Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hitting the Ground Running

Well... as my lack of blogging might suggest... we have been busy little bears here in Moscow (no unicycles yet... sorry Dennis).

Monday we started classes with a brief theatre history lecture from the incomparable Анатолий Смелянский (Anatoly Smeliansky) – the dean of the Moscow Art Theatre School.  He always makes this first lecture in the lobby/photo gallery of the Moscow Art Theatre. Surrounded by images of some of the greatest actors and other theatre artists in modern history is a pretty inspiring and humbling way to kick off the month.

From there we jumped straight into singing class with Марина (Marina) – the utterly lovable voice teacher with more energy than any single human should probably have.

At lunch, I showed the group to the cafeteria and left them on their own as I started my month as cruise director by running out to the Театр на Таганке(Taganka Theatre) to get us tickets for shows for the next two nights. For Monday night I got Марат и маркиз де Сад (Marat/Sade) and for Tuesday, Добрый человек из Сезуана (Good Person of Szechwan). Aside from asking for 60 tickets instead of 16 (the words are very similar), I think my partner in the box office and I did very well getting it all sorted out, all things considered.

So after booking it back, we had our first acting class of the month with Сергей and Илья (Sergei and Ilya), in which this group made it clear that they were here to do some serious work and to have a really good time together. In general, I’m seeing pretty great ensemble already, and I have high hopes for the rest of the month.

The schedule on Monday was a little unusual, so we got out of class at 6:00 and needed to leave for the theatre at 6:15. It was a mad dash with the whole group through the subway at rush hour to the theatre, where we arrived with minutes to spare. After a little confusion with a woman who had bogarted a couple of our seats, we settled in for the show…which was spectacular. It is an energetic, inventive, exciting production of what can be a very talky, idea-laden play. There are acrobatics, hard core tap dancing, whips, tandem violins, upside-down clarinet playing, other amazing music… it’s a pretty impressive show.

Tuesday morning was our first day of movement with darling darling Владимир (Vladimir) – the giant Russian dude who makes us contort our bodies, and makes us love him all in one fell swoop.  He ran us hard through the beginning of training, and I find that I have still retained the ability to become a Russian Dumpling. That’s right, 20-year-olds! This old lady has a few tricks up her sleeve!

In acting class we started our object etudes already – and I would say that they were generally pretty impressive.  From purses to ragdolls to paper towels to umbrellas and all points in between… there was a lot of very cool work going on!

Then, because we were back on a normal schedule, we had a nice leisurely hour for dinner, took a nice, civilized (though still rush hour) subway ride to the theatre, and even had time for a little mini-lecture on Brecht before the play began from me and one of my fellow PhDs. This production was first staged in 1964 and has been the flagship production of this theatre ever since.  There are a lot of wonderful things about it – the Brecht-ness of it is very clear and understandable, the acting is great, the set is cool, the lighting is gorgeous – but it’s a very talky play, and it was hot, and we were in the top of the balcony, and it was 3 hours long… so it was a battle sometimes to stay awake. But overall, it was a very cool production, I was conscious for about 90% of it, and I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from it.  The Good Person of Szechwan is one of my favorite Brecht plays, so it was cool to get to see it here.  I would venture to say I learned a thing or two about Brecht by watching it! 

Wednesday saw our first dance class, led by a seemingly transformed Ренат (Renat) – our resident dance master. Historically, he has been a little stern and frustrated with us, and he tends to push too hard too fast without quite enough instruction. But Wednesday morning he came in with a smile and a great attitude and patience and we had a great time. He was actually the teacher I expected not to remember me… but what do you know… he did!  AND… he even complimented me on my form on one of the exercises… at which point I died from sheer happiness and shock.

After Dance we came back together for singing where we were assigned our songs for the month.  I have “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. It’s something I’ve done before, but it is going to be a hoot to work on with her – as is everything! And, of course, it was another strong day in acting, as we already started through our second set of object etudes and were assigned our animals.  Things are moving really fast in acting class this summer, and the group seems to be keeping up, so that is super cool!

And then…we headed off behind our escort Аня (Anya) to see Как вам это пон равится по пьес е Шекспира сон (“As You Like It based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Dmitry Krymov)… and had our minds completely blown. He sort of took the Pyramus and Thisbe section of Midsummer and smooshed it all up, expanded it, made it achingly beautiful, terribly funny… and a little dirty… and wrapped it in a cloud of awesome.  I had a chance to see this same show in previews last summer, and it did not disappoint on the second viewing. Things had been added, refined, cut and enhanced… and it was amazing. Oh… did I mention that the entire thing is performed by two giant puppets? There are no words for the beauty and sheer creativity of what we saw Wednesday night… but we were just beside ourselves.

On the walk home our escort got us a little lost, but we eventually made it home, and I crashed hard.

Today (yes…I’m finally catching up with myself… HUZZAH!) started out with another day of movement, which threw in a little extra challenge for me because our translator was late, so I became the… I won’t say translator… I’ll say interpreter for the first half of class.  It was quite an experience.  It was a combination of knowing Владимир and the exercises, some actual vocabulary knowledge, and a few wild guesses, but I got us through. I was actually a little impressed with myself. I expect they will be offering me a job any day now. But anyway, eventually the translator appeared, and helped us through some of the tougher exercises – which are also advancing quickly.  This group wants to work together.  I’m proud of them!

Next up was a theatre history lecture about the history of the Moscow Art Theatre and the different iterations through which it has come over its 115 year history. Very cool stuff.

Then, it was another wild day of acting as we moved from objects into animals…and as I pondered the real beauty of people moving chairs around a room in unison. We had no shows to see tonight… which was strange, but also gave us a much needed break for things like blogging and grocery shopping and having a nice cold beer with dinner. I’m still on the lookout for more shows to see... I got some good ticket news for us tonight… and am hoping to have more coming in the next few days. Much to do!

No comments:

Post a Comment