Saturday, July 2, 2011

Last Day

This morning we left the dorm at 10:30 am and dragged 20 people through the metro to the Novodevichy Cemetery where people like Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko and Chekhov are buried (among countless other super cool people).  I always feel weird in historical cemeteries like this – taking pictures of grave sites and such, wandering around these monuments to remarkable people who are just gone (and in this cemetery, these people are grouped according to what they did in life – so the theatre and literature folks are together, the politicians are together, etc.) makes you feel so temporary.  But it was still nice to go pay our respects to the guys whose work brought us all there. After taking a little time to contemplate and wander, we went back to the metro and headed to the flea market.  Yup.  Cemetery… flea market.  It was one of those days.  But we’ve all been waiting for this fabled flea market.  You have to pay 10 rubles to get in, and then you just wander through booths and booths and booths… it’s frickin’ ginormous!  I found all kinds of ridiculous kitschy, touristy things there… and I’m fairly certain that many of you blog readers will be getting to know some of these items extremely well.  We spent about two hours wandering around and haggling with vendors (I didn’t get as into the haggling as some people did – for some people it became an all-out mission).  Then we headed back to the dorm, at which point Aaron, JT and I headed out to the park for one last scholarly session over cigars and beer (no cigar for me… but I did enjoy the beer!).  I went to a hotel to exchange my rubles into Euros (so I’ll have something while we’re in the Paris airport tomorrow) and then I slowly worked toward packing.  In fact, I’m still slowly working toward packing right now.  I’m sure you’ll note how much my blog writing is assisting in the packing process.  Ah well.  The bus will be here to take us to the airport at 4:30am… so I’ve got about eight hours to get my act together.  I’m sure I can procrastinate that long!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Master and Margarita

On the 30th, I told myself that I could sleep until I couldn’t sleep anymore, which was a lovely experience after the last couple of days of late nights, early mornings, and weird sleep.  I still didn’t sleep as late as I probably would have liked, but I did end up a little more rested, so I settled for that.  I spent a little time at Starbucks doing the internet thang before we headed down to the MXAT for our 2:00 “graduation.”  It was fairly anti-climactic, but it was fun nonetheless.  We just gathered in the American studio with JT, the head of the school (who was also our theatre history lecturer) and our two liaisons for some light munchies and champagne.  We each received a letter confirming our participation in the MXAT program as well as a pin for the Month in Moscow program with the MXAT logo on it.  Then they brought in a stack of posters for us to dig through.  Sadly, only two of the posters were for plays we had seen (they were both for Three Penny… and I didn’t get either of them… so sad), so most of us just got random MXAT posters that we can’t really put up anywhere since we didn’t see the plays and it would be weird.  But still, they say MXAT, so that’s cool.  After the reception part of the group went to a cat circus (I know you’re shocked, but I was not part of that half) and the other half just sort of did their own thing.  I did a little shopping and wandering for a few hours – pretty low key actually.  Then eight of us met at the theatre to go see the final preview night of their newest show: The Master and Margarita.  There are a few crazy things about this.  1) This play is an adaptation of the novel by Bulgakov which is considered one of the most important Russian books of the 20th century.  On a friend’s recommendation (thanks Michael!) I read it before I came, so I was pretty jazzed to see it on stage.  2) This production was directed by a Hungarian director who doesn’t speak Russian.  But he does speak English, so he thinks in Hungarian, speaks in English and then has a translator make it into Russian.  That just amazes me.  3) The way they do previews here is crazy.  In the States, the previews are the performances that run immediately preceding the show’s official opening.  Here, they did three preview performances this week… and then they won’t perform again until their official opening in September!  And what’s even more amazing is that I am absolutely certain that all of the people who were in this standing room only audience will be back to the see the official opening in September.    So, the show ended up being wonderful.  We had to sit on the stairs in the upper balcony, which was fine.  It was actually less uncomfortable than I’ve been in some of the smaller theatres when I actually had seats.  The technical aspects of the play were above and beyond almost anything we’ve seen – walls coming in and out, a full subway car entering and revolving on stage, live and pre-recorded video on the screens – everything was so epic.  It really did feel like watching a movie on stage.  And I was so glad that I had read the book, since the story is a pretty complex one, and I know a lot of other people in the group had a hard time following it.  But I recognized most of the scenes and characters, and I think I even got some of the jokes by virtue of my familiarity with the text.  It was a really wonderful production, and I can’t imagine how much more wonderful it will be in a couple of months.  It was crazy that we were essentially getting a midway peek into a newly rehearsed piece.  There were some hiccups along the way – some things didn’t feel as polished as some of the other things we’ve seen, but that somehow made it even cooler.  And it was pretty great to have the last show we saw in Russia be something so quintessentially Russian, and something still in the process of being developed.  After the show, two of us stuck around and took our pictures with different photos of MXAT greats in the lobby.  We just geeked out in a big way.  I mean, it wasn’t just Stanislavsky and Chekhov – the predictable ones.  Oh no.  It was Michael Chekhov, Olga Knipper, Maria Knebel, Vsevelod Meyerhold, Mikhail Bulgakov… yeah… it was really nerdy.  But it was way too much fun.

Canada Day

July 1 is Canada Day, so over on my side of the dorm (dubbed Canada for the 5 Canadian students living here) it was a pretty big deal.  Plus, it was one of the Canadians’ birthday, so there was just all kinds of merriment starting first thing in the morning.  I branched off on my own for most of the day, doing some last minute touristing.  I went to the Kremlin around noon, and it was so damn hot I could hardly see straight by the time I got into the fortress.  But I managed to find an overpriced water bottle and I was back in business.  I visited all the cathedrals in the main part of the Kremlin, saw a giant bell and a giant cannon… it was all a pretty good time.  Then I headed over to this contemporary art gallery we had heard about on the other side of town.  I hopped the metro, walked and found the place.  It used to be a wine bottling factory, and it has been turned into what seems like sort of an artists’ collective.  There are still a bunch of buildings and they all seem to house different galleries and such.  Unfortunately, the signs are almost all in Russian, and there’s almost nothing directional, so I couldn’t quite figure out how things worked.  After walking into about 4-5 wrong doors (offices, closed exhibits, weird basements), I finally lost my nerve and just left.  It’s too bad that little excursion didn’t work out, but the place itself seemed pretty cool and dynamic – for Greenville folks: maybe kinda like Artbomb on steroids. Having had enough of wandering around in the sweltering heat, I hopped the metro back to the dorm, took a shower, made dinner and generally vegged out for a little bit.  In the evening we headed out to a bar for a little birthday/Canada Day celebration.  I stayed long enough for one large beer and a little conversation before again returning to the dorm where I made the extreme sacrifice of helping some friends polish off their vodka.  It was a sweaty, though perfectly lovely day.