St. Petersburg arrival. It is now Tuesday night.
Because you lose a day with the time difference. It’s okay, you get the day it back when you come home.
As we drive toward St. Petersburg it is unclear how long it will take us to get to the hotel.
We pass large industrial plants. Large apartment building complexes. Extensive complexes of housing. And everything is green. Tree lined streets and streets lined with trees in the middle with trains running through the center.
There are swarms of people walking everywhere. Apparently, outside of the city there are very specific spots where the transportation stops. And then you will see people just walking the rest of the way from wherever that stop was. There are paths worn into the grass in every direction. Everyone heading somewhere.
As we near the city, traffic crawls to a stop.
St. Petersburg’s traffic is terrible. I am now beginning to understand why the driver wouldn’t give us an ETA on arrival. From that spot it takes over an hour to get across St. Petersburg to the other side of the river where we are staying.
St. Petersburg has over 600 bridges. The canals are all manmade and it is surrounded by islands and rivers. It is spectacular and old. And there is a monument to history around every corner. A city of palaces. It feels a little lost in time but only from my eyes-it doesn’t feel in conflict with itself at all.
Apparently, Peter the Great was really excited by the French and German stylings so he hired all of the best architects and engineers in Europe to plan out and build St. Petersburg to be the country’s capital. You can see it and feel it in the city’s feng shui. Walls of city blocks that go on and on in a perfect line, until the line is interrupted with something that was a mistake and they didn’t want to correct Peter the Great or something was added on as the city expanded.
Once we arrive at the hotel, there is a camera crew waiting for us. Yes, I have lipgloss handy for this moment exactly.
Yes, liquid eyeliner was definitely the right choice. And yes, eye drops, you are my best friend.
Lights on. They film us unloading our luggage. And I have mentioned before how extensive this process is. It seems a little strange until I can see that they are filming Aaron’s bare feet. They interview our director Tina while Richard checks us into the hotel. Then they want to interview the 3 sisters, but we only have 2 sisters cause 1 sister stayed behind to wait for a lost piece of luggage and is coming after its retrieval.
Okay the Russian man interviewing us would settle for Masha and Vershinin.
Alright Doerr – let’s tag team this thing.
I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve been interviewed in a different language. Vera, our host from the American Consulate, whom we’ve just met upon arrival, translates the questions for us.
Do I feel like I might be a little bit Russian after doing this play?
Da. Da, da, da. Yes. Yes, yes, yes I do.
Do I understand how important the heart of Masha and Vershinin is? That it is the heart of the people represented in these characters?
Yes. Then I’m sure I say something amazing (my secret internal communication was this: Yes, I treasure how revered and known this is and I promise that I will take the greatest of care with the hearts of the Russian people and the iconography of Masha and Vershinin and all that they represent.)
Then – hey we knew it was coming – the question is something to the effect of this:
I watched your trailer and there was a lot of movement and dancing and song and was this intentional or just some student approach to find a new way into the work to make it seem like a re-creation. Was this on purpose?
To which I answer:
Yes, absolutely everything in the play is intentional and on purpose and I think you will find that it is a distillation of the play, rather than an outside the box for no reason but provocation exercise.
He proceeds with:
Well, I mean you are from LA not New York so…
I refrained from my speech about how vibrant Los Angeles theater is and how we have so many incredibly talented people there.
Da. Yes, we are from Los Angeles.
Doerr handles his questions with ease and grace and we have a high five.
I feel pretty proud of myself for not launching into my speech about Los Angeles theater – any restraint at all, being this punchy, is a win. I mention this to Tina, since they are such a crucial part of this vibrancy. Tina, however has lived in Russia and studied at the Moscow Arts Theatre and provides a different perspective.
Yes, but this is Russia. They have a different relationship to theater. You can’t really understand it until you’ve experienced it. It is an actual relationship.
Speechifying silenced. I look forward to the experience I will get to have and I say thank you.
The elevator is tiny. Breakfast is until 10 am.
There is a step up into not only our rooms but through every doorway. It takes a minute to get adjusted as to not trip over. I remember it being the same in China – something about not being sued all the time and different regulations. The step up into the room reminds me of a cabin on a boat. There is a large, tall French window, two twin beds, a desk and a fridge. Plenty large enough for Kendra and I to room – we’ve certainly had smaller.
She is my roomie on most of the tours and I am grateful for her friendship. She has just left her 6-month old baby boy for the first time and she is on the floor in the doorway of the bathroom with her iPad.
Do you want me to come back? I ask.
No, I’m going to FaceTime with Doug and the baby just for a minute.
She squeals with joy as they answer and then promptly bursts into tears.
She wraps the call up early. I give her a giant hug. We both cry. I can’t think of a harder thing to do than what she is doing. I tell her how proud I am of her. I make a joke about how it can only get better from here and she won’t ever have to do that again for the first time. Now laughing and crying and a fair amount of snot.
We plug in our plug converters and she sets up her breast pump.
This becomes our joke – the thing she says to me each time she has to pump.
I text Jeff letting him know I’ve arrived safe and sound and realize I am ravenous.
It seemed ridiculous to even me that I chose to bring food from Trader Joe’s and my Nutri-bullet and powdered goat’s milk so I could make smoothies with my protein powder. I even took cute pants out of my suitcase because the Nutri-bullet is surprisingly heavy. It is also at that moment that I realized my plug converter is only a plug converter for my Apple items. Another great reason Kendra is my roomie because she has brought an entire surge protected station.
Lucky you indeed!
But I will tell you I was happy as can be when instead of having to go find food I was able to pour some granola into a coffee cup, make a batch of milk from powder and nosh with a coffee stirrer.
It is midnight. The white nights are upon us and it is only dusk outside. As dark as it gets? I am very grateful for my eye mask and this twin sized bed.
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