15 June 2006


This is primarily for my theatre-friends, but that rest of you are welcome to eavesdrop.

Here in St. Petersburg, I have *one* theatre-friend. My other theatre-friends will understand, perhaps, how important it is to have at least one kindred artistic spirit nearby. Alosha and I talk theatre, swap cd's, sing in the middle of sentences, praise Sondheim, argue for and against various performances and agonize over our general lack of theatre in St. P. Yes, we have ballet, opera, and symphonies, but there is a distinct lack of musical theatre.

There is something in me that CRAVES theatre--musical theatre, Shakespeare, comedies, dramas... I need it. I'm not fully me without it. Alosha is a great playmate who will brave the musical theatre scene in Russia with me. We went to see Cabaret earlier this year. It was a pretty dismal performance, but just being in a THEATRE was great. Besides--we had a great time tearing the show apart. (We did like one of the actors--we're not heartless.)

Alosha is going back to Minsk tomorrow. [Goodbye kindred theatre friend! I'll be on my own again. (Yes, I did sing "On My Own" as I typed that.)] We went to see one last show tonight. It was called "Julia" but was only loosely based on the movie by the same name. While not everyone in the show was good, I had a ball! (Come on theatre friends--you know critiquing the bad parts of a show can be almost as fun as being transported by the good ones. It is fun talk over why it's bad and how you'd do it differently. This wasn't a bad show...it just had some weak spots. Perfect.) I understood the plot --and even explained it to Alosha in parts. (No, I'm not speaking Russian yet. I just speak musical theatre.) One of the actresses in particular, Valentina Panena, was SO good! Her comic timing was amazing. I understood everything she did, laughed at her jokes, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Alosha has seen her before and said she was just as good then.

After the show, I decided we should go and meet her. I thought I was a perfect intro--he could tell her that his American friend who speaks no Russian understood everything she did and thought she was excellent. Alosha took a little convincing regarding the brilliance of my plan. Approaching an actor, apparently, is just not done. I told him I would be thrilled if someone stopped me after a show and told me that they adored my performance even thought they only spoke Russian. Finally overcoming his reticence, he asked a soundman if we could meet her--using the Amerikanski padrooga angle. The soundman immediately took us backstage--and left us in the middle of a dressing area! Other actors were there removing clothes & make-up...but since they weren't all good and we didn't want to speak to THEM, we felt a little weird. After waiting a few minutes, we decided to wait outside the dressing room.

Our hopes were dashed when a grumpy usher (woman aged 50ish) was there, too. She was not pleased to see us exiting the dressing room. Alosha quickly charmed her (he's good at that) and conveyed our story. She said Valentina wouldn't come out that way (and she obviously wasn't letting us back in) but she'd tell her our story. Alosha was resigned. I, however, felt responsible for us leaving the dressing area and having him miss the chance to talk to her. So, in true kateish fashion, I decided we could find another way.

Alosha refused to ask the cashier or anyone where the stage door was, so I started exploring. He was back to being unconvinced regarding plan brilliance, so I told him he could go home but I was going to find the door. He asked what I'd tell her (strong implication that my lack of Russian would make this impossible). I said I'd tell her "Excellent, excellent. Thank you." He tagged along.

Soon we found the stage door--with a bench outside it! It can't be THAT "not done" if there's a bench.

Valentina came out and Alosha jumped up and greeted her. She was SO nice!! And, I did tell her, "Ehtleechna, Ehtleechna. Spacebo bolshoi." as planned. She gave me her phone number and invited me to see other shows she is in. She's working with three different theatre companies right now. She told Alosha that no one had been able to do that in Soviet times. An actor had to be attached to a theatre company. (This is still the case in Belarus, says Alosha.) Now, she can do whatever project moves her. She said we can get together and she will speak English and I will speak Russian and we will learn together.

I believe in magic. There's a special light between day and twilight that's pink and still and full of magic. There is an energy when a play comes together perfectly and is shared between actors and with the audience that is palpable. There's a simple joy that comes from creating. There's a peace that settles on my classroom when everyone is busy and happy. These are all magic to me; as magical as fairy rings and wishes on stars.

Tonight was filled with magic.

I just felt full of ME as I walked home over the bridge. I was lighter, sparklier, skippier and more...awake, more content, more me. That is magical, too.


Curious Servant said...

Thanks for giving me permission to eaves drop.

It has been a while since I have visited. Glad things are well with you.

Anonymous said...

LOVED your "meet the actress" story on your blog. I was totally laughing about your bewildered friend, and could perfectly imagine him shaking his head, sighing and tagging along after you. Will start praying that God brings another theater friend into your life...