Friday, June 10, 2011

Read Your Tickets Well

Today we had our movement class with Vlad again… and boy howdy… that man is sadistic!  First of all, I woke up extremely sore today after our evil dance class and the power walking catching up with me, so by the time he got his hands on us, I was already feeling like I might fall apart.  Then he had us hopping across the room like frogs and jumping for our lives, all the while gleefully growling “SMILE” in his terrifying and hilarious Russian way.  Theoretically I should be able to stand only on my shoulder by the end of this class… I’m a little afraid of that, but we’ll see.  After lunch we had a theatre history lecture from the head of the MXAT school, but unfortunately it turned into less of a history lecture and more of him complaining about the version of The Seagull that we saw last week.  He seemed very non-plussed by anything any of us said that painted the production in any sort of positive light, and basically expounded on the director’s responsibility to the playwright for an hour.  But apparently next time we’re going to talk about the first MXAT production of The Seagull, and I am very much looking forward to that lecture! The lecture was followed by our Chekhov class – the first one in several days, and we were all delighted to see Миша again.  (Although his energy and childish delight is somewhat tempered by our new – and sadly permanent – acting class interpreter.  Her tone is utterly disinterested and condescending… and she’s definitely editing in translation.  But Misha is too fantastic!  He will not be defeated by our Droopy the Dog interpreter!)  After our usual group warm-ups he took us through a mirror exercise as well as an exercise in which we had to take two different positions that he described and then try to remember a time in our lives that we had taken that position.  I’m sure this is just part of the lead up to Psychological Gesture work, but it was a little unsettling when it got a little too personal/bordering on Method with some members of the group.  After class the grad students grabbed some dinner and headed back to the same theatre we had attended last night for another show.  At about 6:40, when we noticed that no one was around the theatre yet, we started to be a little concerned.  We have been told over and over and over again that everything in Russia has a 7:00 curtain (which usually ends up being 7:15 or 7:20).  So there we were, waiting for our 7:00 curtain… all alone.  So we pulled out the tickets… at which point we discovered that this show was the notable exception with a start time of 9:30pm… about 45-30 minutes after we had expected this play to end with its 7:00 curtain time.  Fantastic.  So, we headed back to the dorm for a few hours before heading back to the theatre for the third time in two days.  But let me tell you, this show was all kinds of worth it!  The play was К. И. из “Преступления” (K.I. from “Crime”), also directed by Кама Гинкас (Kama Ginkas).  This turned out to be a one-woman-show about the character Katerina Ivanovna Marmeladova from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  In the novel she is a fairly small character, but Ginkas lifted her out of the novel and gave her her own evening of theatre… and it has been playing forever!  We came upstairs to the same level of the theatre we had been in the night before, but instead of entering the theatre, there were seats set up in the lobby.  We sat down, and a bedraggled woman popped in and out of the doors in front of us a few times before launching into her frantic monologue.  She dealt directly with the audience – we were the guests at the memorial dinner she had thrown for her late husband – talking to us directly, touching us, sitting among us, etc.  She flew with great agility from emotional extreme to emotional extreme, bringing us with her even though we really only understood the few English sentences that she repeated from time to time (and I also understood the German and French that she threw in).  About half an hour in, she insisted that we all stand up and follow her into the next room – a tiny little theatre space that was entirely white.  Most of us sat in standard (though cramped) raked audience seats, though there were about twelve audience members who were seated at her banquet table on the stage.  Her three young children (two of whom we had met briefly in the lobby) were also in this room, and they acted as her props throughout the rest of the evening.  She sawed away on the violin, she berated the woman she had labeled as her landlady, she laughed, she wept, she screamed, she shook her children about like dolls, and eventually she died – at which point a wooden ladder attached to a rope was lowered from the ceiling, allowing her to swing freely.  Clearly shuffling off this mortal coil was a freeing experience for poor K.I.  As she and her children took their six curtain calls (each containing about six separate bows), we got to observe this remarkable actress in a whole new way – the joy that oozed out of her was simply gorgeous.  It made me think of this article I had to read for my directing seminar.  I can’t remember who wrote it, but he talked about the fact that actors – even when they are playing someone who is dying or murdering someone – must always have a sense of joy.  This woman was the purest embodiment of that idea that I have ever seen.  Even as she sat propped against the wall on the verge of death, even as she beat her children and screamed at the heavens, I could feel the joy of her creation underneath it.  This theatre was so alive… it was fantastic.  And I really want to get a copy of a translation of the script… I want to study what they did there, because it was beyond beyond! Doppleganger Update - I saw Russian Debra Capps as I was leaving the show tonight… but I have to say, Russia has more than its fair share of gorgeous leggy blondes, so I can’t say I was too surprised.     But seriously folks, it was a little uncanny.

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