Long Update

Hey everyone, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. Between my mom visiting last week and starting scene work, I’ve been very busy lately. However, I think you all deserve an update. I think the best way to give you this update is to go class by class.

I’ll start with stage movement otherwise known as Droznin. We have started to do a lot of new movements and partner work. As far as individual movements, we’ve done anything from headstands to shoulder stands to some more complicated things. I hope to make a post later on with pictures and videos of stage movement exercises because they are hard to explain. As far as partner work goes, We’ve done a lot of stuff that I’ll try to put pictures of in a future post. I’ve really been enjoying stage movement and I’m able to do things with my body that I never thought I would be able to do.

Now, we’ll talk about Russian language class. Because I studied a little bit of Russian before I came here, a lot of material in the course has come to me fairly quickly. However, it has been nice to formally learn some Russian grammar. We recently learned the past tense, and the beautiful thing about Russian is there’s only one past tense. No past progressive, no pluperfect, no past participles. The grammar is much simpler than Latin grammar is. Also, the past tense doesn’t conjugate. It’s just based on gender, which is beautiful for my learning. One little note about the teacher: she’s definitely a problematic fave. She’s very funny, but occasionally, she’ll say some stuff that makes me say yikes. Yesterday, she said to the class, “oh, you women must have cooked last night.” Apparently, she’s also told women in the past that if they sit on the ground, their ovaries will freeze. So yeah. But she’s very sweet. Well, sometimes she roasts people, but that’s okay I suppose.

Next is singing. The singing teacher is lovely. We were supposed to learn a group song at some point, like a long time ago, but we have yet to start one, I hope we do start one soon. I am also learning a Russian Opera ish song, which I am enjoying a great deal.

Ballet. I am not very good at dancing. However, that class is a blast. I also think the teacher likes our section. She’s likely used to Russian students taking everything very seriously. We take things mostly seriously, but we do have a pretty goofy section. Today, she told one student that his hands made him look like a cactus. He also told the same student that when he was leaning away from his partner it looked like he was leaning away from a dead rat. She’s very funny. Ballet is hard. I feel like I’m doing things wrong all the time, but it’s one of those things that I’m okay with being bad at. So I just try my best and have fun.

Finally, at least as far as morning classes go, stage combat. The combat we are learning requires more trust and is less safe then the combat I have done in the US. however, at least so far, I think it looks better, better meaning more real. I like our teacher. He’s very funny and also very athletic. However, he always has at least one airpod in, and we’ll go on his phone for a non-trivial amount of class. However, this doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers some of the other students. It is funny though. I often get uncomfortable during stage combat because I don’t like being the aggressor, but oddly enough, this class which is less safe then the combat I’ve done before, doesn’t really make me nervous. I think it’s because of the trust that I have with most of the ensemble here. This reminds me of something that was mentioned by one of my classmates. He said that he wished training in America was more focused on building trust. Here, trust is one of the most fundamental things to the training.

Well we are still having Theater history, design, and Cinema history classes, to be honest, they have not had a hugely profound effect on my learning, with the exception of a few Scenic Design classes. For example, yesterday, we got to go on Moscow Art Theater stage. It was by far the biggest and nicest stage I’ve ever been on. It was a surreal experience to be able to step foot on such a historic stage, where people like stanislavski acted and directed, and where Chekhov’s plays were performed.

And to wrap up the class update, I’m going to talk about acting. I believe I mentioned in a prior post that our primary teacher was named Sergei; while this is not untrue, we have another primary theater master, who is named Ilya. He was in Hungary directing a show for the first month of the program, so Sergei was our only teacher. These past two weeks Ilya has been the main teacher. We have finally started working on scenes and text, albeit our use of text so far is limited. The philosophy of this training is that the text isn’t the reaction to an action but it is the reaction to the reaction of the initial action. The most important thing is the action and the internal reaction to that action. This is why text has not been a priority thus far. We’ve also been working on dream etudes, where we have to devise dreams for characters from The Seagull in the Cherry Orchard, which are the shows from which our scenes are. These have also been very interesting and fun. As far as scenes go, I am playing Treplyov in the scene, where Treplyov brings Nina a dead seagull as a gift, and I’m playing Yasha in the beginning of act II of The Cherry Orchard. so far, we’ve only worked on my first scene. We will likely work on my second tomorrow. but wow, finally working on a scene was very refreshing. To have direction was very refreshing. We have done a lot of creative brainstorming throughout this program. It’s been really nice to just be told what to do for the first time in a while. Also, the way we’ve been working on our scenes has been so detail-oriented. Where we look, how we walk, what we were just doing before the scene, what are willing to do to get what we want, every little detail is something that Ilya has helped us discover within ourselves. for example, in the Seagull scene that I’m doing, my character just killed a seagull. If you were to shoot a seagull, it would likely fall into the water, which means my character likely dove into the water to get this seagull. So, Ilya had me pour water on my head, so I could be wet as if I had just gone after the seagull. Having this outer state help me find the correct inner state for my character. Ilya directs us in a way that is very his way is the right way, which I wouldn’t always like, but I do like it here because it’s so specific. I feel like after having this direction, I’ll be able to be more specific in my own work. When we’re in acting class, I can’t help but think of stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares. The acting teacher in this book would do something, such as here somebody walking to the door. Even though there was no one actually at the door, when the acting teacher did this, there was no question that there was somebody at the door. I had that experience today, when Ilya drank water, but when he drank this water, it was vodka. He was just doing this as a demonstration, but it’s stuck with me as how strong suspension of disbelief can be when an actor believes what they’re doing. I look forward to having more experiences in this class and relaying what I’m learning to all of you.

This was a pretty long post because I haven’t written here in a while. I intend to post more frequently so I won’t have such a word dump next time. If you read all the way through, thanks for taking the time to do it. I look forward to talking again about my experiences here.

PS the Skidmore master schedule came out, and I am trying to build my schedule right now, well not right now, but in this current span of time.