Lydia in Moscow

Lydia, a junior President’s Scholar majoring in theatre studies in Meadows School of the Arts and Spanish in Dedman College, is spending fall 2010 in Moscow, where she is studying with the Moscow Art Theater.

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Quick, or not so quick rundown

Here’s a little rundown of the last two days:

Russian language – survival style: asking for change (Russians always want EXACT change, and get annoyed with you if you have too large of bills), asking where something is, like a metro stop or a store, and lots and lots of nouns so that you can point at things and say “eta,” which means “that.” Oh yeah baby, we’re getting real fluent. Actually, I really do want to be fluent. Russian is such a beautiful language. I can read pretty much all street signs now without taking too long to sound out the cyrillic, and I actually know what a lot of them mean. As far as forming sentences and grammar though, I still have a lot to learn.

Russian Movement – ummmmmm AMAZING. Do the words “my butt is going to get kicked in the best kind of way” go far enough? No, no they don’t, because this class, while very physically taxing, is all about knowing your body and teaching it to live in the sky. I have always wanted to fly, perhaps now is the time. I am sure more comments will come in this section in the future.

Lunch – again, Russian food is delicious, especially borshch, which is beet soup. I LOVE it. Yeah, go on friends, make fun of me and my weird food choices, but you just don’t know what you are missing! I love beets, and so do Russians. I am very thankful for the small, quaint cafeteria in MXT (Moscow Art Theater) where I can get a fantastic and filling lunch for somewhere in the range of 100 to 170 rubles (about 3 to 5 dollars).

Moscow is an incredibly expensive city, with some amazing restaurants (including this totally sketchy-looking but not actually sketchy poetry-slam like cafe that we descended into after 5 hours of walking around the city this past Sunday. That was an awesome day, let me tell you! We had a great time taking the metro to a random stop and finding our way back home through the center of the city, enjoying the parks and bridges and churches on the way). And given that there seem to be couples EVERYwhere on the streets lauding their togetherness over everyone else on the streets (which doesn’t really work since everybody else is paired up too), these restaurants would be lovely date nights-out. However, considering that I have neither boy nor money, I am quite content to learn a few new Russian words every day as I examine the menu in the little MXT cafeteria. Plus the food is really really good. And did I mention that it is cheap?

Acting – I told you about my last classes and how we have been working on etudes. Well, our recess one went so-so. We are learning from it. What did go very well was my next personal etude. I was a piece of gum! My teachers seemed pleased with the specificity with which I was able to execute a day in the life of a piece of chewed rubberiness, and truly it was a blast to do. I am learning with each day how essential specificity and detail are to the success of any character’s life onstage.

First show at MXT! – We saw a show called Ghosts written by an Italian man whose name I cannot remember. It was not Ibsen’s Ghosts. However, it was still quite fun, and quite funny, and after all it was my first show at THE Moscow Art Theater! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rehearsal – Every night we rehearse as a group the etude that we are going to do the next day (we have acting every day for 2 and a half hours)

Late night bedtime

Breakfast – oatmeal and a mango that was just ok (I miss having Mexican mangos for breakfast every morning, so I tried a Brazilian one that I bought from a street vendor on Sunday when we were wandering around the city. It was ok, as said prior).

30 minute walk to school – we walk every morning. I like practicing reading the signs in Cyrillic as I book past people – I get into my fast walk when I am in cities, as if I didn’t already walk fast enough … You can take the metro, which only costs about a dollar per swipe into the system (the entire metro is connected deep underground. You go down these huge escalators to get to the trains, and the stations themselves are gorgeous! When the government constructed them, Stalin insisted that they be beautiful because they were the transportation of the everyday worker, and since he was the most important member of society, he should be surrounded by beauty even when going to work).

Ballet – Can I just say that my ballet teacher is quite possibly the most important, absolute tippy tippy top former ballerina star of the fomer Soviet Union? What??? How awesome does this get??? She is in her 80s now, but quite amazingly in shape. She was a former member of the Bolshoy theater, and has performed on pretty much all of the most important stages in the world. Her name is Larisa and she likes to yell at us in Russian while smiling and laughing and saying her name over and over again. I love her. I already Love her.

Though I took three years of Jazz in high school, I have never taken a ballet class until today. My first ballet class was at the Moscow Art Theater and my teacher is one of Russia’s and the Bolshoy’s most honored ballerinas! Way too cool.

I also flew, which was awesome; we did partner lifts, and I am so so so so so lucky to have some very tall young men in my class. They have to lift the girls so that their arms are straight and we at least 5 feet off the ground! Talk about a workout, boys! All you boys out there who want to both work out and get the girls, just start lifting us. Two birds, one stone. I think that may have been the closest to flying I have ever come and I cannot wait to do it again. I only hope that I do not break the wrists of my partner as he tries desperately to keep me in the air! I am a rather tall ballerina …

Russian Language – today we learned a lot of different food nouns. And I was already hungry. And I have already talked about MXT cafeteria and how delicious it is, so moving on.

Acting – Today we did a group etude where we were mannequins in a store that party once the closer has left. Lesson from today: make sure that always, ALways, the characters’ actions are motivated. What is different about today that makes it a special occasion at every moment? What is new about the circumstances? Always be questioning what makes today different from yesterday or tomorrow, and what about today demands the particular actions that we as characters chose to commit. Behavior stems from necessity.

Walk home from school and the Praduktuiy – After our nice long walk in the cold (it was a bit nippier today), we went to the Russian grovery store where I bought all those delightful things that will be my breakfasts and dinners for the next week and a half (because for lunch I am going to eat at … come on, you know … ). Upon reaching the counter, I think I had so far successfully fooled everyone with my very limited Russian skills into thinking that I did indeed belong, that is until I could not find exact change in my wallet, and I could not understand what the woman wanted from me. Russians like exact change. EXACT. And if you don’t have it, they get very annoyed. They stare a lot, and you feel it in your gut, and then you have to find it in your wallet which takes time, and people in line want you to hurry it up, and finally you find the change and you give it to the staring lady and you bag your own food and you exit as quickly as possible. That’s pretty much how it goes. Yup. And then you have food, so you don’t die of starvation. But you do have to overcome the fear of the praduktuiy … it’s a process.

Rehearsal - as always. Tomorrow we are going to be bowling pins, and for my animal etude I am going to be a penguin. Ah the beauty of theater – I get to spend all day acting ridiculous and loving every minute of it.

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