large crowds, and where it is precisely quantity gives the spectacle its form; a chain reaching back to distant centuries, to Medieval mysteries and the French Revolution’s Festivals of the Federation, the Constitution, Reason, and the Supreme Being...