Monday, June 6, 2011

Drinking Out of a Fire Hydrant

The first thing I did on Sunday was sleep until I couldn’t sleep anymore.  It felt fantastic!  And I might declare myself now officially on Moscow time.  Huzzah!  I headed to the grocery store for the first time, which was a formidable experience, since my credit card refused to work.  Luckily I had some cash, but that headshake by the cashier made me all kinds of nervous.  I knew I couldn’t get by for the whole month with the $300 worth of Rubles I had exchanged.  Eek.  Then in the afternoon we were led on a bus tour of Moscow… and then my brain exploded.  We saw so much in this three hour tour (a three hour tour…), and yet so little at the same time.  Of course, the place where we spent the most time was Red Square – a place I’ve already been.  But it was neat to be there with someone who knew all the crazy history about the cobblestones and the invasions and crazy wax-dipped Lenin.  And it makes me want to come back a third time so that I can tour around inside the Kremlin… which just sounds fantastic!  Our bus drove us slowly (and not-so-slowly) past a lot of things while our guide gave us fact after fact after fact after fact about everything on the planet.  There were places we couldn’t stop because of the difficulty of parking a bus, and there were places we couldn’t stay because we were on such a limited schedule.  We couldn’t stop at the Christ the Savior cathedral – the largest in Moscow built to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon, so I’m definitely going to have to swing by there on my own.  We only stopped across the river for a photo op of Novodevichy Convent (which includes Novodevichy Cemetery – the burial place of people like Stanislavsky, Chekhov and Bulgakov).  We only drove around part of the outer perimeter of the ginormous Victory Park (commemorating the end of WWII).  This city is so friggin’ huge, and there is so much history here, and we have so few days off… I am really going to need to try to budget my time in order to make it everywhere I want to go.  Our tour guide told us that we should go to Victory Park at night since they light up the fountains… and while that sounds cool in theory, that would mean wandering through a giant park in Moscow at 11:00 (when it is finally dark)… so I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best idea. After the tour, we booked it down to the MXAT.  There was little time for dinner and I stopped by an ATM where my debit card worked (Huzzah again!), and then we headed in for their production of The Cherry Orchard (Вишневый Сад).  The design was very spare and minimalistic, which gave us poor non-Russian speakers even fewer cues to hold onto in following the story, but I really liked it aesthetically.  Ranevskaya was, unfortunately, not terribly strong.  She was not – unlike every other actor on stage – a MXAT company member, MXAT trained, or even an actress at all.  She is famous throughout Russia as a personality.  I might compare casting her to casting someone like Paris Hilton – not that she’s as trashy as good ol’ Paris (PS – everyone I could think of as an example of an American celebrity personality is super trashy: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Snookie… are there non-actor personalities we worship who aren’t super trashy?), but she’s famous for being her, not for being particularly talented at something.  Aside from her volume issues, there was just a palpable (if not entirely easily described) difference between her and the company members in the rest of the cast.  She was absolutely gorgeous, but her performance just wasn’t on par with the rest of the cast.  She certainly wasn’t as lousy as someone like Paris Hilton would have been, but she just wasn’t a MXAT actor.  The rest of the actors were really pretty remarkable though.  I thought Lopakhin and Varya’s final scene was devastating, Anya’s evolution throughout the script was really lovely, Yasha and Dunyasha were delightful, and the stage pictures were absolutely breathtaking. Having seen two Chekhov plays now on this trip – it occurs to me that every Chekhov play has that one male character who I completely forgot about.  He’s the person who doesn’t make it into my brain when I’m thinking through the plot before the play begins, and then I spend the entire play going, “Oh!  I remember him… what the hell is his name…?”  In The Seagull it was Shamraev, and in The Cherry Orchard it was Simeon-Pishchik (and a little bit Yepikhodov). After the show, we all came back to the dorm for our Sunday night meeting/potluck.  It’s interesting to see what we all cobbled together as our potluck offerings.  I brought some watermelon (which we read in a guidebook the next day we probably shouldn’t have eaten… but it tasted good), there were cookies and candies and cheeses and breads, a makeshift Mac & Cheese, and even some nachos.  Following that meeting, we divided up into two groups to plan our etudes for the next day’s acting class.  More on this tomorrow.  After that, I tried to go to sleep, but my tummy had other plans.  So, after dealing with my grouchy tummy until almost 3:00, I finally managed to fall asleep.  Phew! PS - Allergy sufferers - summer in Moscow may not be for you.  Right now, as I look out my window, it almost looks like it is snowing… but it’s cottonwood puffs (or something equivalent) blowing EVERYWHERE. 

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