Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just Another Manic Tuesday

It is Tuesday, isn’t it?  We’re never quite sure around here.  At any rate, this morning we had our first of three classes on the history of Russian cinema… and holy moly.  Our teacher – Галина Аксенова (Galina Aksenova) – is a human encyclopedia.  No lecture notes, no reading from slides.  She just projected images and dates, and then she was off and running.  First she gave us a brief history of Russia over the 20th century – most of which, I’m proud to say, I was fairly familiar with (especially the Gorbachov coup… that made a big impression on my punning development – my Odyssey of the Mind team did a whole sketch about Gorbachef hunting the elusive coup-coup bird… pretty heady stuff).  Then she talked about silent films, which was great, since there’s none of that language confusion that comes with watching something in Russian!  Definitely the most popular film of the morning was a stop animation piece about a couple of adulterous beetles.  Yes, you read that correctly. After a stern talking to about the bad kids who have been getting wasted in the dorms (bad undergrads!), we had a hurried lunch before rushing upstairs to practice our etudes before class.  This time my group created a whole gym workout atmosphere with people checking each other out and getting all flirty.  The other group created a restaurant setting on the morning of September 11, 2001.  Two more different atmospheres you might never see, but both etudes worked very well.  We moved on into our training exercises for the day which were an awful lot of fun.  I can’t wait to teach the DG folks the new samurai game I learned.  We’ll need a fairly big group to make that game work… so lots of people will have to come play with us!  We also continued our inanimate object etudes – the big hits for me being a popcorn kernel and a bra. Class went a little long today, so I booked it back to the dorm before heading out to see a piece called The Demon devised by Russian directing/design badass Дмитрий Крымов (Dmitri Krimov).  For the first time since we’ve been here, the language barrier was almost a non-issue (aside from finding our seats).  Oh… the seats.  Before I try to explain the beautiful insanity that was this show, I have to talk about our seats.  A lot of these plays that we’re seeing, we’re getting into because theatres are exchanging favors with each other.  So we got a card that said there would be four people coming courtesy of the MXAT… but the show was sold out.  So they had to fit us in where they could.  In this case, it meant the tech gallery.  And this is not your Warehouse Theatre tech gallery.  Oh no.  This theatre was built specially for experimental director Анатоли Васылев (Anatoly Vasiliev) to be extremely free form.  It’s in the round with three seating galleries around the center, and the tech gallery is on the fourth level hovering above it all.  We were craning our necks to see around the lighting instruments, and I spent most of the show standing up and bending out over the abyss I was so totally engrossed in what was happening. To try to explain The Demon in words is not an easy task, since they used almost no words to create it.  The entire floor of the stage was covered in layers and layers of paper and plastic, and the performers painted images, tore shapes, crumpled, ripped, stomped, splashed… it was magnificent.  I wept at stick figures.  I sat there watching the entire human experience (and a good portion of human history) unfold beneath me, and the simultaneous simplicity, specificity and complexity of every single moment was simply breathtaking.  The three curtain calls this cast took were well deserved. After the show the grad students sat down with our professor to talk about other shows that might be available for us to see over the next couple of weeks.  My head might explode. Doppleganger update – Today was a day for too-tall doppelgangers.  I saw too-tall Russian Mary Freeman and too-tall Russian Amy Holtcamp. Travel abroad tip - I know there are a lot of those Americans who think that loud English is more likely to be understood than regular old English when addressing non-English speakers.  This is not the case.  It turns out, however, that speaking English in the accent that you hear Russian English-speakers using does not work either.

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