Monday, June 13, 2011

Russia Day

June 12 – according to our tour guide last weekend and all the posters all over the streets of Moscow – is День России (Russia Day).  It’s like the 4th of July in the States.  It commemorates their first democratic elections… in 1991.  Yes, today is the 20thanniversary.  It’s a pretty big deal.  Apparently tonight in Red Square there will be fireworks and we think a Linkin Park concert… because nothing says Russia Civic Pride like Linkin Park.  Since Russia day falls on a Sunday, most of the city will be off work tomorrow, out in their little country villas (they’re called something else here… I think it’s дачас (dachas)… but I’m really not sure).  I hope that doesn’t mean our teachers will be grouchy about having to spend their Russia Day (observed) with all the dumb Americanskis.
But I guess we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.  Today, we didn’t have any classes, so we hopped on the metro down to the Moscow River and took a boat ride for about an hour and a half.  I had a beer (which I had been craving like crazy since the night before) and just sat on the top deck in the sun and breeze, watching the sights of Moscow pass by.  On the other end of the ride we got off at one of the big parks, but JT was on a mission, so we didn’t stop to look around for long.  We stopped at a fountain, took a group picture, and hopped back on the metro headed for the dorm.  This gave us a few hours before the show that Aaron, JT and I were on our way to see, so I went to the grocery store, where I accidentally bought some $15 ice cream (it had better be DAMN good!) and headed back to the dorm.
Then I did a very American thing and headed over to Starbucks for a little while to use their internet.  We do have internet in the dorms, but we have a limited amount of bandwidth (or something else technical) allotted to each of us, so I decided I wanted to do a lot of surfing and uploading and such, so Starbucks seemed the place.  I ordered my drink and the friendly Canadian fellow next to me struck up a conversation.  I just love Canadians.  Then, it was an hour of web time before heading back to the dorm for a little more relaxation.  Russia Day has been pretty good for my weary soul!
After our afternoon of lounging like the lazy Americans we truly are, Aaron, JT and I met downstairs to head out to another Dmitri Krimov joint.  This one is called Катя, Соня, Поля, Галя, Вера, Оля, Таня (Katia, Sonya, Polya, Galya, Vera, Olya, Tanya).  It’s based on a collection of famous short stories by the Russian author Ivan Bunin.  Of course, I haven’t read these short stories, and they’re not available online in English, so I was, once again, going in fairly blind.  The theatre was a large but pretty conventional black box space, but as we entered, there were 6-7 men and 6-7 costume/make-up crew people – one per actor – on stage.  Each team was at a chair, and we watched as the men changed from their street clothes into their tuxedos, and then they were frozen in their new characters until a stagehand came and placed a different hat on each head and then lit each man’s cigarette.  From there… it was one helluva wild ride!  There were three human-sized boxes on stage, but until they opened the first one, it didn’t occur to me that they were human sized, just that they were part of what was around.  The first one was opened downstage… and the stagehands promptly sawed the woman inside it in half, leaving some entrails in between.  One of the men started talking for a while – I assume about this woman – and then they all left.  The stage was empty until another box upstage started to move.  It began to hop toward the audience, and then it fell on its side.  First a leg popped out, then an arm, and finally a head.  This woman began her energetic piece from this bizarre half-in-half-out position, and eventually climbed out.  She talked a mile a minute, until words projected on the upstage screen began interacting with her – then she had to slow down to allow their part of the conversation.  I really wish I had been able to read them!  Chairs moved without any human or string assistance, even her shoes floated away from her once she removed them.  Finally, as her piece ended, the men came and placed her back into her box, leg propped up at an impossible angle.  Then another man started speaking his story entirely in French (a language I understand only slightly better than Russian).  The woman he was speaking about seemed to be played by the tiny ragdoll he strangled in the midst of his story.  After he started brandishing one of the legs of the sawn woman as a weapon, the men all began to inspect the lower half of her body.  At this point, the upper half crawled out of the box and came over to see what they were looking at.  She began a long piece about a series of postcards.  Then, suddenly she had legs again, and she began this fantastic tango with one of the men.  She completely changed her dress and character two separate times in the course of the dance, and she ended up back in the box – and we didn’t even see it happen!  The third box was opened by this time, and a tiny little woman appeared and called to one of the men on the opposite side of the stage.  She then climbed across the other men – their shoulders, backs, knees – to get to her man.  They giggled and kissed and made love, but eventually there was blood on her head and blood on his hand, and she was placed neatly back in her box too.  The men rushed out and another woman walked in and started to give a lecture on the writer whose stories these were based on.  The men returned (in what must have been an impossibly fast quick change) dressed in baggy jeans and bright football team coats – the way I guess Russians assume American teenagers dress.  They watched her lecture, and then they all left, leaving a small hooded robot toy walking around the stage… and that was the end.  I can’t possibly begin to explain how cool this production really was… but even without having any idea what was going on, I was captivated.  I think I might be going back on the 20th to lead a group of other students who are interested in seeing it.  So friggin’ cool.
We finished off the evening with our Sunday night potluck, a group meeting that really had no excuse for lasting an hour and a half, and then I tried to skype my parents, and though I could hear them, they couldn’t hear me.  That was the first time I felt homesick since I’ve been here – listening to my parents’ voices and not being able to talk to them.  It was very frustrating and made me feel very lonely.  But we’re hoping for more success on the next try.
So that’s Russia Day.  Apparently a few people in our group ventured down to Red Square to take a peek at the Russia Day festivities, but they found after going through several security checkpoints, that there were tickets involved – tickets that they didn’t have.  Then they found that getting out of Red Square was even more difficult and full of military checkpoints than getting in.  Wowsers.
Doppleganger Update – I’m pretty sure Russian Jerry Witty was in the play I just described.

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