Sunday, June 8, 2014


Sundays are technically our days off in that we do not have classes.  But if we're being honest about it, Sundays aren't exactly off in any real sense of the word.  Today I started out with some early morning Starbucks skype time with my parents, and then with Brian (our cat Burr's butt made a few cameos... Burr loves his butt).  Then we loaded up our group with the group from Butler University and headed out for a bus tour around Moscow.  We went to Novodevichy Convent and Cemetery (the cemetery is a trip we usually save for the end of the month... so I actually felt like this trip sort of took the wind out of the sails of the one at the end... but since there was another group with us, we sort of had to let that go.  It'll still be special when we go later.  It'll just be different.  Then we went to the highest point in Moscow - Sparrow Hill - which gives a beautiful panoramic view of the city.  From there we drove by Victory Park, stopped along the river for a few photos, and finally ended up in Red Square (which was a little less scenic than usual since they are in full setup mode for upcoming Russia Day festivities).

Once back at the dorm, we had a little time for dinner (a little less than we thought... but I'll get to that), and we met up to head to the Satirikon for a new production of Othello directed by Yuri Butusov... on whom I may or may not have a ginormous intellectual and artistic crush.  We left a little early for the customary 7:00 Russian curtain time, but when we arrived at 6:15, we discovered that, though no one had informed us, the curtain for this particular show was 6:00.  Very embarrassing.  And I sat stewing through the entire first act, kicking myself (though it wasn't my fault - or really anyone's - it's just an honest mistake... and several Russians came in after us, so we clearly weren't the only ones to make it... but still...).  It was almost hard to pay attention, I was so caught up in being mad at myself.  Still... the production was fascinating.  This is the fifth show I have seen by this director (we'll see one I've seen before on Thursday, and one more I haven't on Friday), so I sort of know to expect the wildly unexpected... and this was definitely that.  It was a little more opaque than most of his other works, but still a complete feast for the senses.  Othello himself was played by a white actor who regularly painted his face and/or hands black (not brown... black).  It's important to note that this was not black face per se... and it's also important to note that Russia does not have the same relationship with race that we do... so with those qualifiers, it actually ended up providing some pretty amazing images.  Most of the time he just appeared as himself - it was only at key moments when his face or his arm(s) would be painted.  When he was talking about wooing Desdemona with tales of battle, the three women playing Desdemona for that moment surrounded him, hanging on his every word, and when the one would would become Desdemona for the rest of the performance chose to kiss him, the black rubbed off onto her face.  When she later appeared nude wrapped in a black curtain, beckoning him to bed, it was only his hand that was black as it intertwined with hers.  It was very interesting that the color became not about something that was inherently different about him, but something that the society put on him.  And finally, when he killed her, he painted her face black like his... and the play closed on a seemingly endless tableau of the two sullied lovers seated side by side, and the symmetrical bodies of Emilia and Iago (yeah... in this version Iago dies) at their feet.  Nobody won in this Othello.

Of course, there was much more beyond that.  There was a grass covered bed on which Desdemona fantasized about marrying Cassio by mistake.  There was a moment when, section by section, the entire floor was turned over to reveal the darkness on the underside of the wood.  There were butterflies that no one could catch - like that perfect image of love - they remained always out of reach.  There was stunning work with two-way mirrors.  Roderigo was basically Eminem... and he had the clothes and theme music to prove it.  There was a long scene when Othello searched through huge boxes in complete silence, only to discover a little toy dog that sang "If You're Happy and You Know It" and clapped its little paws.  Maybe it was the innocence that he had so loved about Desdemona?  I don't claim to understand or even to remember everything I saw.  And though I think the production overall was a little less skilled in storytelling than were his other pieces, it was full of candy for the eyes and the soul.  And, while I was watching, I couldn't stop getting ideas for a production of Hamlet that I have suddenly decided that I need to direct.  So... who wants to give me a theatre and about 4-5 months of rehearsal?

14161 Steps
4.47 Miles

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