Monday, June 11, 2012

18! Seriously!

Number of Steps: 8939

Today things got started a little late because we needed to give the St. Petersburg folks some time to get their feet under them, as they arrived back in Moscow via night train, rolling into the dorms at 10:30 this morning.  So we had the second of our AWESOME theatre history lectures today at 1:00 instead of the customary 11:30.  It was a wonderful, heartfelt lecture that ended far too soon, followed by an acting class that started a little late and ended a little early for a variety of reasons.  But we did have a fairly good teamwork day, and we did our partner etudes (Daniel and I were water wings – you know those floaties that kids wear? – it was really fun).  Then half of the group went to the Satirikon theatre to have their minds blown by their production of The Seagull (I’ll be going to see that with the other half of the group on the 30th – our last night in town…this is the best possible thing I could think of to be what I do on my last night in Moscow).  The rest of us hung around the school until 7:00 when we went to an encore performance of the showcase of the first year MXAT students.  It was three hours of their self-selected best etude work from the year – and it was extraordinary.  First, it took me a few pieces to get used to how young they were.  Then, later I found myself reflecting on how old they seemed.  These 18-year-olds from all over Russia were fascinating to watch.  And, I happened to sit next to our translator, so every now and then she would lean over and explain something to me, which was an excellent bonus!  The evening was mostly monologues with a couple of dialogues interspersed, and they looked like they were probably based largely on observation etudes – characters they had built by observing people around them.  There were even a few cultural references - like Joan Jett, the Lady Marmalade number, Sid Visius and a truly fantastic Prince.  I'll admit, it was comforting to hear a little English in those little bursts throughout the evening, and not to feel like a complete outsider the whole time.  With those - we were in on the joke!  But regardless of the language barrier, there was so much energy, commitment, and above all SPECIFICITY to each character done by these 18-year-olds (yes, I know I repeated that... I just can't get over it).  I think probably the thing I am noting the most this time around is that attention to detail that is at the heart of the Russian theatre.  There is no room for generalization in the Russian theatre – you must always be more specific and more specific.  Ask another question, dig a little deeper.  I think it’s that attention to detail that is the key ingredient that not only makes what they do so compelling, but that could most readily be brought back to work in the US.  I have heard a few of the kids on this trip, after they see a piece of amazing theatre, sounding a little despondent.  They ask themselves why we even bother when there is work on this level happening out there, and we’ll never achieve it.  And my answer is that we bother because we are moved by the same impulses as these artists we’re sitting here revering, and it’s our privilege now to bring back whatever little glimmers we can of the things we experience here and put them to work in our own world.  So there’s my challenge to myself as I move into my third year at Wayne: increase my eye for detail, increase my aptitude for specificity, never accept the easy answer unless it generates more active questions. 

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