Theatre: Semester 1 Week 11

Eleven weeks of theatre in Moscow isn’t enough to see everything, not even close, but we did try to offer our students a taste of what is happening at GITIS, with GITIS alumni and professors, and in Moscow.

Our last week of theatre we stayed close to home and saw some amazing  professional work that was all connected to GITIS in one way or another.

Thursday, May 30: КАФЕ БУТО`Н (Cafe Button)

Another exciting show directed by Oleg Glushkov full of expressive movement and featuring a chicken. Be sure to check out some great production photos here.

Friday, May 31: КАТЯ, СОНЯ, ПОЛЯ, ГАЛЯ, ВЕРА, ОЛЯ, ТАНЯ… (Katya, Sonya, Polya, Galya, Vera, Olya, Tanya…)

A very long title for a whirlwind of a show. Dmitry Krymov pushes boundaries in this amazing piece. You may not be able to yell fire in a theatre,  but he will be sure to come as close as he can. Follow the link about to read more about the show, see some reviews and some production photos.

Sunday, June 2: Marienbad

This show opened in 2005 as a diploma show for the GITIS class of 2006. It has been running ever since and with good reason. A story of love, loss and home, Marienbad pulls on your heartstrings without forgetting to tickle your funny bone too. Our Improv professor, Anastasia Imamova, is in the cast and invited us as her guests. It was such a treat to see the work that she herself did as a student and has continued for years since. Follow the link about to read more about the show, see some reviews and some production photos.



American Course: Semester 1 Week 11

Here we are at the end of the semester.

We finished our Acting and Directing course with seven classes with Vladimir Baicher. Baicher is the Dean of the Directing Department at GITIS and an expert in Michael Chekhov’s techniques.

Though our time with Baicher was short, we were able to dig into detailed principles quite a bit working with psychological gesture, energy, given circumstance and events. Baicher carefully balances lecture and physical practice to demonstrate each principle. Through exercises, improvs, etudes and scene work our students began to really dig deep into the layers of a character, their relationship with their environment and each other and the scene.

This week we finished all of our classes, took a look at how far we’ve come and said “until the Fall” to GITIS, our professors, our time here and each other. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us!

American Course: Semester 1 Week 10

Improv Week Two

We left off last week with our observations of people and creating their stories.

Moscow is home to just under 12 million people. That leaves quite a few interesting people to observe in many interesting situations. When you add a touch of imagination the possibilities are endless.

Each student was required to observe and tell the stories of three people. The story should explain how they got to this moment or why they seemed the way they seemed from the outside. From the three stories the story that was the most interesting or that the student was most connected to was chosen to be used to develop the character on stage.

Each student was assigned to find and bring a “detail” of this character to class for them to use as a prop or a costume piece in discovering this character. From here each student one by one found the way their character walked, talked, breathed and even what animal and object this character would be. Each character was interviewed by the class and required to answer in great detail. Each character also delivered a monologue about their thoughts, feelings, dreams and observation.

This project brought together character development and imagination with quick thinking and extreme attention to detail. Stretching beyond comfort levels to find each detail of the character was absolutely necessary. The results were incredible!

Theatre: Week 10

Here we are at the end of Week 10 in our 11 week course. Wow! I’m sure you can imagine that everyone is running around trying to see the shows that they’ve wanted to see for weeks before it’s time to end the semester. On top of that, people are inviting us to more shows than ever. We had six shows scheduled over the last five days and on top of that more shows students chose to see on their own. Obviously it was impossible for everyone to see everything. Often our group was parting ways to collectively see as much theatre as possible.

For the sake of simplicity, this week we’ll just highlight two particularly special shows for the group.

Monday, May 20: “Evgeny Onegin” at Vakhtangov Theatre

Evgeny Onegin is Pushkin’s most famous work. It has been brought to life on stage many times and in very many ways. This production at Vakhtangov Theatre, directed by Rimas Tuminas, is in its premiere. Tuminas is a very well known director and his work is very popular. Earlier in the semester our students saw his “Uncle Vanya.” After seeing “Uncle Vanya,” “Evgeny Onegin” jumped to the top of our student’s must see lists. Why? Tuminas has a way of taking a story his audience knows so well, stripping it to it’s bare bones and pulling out something fresh while managing to keep and highlight the author’s intention.

Wednesday, May 22: “Mayakovsky: Top Secret” at Plum Palm Theatre

Our biomechanics class with our professor Maria at her show “Mayakovsky: Top Secret.”

Plum Palm is a tiny theatre space. A room, that seems to serve as an art gallery by day, with a few lighting instruments and a few chairs for the audience. It’s a great reminder that theatre can happen anywhere. Most of our theatre experiences in Moscow are at the large state theatres. Thanks to the invitation by our Biomechanics professor and director of “Mayakovsky: Top Secret”, Maria Shmevich, we had the great chance to sit in an audience of less than twenty for an intimate and fresh theatre experience. The show was based on the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky and was rich with movement. Seeing this show was a great way for our students to see the work that they are doing with Maria in class on the stage and to understand how it can be used and how it can develop.

Student Life: “LIKE OMG HOW IS MOSCOW?!”

This week’s Student Life post comes from Daniel Barnes. Thanks Daniel for sharing your experience with us!


Upon arrival in Moscow, I was swarmed with questions, but the most popular one was definitely “OMG, what is Moscow like?!”  Okay, so I wasn’t exactly swarmed with questions, but this still counts.  I must say that Moscow isn’t exactly what I expected.  You might ask, “Daniel, what did you expect?”  To be honest, I think I thought it would be lots of smoke, lots of vodka, and lots of people telling me I need to learn Russian (in Russian).  So what is Moscow?  Lots of smoke, lots of vodka, and lots of people telling me I need to learn Russian…BUT it is so much more.  I know, I know I have only been living here for a short time, but I have done my best to expose myself to the city and culture, and I think that it is beautiful.  I (hope) can safely speak for our group and say that we thoroughly enjoyed our experience here, and a large part of that is due to how great the culture is here.

Daniel entering Red Square for the first time.


For starters, the city is beautiful.  What I find fascinating about European cities in general is the juxtaposition of centuries-old buildings and monuments with contemporary architecture.  Russia already has very unique historical architecture, but pair that with beautiful skyscrapers and the most gorgeous metro stations I have ever seen.  Seriously!  If it wasn’t TOTALLY ILLEGAL (or mostly illegal, as I found out today) I would snap some pictures of how beautiful these metro stations are.  The first time I went to Red Square and saw St. Basil’s cathedral, I was so pumped. I should probably remind you that I am THE ONLY ONE of the American group that hasn’t been to Moscow previously, so they were eager to see my reaction.  I was trying to be super cool (and you thought it came naturally), but I think my excitement beat that out.  It really is thrilling to see historical landmarks in person, even in America, but the beauty of the city is that as you look at the domes on the cathedral and walk the vast cobblestone plaza, you can also turn your head to the left and see a huge shopping mall and probably a McDonald’s (Makdonalds).
Trying to immerse oneself in foreign culture is also very difficult.  In America it is not uncommon to walk a city street and hear ten different languages.  However, anyone that has ever been to a foreign country, even for a split second, knows how difficult it can be to do the simplest of tasks without knowing the language.  Granted, our group is learning Russian like crazy, but there are still problems that occur almost daily.  It just happens.  Though, I think I can successfully buy toilet paper and apple juice comfortably now and tell the grumpy cashier, “No, I don’t actually want a new plastic bag today, thank you.”  Sometimes she even says goodbye.  Score!  I think we’re soul mates, really.  Truthfully, though, it gets easier to live here and immerse myself every day, and I’m truly grateful to have this experience.  I love it here!
Oh, PS, Moscow is eight hours ahead of the US (EST), so as I’m writing this, you’re probably enjoying a late lunch.  I hope you’re having some cabbage and buckwheat.  Maybe some pickles.
The author at 1:42.
До свидания!
Даниил, Данила, Даня
(There are about five million ways to say my name.)

American Course: Semester 1 Week 9


This week our students started a two week course in Improv. It’s not necessarily what you would see at your favorite comedy club or on tv. It’s not always funny, but it sure can be sometimes. This isn’t your average improv class. Of course, there are many principles that appear here, but this class is about the process of creating a character, an environment and telling a story in great detail from beginning to end.

Anastasia Imamova is taking our students on a two week journey that requires a free and alert mind and body to discover the world and to react to it. The work that is happening with Imamova is very different from any of our students’ previous training in the program. In other courses the focus has been much more analytical and focused on taking things slowly and with great control. Imamova asks that her students work quickly and impulsively. She asked that they do now and think about it later. And this doesn’t mean that the work should be sloppy, on the contrary, each action should be made in great detail.

Class this week has included impulsive reactions to words, changing a piece of paper into an object and telling a story and even becoming each other. Yes, that’s right, becoming each other. Our course is quite small with only six students. They spend all day every day together in class, at the theatre and at home. This week they had the chance to become one another on stage. Of course, everyone had a few laughs, but more importantly developed characters with great detail. These are people that observe each other every day in many situations. This is a great tool for becoming aware of the complexities of a character.

From here Imamova sent everyone out in the world to observe three people and tell their story (or what could be their story) in great detail. Next week we will begin to develop these characters on stage. Be sure to check back to find out where this exercise takes us!

Student Life: Cultural Excursion to Yaroslavl

Where the Volga and Kotorosl Rivers meet.

A huge part of being an international student are the cultural experiences outside the classroom. As part of our program this semester we offered students to take an optional weekend excursion to Yaroslavl.

Yaroslavl is located about 250 km north-east of Moscow where the Kotorosl and Volga Rivers meet. The city was founded in 1010 and is now one of the largest cities on the Volga with a population of about 600,000. It’s a beautiful relaxing town full of history with plenty to see and do.

Volkov Theatre

We arrived by train on Friday night and were greeted by our host family with open arms. Anton, who was our guide for most of the weekend took us on a small tour by car as soon as we arrived before taking everyone to their homes for the weekend. The girls stayed with Anton’s mother-in-law, Lyuba and her son Vlad in their apartment. Our one boy who went on the trip stayed with Anton, his wife Tanya, and their two year old daughter. After a late supper and plenty of conversation (in a creative mix of Russian and English) everyone was off to bed to rest up for sightseeing the next day.Saturday started with a wonderful traditional Russian breakfast before walking tour of Yaroslavl lead by Tanya and Anton. The first stop was the oldest theatre in Russia! The building was closed so we couldn’t see inside. There were no plays playing that evening so we went over to the symphony to see what was happening there. As luck would have it,  there was a concert that night and instead of being held in the concert hall it was being held in the Volkov Theatre. We bought tickets knowing only two things: the concert was in the theatre and the symphony was playing Rachmaninov.

Daniel, Greer, Jacqueline and Eliana with our hostess and guide Tanya (center) in front of Успенский собор

And on we went with our day visiting parks, churches, and markets. We went to the Yaroslavl History Museum and to the Medical History Museum and took a boat tour down the Volga River. We had dinner at one of Tanya and Anton’s favorite restaurants and all rushed home to change to go to the concert.We walked into the theatre and it was clear that tonight was a special night. People were even more dressed up than usual and there was a special chatter in the air. When we went inside we learned that the concert was indeed very special. It was part of the Moscow Easter Festival and was being performed by the Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra and Choir conducted by Valery Gergiev. This was much more than we had expected! Everyone was so excited especially because it was impossible for students to get tickets for the concerts in Moscow! After the concert we all had tea and cookies at Lyuba’s apartment and visited with each other.

Sunday was filled with more adventure! We started again with a great Russian breakfast before Anton and Vlad took us to the Space Museum. The museum is very new (built for Yaroslavl’s 1,000 anniversary in 2010). Yaroslavl is the home of the first Russian female cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, and a lot of the museum was dedicated to her career. After the museum we continued our walking tour from the day before seeing more of Yaroslavl by foot.

Spaco-Preobrazhensky Monastery

Our tour took us to Спасо-Преображенский монастырь (Transfiguration of the Savior Monastery) which was founded in the 12th century (as more of a fort than a place of worship) and are the oldest buildings in Yaroslavl. The top of the belfry there is also the best place to get a view of the city. We continued through more beautiful parks, over historical bridges and down the banks of the river to the eternal flame and then on to dinner. After dinner we all went back to the space museum to see a film at the planetarium. Our last hour in Yaroslavl before we caught the train back was spent with our wonderful host family laughing and talking and drinking champaign to celebrate our weekend together.

See more about the trip and what we are doing here from a student’s point of view on Eliana’s blog! 

Theatre: Weeks 8 and 9

Now that everyone has been here for two months there is a greater sense of independence. These last two weeks we only scheduled one show a week instead of our three show average. Why? There are many reasons. The academic schedule was busy, the beginning of May in Moscow is busy, we were also planning a cultural excursion (stay tuned for that blog post), and most importantly, students were choosing shows themselves and going on their own. It’s important to have time to do that. The end of May is going to be very very full of performances to see so there won’t be a chance then for students to go out on there on to the shows that they choose. You may remember from a previous post that we often have invitations to shows. We already have many for the next few weeks, but I am sure a few more will come up. There are so  many things to see before the semester ends in two weeks.

So, how do our students go to the theatre alone? Every student in Moscow has special documentation (equivalent to the American Student ID) that identifies them as a current student at their school. The card also gives students discounts in the metro, some restaurants, some museums, etc. For a theatre student, this card means that almost any theatre in Moscow will admit you into performances for free. There may not be a seat for you if they are sold out, but you can see the show from the back or from the steps. With most theatres running their shows in repertory that gives students hundreds (if not thousands) of choices of shows to see. This is a dream come true for any theatre student!

This brings us to our two theatre picks for the last two weeks:

Week 8: Волшебная Флейта (The Magic Flute) at The Musical Theatre named for Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko

Mozart’s opera is brought to life in this modern staging. The director took the freedom to change the characters a bit, do some editing and place them in a different setting. Small scenes in Russian were also added in between the German libretto. The movement and usage of space was very fresh and unique to the show. To give you a sense of what we saw the production photos are linked to the Week 8 heading. Enjoy!

 Week 9: Мастер и Маргарита (The Master and Margarita) at The Moscow Art Theatre

May 15 was Mikhail Bulgakov’s birthday. Conveniently, it was also the day that we had tickets for the Moscow Art Theatre’s production of The Master and Margarita. What a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the author’s birth.

The Moscow Art Theatre (MXT) is undoubtably Russia’s most famous theatre. Their productions are huge. The events of Bulgakov’s book are also huge (*spoilers*): a beheading, lots of black magic, a flying woman, a talking cat, disappearing people and more. How could it all be done on stage? MXT found a way. Like the book the show was daring, bold and rhythmic, bringing  a shock to the audience just when they were beginning to feel comfortable. Be sure to click the link to production photos in the Week 9 title!

Next week we have assigned shows almost every day of the week! Be sure to check back!



American Course: Week 8


This week was the busiest, and arguably the most exciting, week yet. A lot happened around here, but this post is dedicated completely to one project. Mikhail Chumachenko has a great project that he does with all of his first year directing students and he chose to work on this project with our course: Paintings.

Each student chooses a painting. The painting must have more than one person and less than the number of people in the class in it. Each student creates a story for his/her painting, does extensive research on the work of art, artist, point in history and place the painting was made/represents, etc. The story that is created is rehearsed and the final moment of the etude must be just like the painting.

Through many classes ideas were developed and thrown out, rehearsals were had, props were made, direction and priceless feedback was given and a lot of work was done. Finally, we got to a point we never thought we would reach. Chumachenko asked for our students to put together a performance day of all seven pieces. Together, props were prepared and scenery and costumes were created from what each student had brought in their suitcases. Everyone tried to get in one final rehearsal before the presentation day, which was difficult since the average student was involved in five out of seven pieces. It was impossible to have multiple rehearsals at once.

The most amazing part of it all was the way this small class of students came together and did have seven presentations ready for the next day. The order was decided and every one worked together to set up scene after scene so that there was plenty of time for each presentation and feedback at the end of it all.

Today we are happy to share with you some notes, snapshots and points of interest from parts of the process.

“Mr. Happy” by Mark Chagall

Director: Iosif M. Gershteyn

By choosing to work with this painting Iosif faced a very difficult task: how to make someone fly to recreate this image.

First he created a story about the painting which he called “Miriam.” You can read it here on his blog. He chose to leave the classroom and stage his painting outside in a nearby playground where his actors could use the playground equipment as the set, creating a solution to the task of having an actor take flight.


“Large Interior W11 (after Wateau)” by Lucian Freud

Director: Emily Larson

Lucian Freud painted in very long sessions. Almost no one would sit for him except his close friends and family, usually his children. He is famous for the melancholy looks on the faces of his subjects.

From this painting Emily created a story of children craving the attention of a father they rarely see. They have prepared a little show for his visit. Their mother enters, mid-rehearsal, and announces that he will not come. In this moment the happiness and energy that they have melts into the position of this painting.

“Five O’Clock Tea” by Mary Cassatt

Director: Vasya Veltsista

Mary Cassatt actually painted this painting for herself after she had retired. There is always something very delicate about the work that an artist does for herself. There must be a lot of truth in it.

Vasya’s exploration of this painting focused on the relationship of these women and the discomfort that can come from the truth that we hold inside.

“Untitled” by Marysole Worner Baz

Project Title: “Many Happy Returns”

Director: Eliana SigelEpstein

In the story that Eliana created from this painting death is knocking on the door, but has only come to call on the man in this couple. Death comes in the form of their son who died years ago. In the middle of a day just like any other day in their very long marriage something extraordinary happened. The man answered the door and saw his son’s face again.



He also understood that it was time to join him. His wife, in the final moment, doesn’t want her husband to go alone. She wants to go too.

The subject matter is very difficult. It’s extraordinary to see death. To direct and to play in this surreal situation at

the end of a long life and a long marriage in your twenties is something very huge to grasp.


“Chop Suey” by Edward Hopper

Director: Greer Gerni

“Hopper painted this painting in 1929 in New York City, Greenwich Village to be exact. That was a big year. The 1920’s brought a lot of changes for the artist, his neighborhood, art, culture, politics, the nation and the world.

 Before doing research on the painting itself my head swarmed with crazy possibilities for the situation in this painting. After doing my research I realized that the circumstances of the world Hopper was painting was far more exciting than anything I could dream up. I stripped away most of my crazy plot and focused on light, sound, and atmosphere in a simple exchange between the two women in the foreground.Hopper often paints very isolated people in public places, or rather busy places full of lonely people. My aim in this project was to create a feeling of excitement and comfort and then to take it all away leaving a restaurant full of people who feel completely alone.This project was extremely useful for me from inspiration, to research, to rehearsals, to the final presentation. Directing students were required to act and Acting students were required to direct. Everyone was working on an average of five of the seven projects. We were constantly bringing things from other rehearsals into our own to create something new.” -Greer Gerni


“L’Absinthe” by Edgar Degas

Director: Daniel Barnes

“Directing projects have always been very interesting to me.  I find it very difficult, but it helps me learn as an actor as well.

The painting project provided a strong structure, but allowed for a lot of freedom within that structure.  This process helped me to better understand the importance of knowing a piece inside and out, and being able to answer any question that might arise within that process.  When I searched for “impressionist paintings” online, I expected to find Degas, but not this specific one.  I actually thought it was Manet at first.  However, it was the story I could find inside the painting and what I could do with said story that drove me to choose it.  With two weeks I was, with my three actors, able to create something small, yet great for a starting point.  It is helpful to see all sides of artistic processes, and this specific assignment did well in helping me see those sides.” – Daniel Barnes


“The Tryst” by Jean-Leon Gerome

Director: Jaqueline Vouga

GITIS may be the oldest and largest theatre school in Russia, but they still don’t keep a camel in the props closet.

Jacqueline chose this set of two paintings “The Tryst (Interior and Exterior) to use to build her story. She didn’t have a camel to ride in on for this man to see this girl through the high window (maybe to steal a kiss), but she did have actors, some twine, some paper and a lot of scarves.

Instead of a man on a camel her story was about a man disguised as a camel (because, of course, that was the only way he could come near his lady’s house) and his female cousin who was daring enough to dress as a man, ride on the back of her “camel cousin” to deliver a message to the girl about when they could next meet.
“This was my favorite project so far. I was delighted that we were able to work on the project “the Russian way.” We worked in class, did our research, had our rehearsals, got feedback, did more research and more rehearsing and finished with a real presentation day. We set an order, made a program, set up scenery, props and costumes (from what we had) and presented everything together like a show. After all seven presentations we discussed everyone’s work.” – Jacqueline Vouga



All paintings are linked to sources.

Theatre: Weeks 6 and 7

Something really great about the community at GITIS is that someone is always inviting our entire group to shows that they have worked on, have friends who are working on them, or just really enjoyed. This happens on the student and professional level. We are invited by other students, by faculty members, by teaching artists and by administrators. Sometimes the invitation comes with a lot of notice and sometimes with none at all. Sometimes we have tickets to multiple shows in one night. This is a wonderful problem to have.

Week 6:

April 22: Woo Zoo

This week was a week of theatre invitations. First, Oleg Glushkov invited us to see a show that he had directed and choreographed for Fourth Year Directing Department students at GITIS. This is a devised work that Glushkov made with the students. Like his classes and his other work it is movement based. Each piece took very simple occurrences (the wind blowing, the sun shining, speech patterns, putting on a record, turning on a tv, etc.) and made them interesting enough to engage an audience for 90 minutes. Glushkov is constantly reminding students that it doesn’t matter what you do on stage, just how you do it. This show was a great study of that concept.

April 27: What’s the Buzz?

We finished out Week 6 of theatre going with an invitation to see a show only minutes before the performance started. Everyone was already at the theatre having a meeting with Krymov and Garkalin about next semesters course (we accomplished a lot in the meeting and everyone is looking forward to diving right in to an intense semester with them in the fall). During the meeting tickets arrived for us to the show that would be starting five minutes after our meeting ended. Since we were in an office backstage, it was very easy to agree to the short notice and step right on in to the audience minutes later.

The show was titled “What’s the Buzz?” It is a concert of music that GITIS students put together. The students requested our attendance and GITIS administration reserved seats in the second row center for us. This isn’t always the case, of course, but it’s an example of the excitement that the students have about their work.

This concert was divided into two parts. The first was a series of traditional Russian Folk music. The second was a medley of songs from Jesus Christ Super Star. It wasn’t really clear to any of us how these two pieces fit together in one concert, but it was clear that this was all music that these students wanted to work on and they did and they really committed to their work. It was an honor to be their guests.

Week 7:

Both of this week’s shows are directed by Dmitry Krymov who our students will be studying directing with for the Fall 2013 semester.

April 30: Демон (Demon)


Demon is loosely based on Pushkin’s poem of the same name. The subtitle of the play translates to “The View from Above.” The performance takes place in a cylindrical tower where the audience sits in the round on three stories. The action takes place one floor below the “first row.” Because everything happens below the audience the floor is the only scenery they can see. The floor is made of paper and plastic and is constantly being transformed by the actors by ripping, painting and adding elements to it to tell their story.

We could try to describe what we saw, but a picture is worth a thousand words and there as some wonderful production photos on the Krymov Lab website!



May 2: Opus No. 7

Opus No. 7

This is one of Krymov’s most popular productions. It is divided into two parts. The first is called “Genealogy” and the second “Shostakovich.” “Genealogy” is a reflection on and an artistic interpretation of the holocaust unlike anything imaginable. “Shostakovich” is the tale  of the late composer, his life, his relationship with the Soviet Union and his art. The show is constantly pulling the audiences through a huge array of emotions using scenery, music, and even giant puppets to take us through two very huge stories in one evening of theatre.

See a glimpse of what we saw for yourself!