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Pyotr Fomenko

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Pyotr Fomenko (Associated Press Photo)
MOSCOW (AP) - Pyotr Fomenko was a renowned Russian stage director who founded one of Moscow's leading theaters.

Fomenko, who staged more than 60 plays in Russian and foreign theaters during his career, died in Moscow on Thursday at age 80, his theater said. The cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Fomenko began his career as an actor in 1958. He became a director in the 1960s, staging performances at several Moscow theaters, some of which were banned by Soviet authorities. He moved to Leningrad in the 1970s, eventually taking the helm of the Leningrad Comedy Theater in the 1970s.

In 1993 Fomenko founded his own theater, whose troupe was made up of students at Moscow's theater academy where he worked as a teacher. The Pyotr Fomenko Workshop Theater quickly became popular thanks to his innovative approach to classics. The company performed at different Moscow locations before finally moving into its own quarters in 2000.

President Vl adimir Putin sent his condolences, saying that Fomenko was "one of the leading figures in Russian and international theater" and calling his death an "irreparable loss."

Funeral arrangements weren't immediately known.

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