Last weekend my family was part of the theatrical celebration of the Russian Literature and Drama Studio (based in Newton, Mass). This is where American kids from Russian-speaking families come to study the difficult texts of Pushkin, Chekhov and Gogol and make great friendships along the way. According to the Studio Director Nina Goldmakher, theater is used as a tool that helps master the language and uncover unfamiliar cultural and social settings of the literary works.
A role is all but guaranteed to students, who have to jump through a few “study” hoops (think memorizing stanzas of “Eugene Onegin”) to be “admitted” to participate in a play (there is no formal audition, and the bigger roles are often shared by students to give more students a chance). Staging is done over the course of (quite intense!) 4-6 weeks, by the “adjunct” director Michael Redko, under the watchful eye of studio director and with the help of parents (and grandparents!), who make period costumes and transport the kids (from as far as Rhode Island) to the rehearsals.
And then the day comes when past and present students and their families, as well as community guests gather for a performance. And we rave about it like it was the best one yet (and it may just very well be the case!), although after 4 years and 8 performances I have seen I have yet to be disappointed. (Let me just tell you that I attend even the concerts where my son is not performing.) I can’t help it but follow the actors into whatever emotional territory they take me – I laugh and I cry and I rejoice and through it all I never stop being amazed at how talented and dedicated these kids (now young adults!) are.
The performance last weekend of 5th and 6th year students (8-11 grade public school students) featured Griboedov’s “The Woes of Wit” (“Горе от ума”) and Chekhov’s “The Bride” (“Невеста”) and “Jubilee” (“Юбилей”).
My son Den played Famusov (important society conservative and a father of a young heroine Sofia) in the1823 play “The Woes of Wit”.
To fully understand the pride (and sentiment) I felt seeing my son, fully in his element, as Famusov (holding his audience, getting big laughs and shouting out infamous catch phrases I still use) – you need to know the full story. Years ago this play became my own ticket to the big city life as it was the theme of my Moscow State University’s entrance essay. I had to appeal my initial grade and won! to eventually be admitted to this highly competitive school.
(And I just could not resist: here are the two actors 3 years ago in Pushkin’s “Lady into Lassie”, also playing father and daughter)
I am sure you can tell that I am a “little” biased towards the “Woes”. Here are more pictures from the piece.
I loved the “Woes” and the tender “Bride” but the exclamation point of the evening for me was “Jubilee”, a one-act comedy by Chekhov. Comic to the point of absurd, the play never got over the top due to the clever staging and some serious acting talent.
And if you have not yet checked out these concerts, you will have another chance this spring as a graduating studio class will perform its final show on June 21 in Needham Village Club.
(Follow me on Facebook for the information on June 21 concert).