Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beginning of the End

Well, yesterday was our final day of singing and acting with Sergei.  Singing was basically a recital… which was mostly a lot of fun.  The most fun for me were the people who didn’t consider themselves singers and seeing how far they’ve come in the last few weeks.  There are a lot more people in this group who sing than they think!  I personally didn’t rock my songs the way I had the week before in class, so I was a little disappointed in my own performance, but I still have the good work I did over the last few weeks as a benchmark to set for myself on the way to getting my voice back in shape.  And Marina had a lot of kind words for us all, so we all left with a pretty warm, fuzzy feeling. For Sergei we did one final set of etudes (one involving a dead guy on a subway, my group’s involving an awkward elevator ride) and then we had individual evaluations with him.  Now, Sergei admitted that he hasn’t had the time to get to know us that he has with his Russian students, and it was quite obvious that he wasn’t setting out to point out our faults, but rather to give us all something positive to walk away with – and that was a-okay with me.  I’m not going to catalog everything he said about me… because it’ll just sound like me patting myself on the back, but I did appreciate that he commended me for not being afraid to be funny, not being afraid to look silly and being willing to sacrifice appearance for the scene – and as a comedian, that sure was nice to hear! There was no show for me to see Friday night either, so I headed back to the dorm for a little dinner, spent a couple of hours doing interweb stuff at Starbucks, and then camped out for a scholarly beer with some of my fellow grad students.  It was a pretty chill evening all around. Then Saturday we headed up to school for our last day of movement class with Vlad.  He had us watch a video of his first year students after they’d been working with him for seven months.  We could see the foundations at work that we had been learning… but the stuff these kids were able to do… YIKES!  You see, we were in elementary acrobatics training, and by the end of seven months, they were throwing each other all over the place!  It was unreal!  See, according to Stanislavsky, it’s good for actors to learn acrobatics, not only so that they have better control over their bodies, but so that they can overcome their fears.  And boy howdy… watching that video, things made a lot of sense. Finally, we had our last class with the glimmering ball of joy – Misha.  He was both our first and our last acting class, and it ended up being a really emotional class.  We all presented our final monologues from Three Sisters.  I actually felt very good about mine – far better than I had felt about my song the day before.  Go figure.  And then we sat in a semi-circle and talked about what we would be taking back with us from Moscow.  I found that I was unable to participate in the conversation because every time I thought about opening my mouth I would get choked up.  One of the other grad students put it very well though when he said that we had all been so nervous when we got here – what was it going to be like?  And then we met Misha who was so generous and disarming and welcoming and alive, and that he wanted to bring back a little bit of Misha with him from Moscow.  I’m pretty sure we all agree on that front! Class got out early, so we had some time to kill before the show that Aaron and JT and I were scheduled to see Saturday night, so I sat in the square journaling (and being approached by every beggar on Kamergersky street – one who seemed prepared to adapt his panhandling into loud slow Russian so that I could better understand.  Listen guy: as an American tourist I can tell you: louder and slower does not mean more understandable.)  Then Aaron, JT and I went to dinner, spent about an hour sitting on the boulevard at Pushkinskaya killing time and talking about the month before heading to the theatre.  It was at the same tiny little theatre where we had seen Death of Giraffe, and the place was PACKED.  The little wooden café chairs where we were seated in the front row were smooshed together and our knees were a little over a foot from the edge of the stage – then they put people on pillows on the floor in front of us and continued to set up extra chairs on the side of the seating… and this is a show that has been running since 2006!  I mean, holy moly!  I had a successful Russian interaction with the woman sitting next to me as I helped her and her husband locate their seats, so she assumed I spoke Russian – which was not a correct assumption on her part.  But she did speak English, and we had a very pleasant chat about the show and about theatre in Moscow in general. The show we saw was the last Kremov production of the trip, this one was called Торги (Auction).  It was inspired by the issues that surrounded the building they were performing in, which had been a space that was taken away from a famous director during Soviet times.  The actors seemed to be sort of saying their goodbyes to the space, and then they began to dig up pieces of the theatre’s past – literally.  You see, when we entered, the entire stage was covered in plastic sheeting, and there was a huge mound of sand in the middle where there were sand sculptures of the building as well as different places around Moscow.  During the course of the show, they dug up oversized dolls of the three sisters, money, candles, a seagull (which really did seem alive in their hands) and a whole bunch of other things that had some tangential relation to Chekhov and/or Vasiliev (the director who had had the space taken from him).  They sang and even rapped sections of Chekhov’s text, and at one point they constructed a see-saw with the model of the building in question as the fulcrum.  They played on it up and down in amazing different ways, before they began to allow it to spin, with the actors flying through the space, supported by the weight of each other and help up by the theatre space.  It was another one of those plays that made me long for the text so I could fully understand everything they had done.  I caught a few of the jokes, and felt very savvy for doing so, but I really do hope I can come back here some day with a better understanding of the language.  That would take this experience to a whole new level.  Plus, as a special treat, we actually got to meet Dmitri Kremov at the end of the production!  It was just a quick handshake and introduction by our professor, but it sure was cool.  Aaron and I geeked out big time over it. When we got back to the dorm we discovered that there was a giant round of the drinking game “Waterfall” being played on one end of the dorm, and there were some very drunk people involved in this whole process.  I’m not so much with the drinking games, so I just stopped in here and there before heading to bed.  A little after 1:00 I did have to let the world know that I was planning on going to sleep, so the noise level on our side of the floor would have to simmer down a little bit – I’m such a killjoy.  But I did manage to sleep pretty hard, if not very long, since I got up in the morning to head over to Starbucks for a little skyping.  I managed to skype with my parents and then with Rick, and then the pleasant surprise of getting to skype with my brother, sister-in-law and niece too!  And Anya has officially figured out my name, which made me want to weep right there in Starbucks!  That little girl is just the best thing ever. So… tonight I hop the midnight train to St. Petersburg (well… it’s actually at 11:00, but still) and I’ll be there until Wednesday.  I’ll be offline during that time, but I’m sure I’ll have many exciting adventures to chronicle when I return!

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