What’s good theatre anyway??

This week has been one crazy journey.  MXAT is hosting the Stanislavsky festival to celebrate his 150th birthday.  I know what you’re thinking… “Michael, Stanislavsky’s birthday is not until January! WHY ARE THEY CELEBRATING NOW?!?!”  Well, my friend, they just are!  So, MXAT is playing host to numerous theatre schools from around the world (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, and even the US)

The shows have been going on all week, and since there were a limited number of seats available for each show I made the Hungarian production my number one choice.  Other students’s reactions the the other country’s ranged from bad to worse.  Tonight, when I was entering the Hungarian production of Spring Awakening…the play not the musical I had some very serious doubts of the quality of theatre I was going to be seeing.

Let me change the subject to a little background about who I am.  I am a pretty free and open person.  I’ll share my story with anyone who has the time to listen.  No subject is taboo. I curse too much.  I laugh too loud.  and I have a great love for videos on youtube of people falling or hurting themselves.  I make crude jokes…that sometimes do not go over well.  And, the big one, I’ll make a scene anywhere!

Back to Spring Awakening.  I don’t really know how to describe it other than I giant sexcapade gone wrong.  There was nudity from women and men for no apparent reason.  I was genuinely offended by the exploitation of sex throughout the production and at the end there was a crucifixion of a baby doll.  All in all it seemed like they were going for shock value over substance.  It was the worst thing I’ve seen in Moscow to date.

But, this week I have also had my number one theatre experience of all time.  I don’t know if it will ever be topped.  It was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The play was in an old art gallery.  The stage was raked and my chair in the audience was made for a child.  Little of Shakespeare’s text appeared in this production, but it didn’t really matter.  The use of puppets, text (created specifically for this production), and singing made the story so easy to follow.  There was nudity in a sense in this production as well.  Puppet nudity, but in the realm of this play it was real nudity.  At one point one of the giant puppets relieved itself on stage.  In contrast to the Hungarian production all the things that happened during the course of this production were justified and eerily beautiful.  To say I liked or even loved this play would be a drastic understatement.  I encourage you all to read the links I post..to just get a taste of what happened to be the other night!

http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/dream-as-you-like-it/rehearsal-photos.aspx

http://bloggingshakespeare.com/year-of-shakespeare-a-midsummer-nights-dream-as-you-like-it

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/aug/15/midsummer-nights-dream-as-you-like-it-review

http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/dream-as-you-like-it/dmitry-krymov.aspx

So much awesome theatre is created in the most unexpected of places! GO FIND IT!

 

Another positive thing about my time here so far is that I have lost a lot of weight.  I’m not exactly sure (in lbs) because we don’t have access to a scale BUT I do know that none of the belts I brought with me fit anymore and I am swimming in my jeans.

If, when I get back, you want to do some of the movement work that has led me to my weight loss let me know.  All you need is a partner and a whole lot of will power.  REMEMBER your body will always want to stop moving…you have to learn how to tell it not to.  AND Pain is good.  It’s how you know you’re alive.

I ran in to Jessye Norman…that was exciting to say the least…

Chekhov’s short plays are so GOOOOOOD!

ANNNNNNNNND!!!!!! I really can’t wait for College Night…just thought I’d throw that little tidbit in!

 

Russian Theatre

Out of all the shows I’ve seen in Moscow the most amazing story came from Verdi’s La Traviata.  The wonderful singing, combined with one of the most amazing theatrical sets I have ever seen also combined with being in the Bolshoi Theatre I really felt carried away in to the story.  This production had dogs, birds and even A HORSE AND CARRIAGE…what??  Even though it wasn’t really a modern telling of the story it felt SO new and now because of all the things that were added in to the set.

Last night we saw Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS.  I have to say I was a little let down by the set design and some of the acting.  When I first took my seat and saw a kind of cafe setting with a number of tables placed around the stage and numerous actors already on stage I got really excited!  I thought it was going to be this really cool abstract take on this really classic text…It was not.  The tables and chairs became a barrier to the actors.  The tempo was also a problem especially during the Masha and Vershinin scene in the 2nd act.  It was so rushed I barely had time to realize what was happening.

One thing that really makes theatre feel like family here is a tragedy that happened earlier this week.  One of the actors in the Moscow Art Theatre company was killed in a car accident.  She had a lead role in THREEPENNY OPERA and since yesterday the stage has been dark.  Her portrait is in two places, one inside a hallway and one outside on the street, in both places flowers -TONS of flowers – surround her portrait.  It is this homage and the dark theatre that sets Russian Theatre apart from American theatre.  I find it hard to believe that the actress wouldn’t be replaced with her understudy in America and a half hearted announcement made to the audience that the night’s performance will be in her honor.

In cancelling the productions theatre practicioners and audiences have time to grieve. And reflect. And really evaluate what each individual means to the theatre and to their lives.  It is done with love.  There is no selfishness and from what I can see no anger from the audiences for not being able to see the production they paid a lot of money to see.

I am honored to be studying art in a place where everyone takes acting so seriously it hurts.  It really hurts…there hasn’t been a day yet where I haven’t gone to bed in pain OR woken up in pain and remained in pain all day.  AND MORE PAIN ADDED IN THAT DAY!  Whoever says acting is easy I beg you to come here and get tortued in Russian Ballet, and combat and movement.  You jump in the air for an hour straight, Do the Russian Dumpling, lift your partner in any possible way, or become a telephone, or an elephant or an ox and then get back to me with your insistance that anyone can act!

Three Weeks in and I never want it to end!

Blue Skies!

The Greats!

This weekend we went to St. Petersburg!

 

IT IS THE BEST CITY EVER! at 11pm on Friday we boarded our over night train from Moscow.  At 7am we were off the train and starting our crazy two day adventure!  We immediately started a bus tour of the city, driving past large statues, giant cathedrals and too many palaces to count. one of my favorite sites in the city on this tour was St. Petersburg State University.  It is not far from the Hermitage or the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul and all the buildings are nearly 250 years old.  It felt like a small village square. It was just wonderful.

 

By the way: I will post all the pictures from my trip as soon as possible.  I just have to find a way to get them from my camera to the computer!

After the best and cheapest lunch of my entire Russian journey so far (320 Rubles for Borscht, a salmon sandwich and a Coca-Cola, around $11) we visited the Hermitage.  Hermitage is a Russian word meaning “Hermit’s Dwelling.”  The vast art collection inside all started when one magnificent lady, Catherine the Great SIDE NOTE: she and Michelle Obama share the same place in my heart–just imagine how excited I was there and by her giant statues!!  Anyway, she started purchasing vast works of art and placing them in a private collection in a building now known as the Small Hermitage.  She would spend her private time there and sometimes invite her very close friends.  since then the museum has taken over four buildings including The Winter Palace-the official residence of the tsars of Russia from Peter the Great until Nicholas II.

Everything inside is GLORIOUS! the architecture and design is just magnificent! basically everything is covered in Gold leaf.  I saw the most amazing mirror inside! just amazing.

After the Palace we had free time in the city so we went to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.  It is built on the spot where Alexander II or Alexander the Liberator was assassinated in 1881.  EVERY inch of the interior is painted with some sort of mosaic.  It is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever been to!

We had dinner at a very good Georgian restaurant and then after a night in the hostel we woke up early to go to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin.  I was thinking nothing could be greater than the Hermitage and then we walked up to the most beautiful structure I have ever seen!  The palace was built for Peter the Great’s second wife Catherine I and decorated both in a baroque-esque style and a Neo-Classical style…because Catherine II (the great) hated the gaudiness of the Baroque gold leaf.

We visited Alexander’s Palace, nearby to Catherine’s which was the final residence of Nicholas II and his family after he abdicated the thrown to the Bolsheviks. It was also a command point for the Nazi army after they seized the small town while they were trying to take over Leningrad.  It was also the sight of a mass execution of 800 Jews in September 1941.

Other highlights of the trip to St. Petersburg: Visiting the Fotress of St. Peter and Paul, the cathedral inside is the final resting place of the tsars and grand dukes and duchesses of Russia including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and as of 1998, Nicholas II and his family. St. Michael’s Palace-the place where Paul I was assassinated. AND THE CHOCOLATE MUSEUM!

I know that description is long but the weekend was amazing! there is really so much more I could tell but then I wouldn’t get any sleep tonight!

Blue Skies!