Monday, September 27, 2010

Rambling on Russia

(Written September 23)

Sunday, September 19th I met 29 students that will become my friends and essentially my family over the next 3 months.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how different each and everyone of was/is. Their Facebook profiles did them no justice. They are far from two-dimensional. They are layered and inflated and I Love it. 
So we met in Waterford Connecticut which is where the Eugene O'Neill  Theater Center. The O'neill Center is truly one of the wonders of God. The campus and land surrounding it are so overwhelmingly beautiful that you literally had to catch your breathe.
There are acres upon acres of green rolling grass, gardens, and stonewalls. IT is like some New England hobbit land. And when the grass stops rolling the sandy beaches appears like a dream come true. Next you are welcomed by the infinite ocean. To the right of the beach are giant rocks smashed and cozied together creating an organic masterpiece. We spent as much time on those rocks staring over the ocean and the grass as we could. Maybe that is way we felt so connected after a day and a half of orientation. Perhaps, sharing a memory as bold and beautiful as that one creates instant bonds.

Today (September 23) we had orientation. We met our language professor, stage combat professors, and acting professors. They went one by one (using translators) telling us their expectations. Last were the acting professors (I forget their names *whoops*). Before we could begin acting class we had to be separated into two groups otherwise our acting and movement classes would be far too big.
We each did a monologue. One at a time. 31 monologues. 
Honestly, I was a little nervous. The moment had been shadowing every moment prior, not in a huge way but still there. We knew that we could not start classes until this "audition" was done.

One reason that this was so nerve-racking is because our acting teachers are the best. They are some of the most famous artists in Russia. In America, it is said "if you can't do- teach". In Russia that is absurdity. You should not teach unless you are a MASTER at your art. In fact once you master your art it is an HONOR to then teach young artists the skills that your teachers taught you and to also pass down the knowledge that you have acquired from your own journey.
It is an HONOR to teach. 
It is the mark of greatness. 

I think it is beautiful. So much of the way that Russians treat art and especially Theater makes me nod, "yess! yesss!".
Often I have the feeling that light bulbs are going off in my head non-stop. Other times I am just in silent awe, absorbing.

I want to MASTER theater and dance to the best of my ability and share it. I have no burning desire to be a movie star or big time celebrity. Don't get me wrong- it's not that I would denounce fame and fortune if it should be that I find myself in a position where I can receive it.  What I mean is that, I am not studying with the final goal being fame. I am studying because this is my LOVE and my LIFE and I want to do it well and I want to share it with others who are just as passionate as me. I want to share it with other people who LOVE acting and are incapable of doing any other job in this World.

Those people who like me have only very basic  (like VERY BASIC) mathematical skills and no sense of punctuation.  Those people who are proud for MONTHS after creating the simplest of powerpoints. Yep, I want to do this for them.

 I was told a story of a great Russian actor who decided that he had done enough work to begin teaching. No one argued as to whether or not he was a brilliant actor, to that point everyone agreed he was GOLD. Still, 30- some odd yrs he was, other teachers could be found saying, " He cannot teach yet. He is good but he has not worked long enough. He has not MASTERED his art".

There is so much respect for the arts here. If you decide that you want to be an artist- that is what you study. There is no "backup- plan". They eat, breathe, drink, walk, and dream their art and then THEY LIVE IN THEIR ART because by then it lives in them so COMPLETELY. It is imprinted on their souls. On every exhale you can see passion and precision. 

It is overwhelming and so immensely comforting to be in a place where NOTHING but pure dedication is expected of you at all times. A Russian MXAT (Moscow Art Theater) student has no scheduled breaks in their day. How dare you schedule a break before you have even begun to work?!?
No, they find time to eat, rest, snack.  
That is why they are the greatest. 

ALSO, The Moscow Art Theater  is the theater home of nearly every notable actor in Russia. They teach here, perform on the stages here, or studied here. Some just come to MXAT to eat lunch in the cafeteria. A cafeteria!!!  It is old school; single file line and tray style. The best of the best gather here and just chill. They eat in the CAFETERIA and then go about their day. Next to them are actors in training, personnel, MXAT custodians, and us- "the Americans"!  Can you imagine- Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith all chiling in a cafeteria??
And in Russia any average Russian could name you 3 current theater actors- NOT movie stars but theater. Everyone follows it. 

Russia is an amazing place. I was worried about being murdered by neo-nazi groups, instead my hand has been kissed repeatedly and people have very politely asked to pose in pictures with me. 
I much prefer that to death.

I lost track of what I was telling yall. I wanted you to know that we all did our monologues and everyone was FABULOUS and tomorrow we will find out which teacher we have and what group we are in.


Tonight a few of us joined some other American students from Illinois to a bar. Everything in Moscow seems either dirt cheap or NEW BORN BABY expensive. Tonight our drinks were dirt cheap.  Tomorrow we are going back because it is dance night! I cannot wait!! Oh and Saturday night we will attend our first show!!

-Part of our curriculum requires that we watch as much art happen as humanly possible. We will see 30-40 plays, concerts, and ballets.  In a city like Moscow that is a simple feat because there is always art happening, 7pm almost any night.

Saturday we are going to see a ballet- SWAN LAKE!!! I cannot wait!!  

I am so excited for our own ballet class. 
anyway, I think that is all for now.
until next time.


  1. I'm happy for you, enjoy! I expect great things from you during this experience. Love ya!