Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hail to the King, Baby

Number of Steps: 11951 (3.77 mi)

Well… another day of final classes under our collective belt.  We had our final film class during which we watched the movie Wedding.  It had a nice, happy ending, which Галина did on purpose so that we would leave with a happy feeling about Russia.  Very nice of her.  She also passed along a list of Russian movies that are available in America… so I have a little hobby when I get back (other than studying for my quals, planning GTA training and writing my dissertation… crap).

Final film class with Галина... only the strong survive!
Anyway, after lunch we had our last acting class, which started out with some frustration, because we can’t seem to get the damn etudes right, no matter how hard we try… and sometimes with the echo in the room and the timbre of the translator’s voice I have a hard time hearing her so I’m sure I look like I’m all pissed about the notes, when really I’m just trying to hear what’s being said.  <sigh>  Anyway, after that the training exercises actually went really well.  I had a really cool experience with my fellow grad student Vanessa today as we communicated effectively with each other using only our eyes.  It was really neat feeling that connected, and feeling that shared sense of accomplishment as we completed our tasks.  Very cool.  We still have a day of individual meetings with our acting teacher, so we have one last day of goodbyes tomorrow... then Saturday we'll shop a lot, see another play... and then Sunday it's back state-side.  Wow... where did this month go?

And while all this class stuff was great, the main event was still to come in the form of King Lear at the Сатирикон.  This is a show I saw last year, and though I enjoyed it, I have to admit that I came away a little lukewarm.  Not so this time.  Holy moly, it was devastating.  Nothing tangible had changed about the production – maybe it was just that I have changed since the last time I saw it.  Maybe they were having a particularly “on” night tonight.  I don’t know what it was, but this play hit me in just the right place.  This is a director I greatly admire (I’ll be seeing his Seagull on Saturday night – my favorite show from last year), and tonight I really drank in all the inventiveness of his staging and imagery.  An interesting thing about Russian Shakespeare is that they are not so tied to the text as we are.   Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of text work because I really do believe it has the power to open up the soul of the piece in all kinds of ways.  Unfortunately, however, text work does not always do that – and in worst case scenarios, it can turn out a pretty lackluster museum piece.  (For notable exceptions, see The Distracted Globe, who is currently in rehearsal for what is sure to be a totally bitchin’ Twelfth Night – I miss you guys!)   But the Russians (and especially Бутусов) go straight for the viscera – cutting and rearranging and inserting etudes as they see fit.  And the commitment of these actors to every moment and to each other is so moving and engaging!  And the physicality!  The actor who plays Lear is quite a virtuoso – and though he’s 68 if he’s a day, he can also do all kinds of crazy tumbling and stuff that the most rambunctious American 20-something would probably balk at.  And the design… oh boy.  Every moment is so carefully sculpted, and the interplay of shape, light and color becomes its own character.  Wow and a half.  The last scene left me weeping all the way through the well-deserved standing ovation.  Pretty much every time I leave that building I’m a complete mess.  Saturday, I’m sure, will prove no exception.

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