Monday, June 4, 2012

We've Got Class

Number of Steps: 10808

Today was our first day of classes, but it didn’t start until 11:30, so the morning was still pretty leisurely relatively speaking.  We strolled down to school and met up with the other two groups in the courtyard where we waited to be escorted inside.  This first class is sort of special, since it is our formal introduction to the MXAT school (even though the other groups have been here a few days longer than we), so it’s held in the lobby of the main theatre, which is also a gallery of some of the greats of MXAT past.  I think it may have been the moment that I walked back into that lobby that I finally got really excited about the fact that I’m back here.  The lobby is so beautiful in general, and the photos on the wall hold images of some of the greatest artists of the 20th century – all of whom are part of the same artistic family – and it is humbling and breath-taking and moving to be in that space.  Once we were all seated, we received a lecture from the head of the American studio, Anatoly Smeliansky, about the founding of the MXAT, and let me tell you, as a future professor, I hope I can learn even a fraction of his passion for history!  When he lectures about these people, it’s as if he actually knows them.  History is about real people, not merely memorizing facts.  And as he reminded us, “Theatre is not a museum.  It is a struggle.”  Theatre is not a place we go to memorialize what came before us as some immutable monolith – it’s the problems we solve every day! 

So after our awesome lecture, we made a mad dash to the cafeteria.  Though our group is smaller than last year’s, the fact that there are three groups here this year means that there are about 40 dumb Americans trying to point and gesture their way through the cafeteria line at lunch.  So I managed to get in, get food, and get gone pretty quickly so I could take one of the students over to the Megafon store to get my phone activated and to get a sim card for her.  The hipster salesman at the front of the store rolled his eyes with all the skinny-jean contempt he could muster when I asked ever so sweetly, “Говорите ли вы по-английски?”  But he did begrudgingly direct me to another man who was extremely helpful.  He got me and the student set up and on our way with 20 minutes to spare before class. 

So we headed upstairs for acting class…which was a hoot.  Our teacher Серге́й remembered me from last year, which was an affirming feeling, and he teased me here and there about the fact that I had survived last year and that I had come again.  After chatting with him about our first impressions of Moscow, he threw us to the lions by asking us each to do a monologue for him.  Now, this was not something that happened last year, and I haven’t really been doing any auditioning per se for several years now, so I was lucky to be able to pull an old piece out of my bum for this one.  It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful, so whatcha gonna do?  From there we started some of the ensemble and concentration exercises that we all love so much.  This group is already really impressing me.  First, the size really does make a difference.  We don’t have to switch back and forth between halves of the class, we all just get to work for the whole time, which is very cool.  And this group really seems to want to learn together, which is something you just can’t manufacture.

After class JT and I went on an expedition to look for the Афиша – which is a book of all the theatre being performed in Moscow in the month of June.  This, it turns out, is not easy to find.   They always sell it in the lobby of the Moscow Art Theatre during shows, but it almost seems impossible to find them if you’re not already at the theatre.  But boy did we try!  We looked all over the place!  We did stop at a kiosk that had a poster of a schedule for the first two weeks, so we stuck around there for a while.  I wrote down the website off of the poster, however, and when I got back to the dorm I spent a while surfing through (dear google translate: I love you!) to find plays that I thought might interest people.  I certainly have some ideas of what I’d like to see, but if last year is any indication, it’s kinda hard to go wrong.

In the evening we had a quick meeting to talk about some things, which was interspersed with one of the craziest (and awesome-est) damn stories I have ever heard.  Suffice it to say – there are a few girls in this group who are just magnets for fascinating people.  I have got to spend more time with them… hopefully I can catch the periphery of some of their adventures!

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