Day 8 – Two Show Day.
Today is the day.
The day of truth.
I pack for our adventures. Workout clothes for tech from 10 – 12 pm. Then a show for the press at 2pm. More dry workout clothes. Then a break and then another show at 7 pm. And a change of clothes for a reception after the show. Yellow dress? Red dress? Red dress.
I sling my bags over my shoulder, throw on my headphones and walk to the theater.
We do a dance call on stage and walk through transitions. I feel keenly aware that the staff and crew are seeing all of these shenanigans of the show out of context. In my mind there is a secret fantasy where we could clear the house and have a private tech for just us. As if we were doing a nude scene in a movie. However that would make it difficult to run the timing of the supertitles that need to match our lines.
At the break there is really only time to peel off sweaty clothes, try to dry under humid conditions, figure out how to prop the dressing room window open without opening the blind that separates us from the walkway to the stage door and eat a protein bar.
Focus is the name of the game.
I give myself extra time for my ritual back stage.
I can feel myself start to stiffen and auto-pilot waits in the wings.
Too much work has been done for auto-pilot to steal what is waiting.
Luckily this isn’t about me. It’s about Masha and her experience. It is about the show and telling the story.
Just touch one person’s heart.
Yes, it is a house filled with critics. They will either love you or they won’t, but all we can do is do what we came here to do.
We gather in the wings for our pre-show ritual.
No feathers. No fluff.
The pre-show announcement comes on and there is silence.
The lights go down, and we start the show.
We get through the opening dance.
It becomes abundantly clear to me in those first few moments that the only thing we can do is to do it for us. And hang on to each other for dear life because right now that’s all we got. Each other and this story.
The house is about three-quarters filled and it is all press.
We get to our next big song and dance and there is silence.
As we move forward and just do our thing, we start to hear a few chuckles sprinkled through the house. They seem to escape before they too can be silenced.
We finish the show and are met with moderate applause. Applause that says you aren’t the worst thing we have ever seen, and I’m not sure how I feel about your interpretation of Chekhov, but we appreciate the effort and can see that you worked really hard.
Well, at least we got that under our belt.
I change into dry clothes and walk out to rain. A downpour.
I skip past puddles to the sushi restaurant. Yes, again. I have a seaweed salad and brown rice. Just needed a little comfort food.
A deluge of rain continues and the sidewalk gutters overflow. There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in the stride of the people walking on the street.
And then before I know it, my food is gone and so is the rain and I feel recharged.
I go down the street to a little market I’d discovered that has Coke Zero. I grab one and peruse the Russian candies. I choose a bag of chocolates that looks like dark chocolate filled with marshmallow and another bag of chocolates that I have no idea what they are but they have this amazing picture of a baby with a Babushka scarf that is so adorable I want to eat it.
When I get back to the theater I give the security guards chocolates and they look at me as if I am trying to bribe them. I am.
Kendra is pumping in the dressing room.
We decide that trying the candies are our only salvation.
The dark chocolate marshmallow ones are actually not marshmallow at all. It is more like a marzipan except that it is so super sugary it crunches.
The cute tiny baby candy is however the most delicious thing in the world. It is like a chocolate wafer covered in a cross between milk and dark chocolate with maybe a little caramel. Good lord it is amazing. I hand the rest of my piece back to Kendra and instruct her that I am only allowed to have a single bite of that no more than once a day no matter how I try to negotiate with her.
As the rest of the crew returns we dry off, regroup and prepare for our show. The best thing about a two-show day is that by the second show you are already spent and any obstacle that was in the way has been removed. The second wind of a second show when you already gave your all carries the gift of not caring what anybody else thinks. And balls to the wall, let’s do this thing.
I give myself extra time to stretch and warm-up. My show shoes are so worn out (I really should have replaced them before this trip but I am superstitious and couldn’t find the exact same pair) that I put gel sole inserts into them which makes the shoes a little tighter and will have to be removed for this second show for the following reasons:
My feet are swollen and I need the extra space.
My plantar fasciitis is aggravated and the gel inserts have been changing the arch of my foot.
The bones in my feet feel like they have been bound and there is no escaping it so let’s just get back to the way Masha feels in the shoes as is.
We join up for our pre-show ritual.
We decide to do the show for Moscow. The city of Moscow. For the people of Moscow. This is for them.
Hey, it’s already looking up.
We do the dance and move through the beginning of the show. I can feel they are with us even though maybe they don’t know what to make of the show yet. It is as if I can feel their apprehension. It occurs to me that they need to know we are going to take care of them. That we are going to take care of this play. They are recognizing the chart of the story. They are seeing that Chekhov’s Three Sisters is in our birthday cake song and dance. By the time we get to the transition from the first to the second act, which is a tango with furniture, and then we become the band, they can see that we are following the play. They see their Three Sisters in our Track 3, and it’s as if they can finally settle down into the play. Collectively. At the beginning of the second act. And from there we can hear their audible responses to the play. Sighs, laughter, recognition, oh’s and Da’s. They are getting everything. Every little nuance.
At the end of the Second Act, Irina has a speech describing Moscow, and they broke out in delight. The acknowledgement of their city, their brutal history, their sophisticated culture. There were little bursts of Russian clapping.
We have a line in the Third Act when the fire has happened.
Tuzenbach says: In 1812 Moscow was on fire. Man, weren’t the French surprised.
And they laughed.
No one has ever laughed on that line.
Because it isn’t funny unless you understand that the Russians set Moscow on fire so it wouldn’t be taken by Napoleon in 1812.
Come the end of the play, we were received with Russian clapping and flowers, and we went off and came back amid a partial ovation.
After the show we gather in the lobby, and Eugenia and Alice and Vladimir are there to walk us to the Festival headquarters where our reception will take place.
There is a fresh breeze blowing out the rest of the rain. The air is crisp in its cleanness. As we all meander along these Moscow streets and I take in the buildings and the street lamps and the clouds that I can see moving across the sky, a silence falls over me. Everything seems to fall away for a moment.
A moment where I can feel my feet beneath me. Not the pain from before just the aliveness of my steps. I can feel my legs as they carry me, my hips as they sway, my core as it balances me, my shoulders tall and proud. I can feel every cell of my being awake and present to the voice that whispers in my ear.
This is what living the dream is.
This is what it feels like.
This is what it tastes like.
This is what it smells like.
It is not a destination.
It is this here now.
Remember this moment. Memorize where it lives in you.
You can call upon it again when nothing seems to go your way.
And those moments are living the dream too.
This is where it lives.
It lives in you.
When we arrive at the headquarters we go down into the basement and into a red room with white Rococo wainscoating and these candelabra sconces that look like they are melting down the wall. There is a beautiful table filled with fresh veggies and breads and meats and cheeses and fruits and wine and vodka.
The festival director gives a speech. It goes a little something like this.
In Russia, there are only two kinds of theatre. Drama and entertainment.
(The space between the two is elaborated with very deliberate hand gestures putting entertainment on the right side and Russian Drama all the way on the left side-also illustrating that there is nothing in between.)
There is Russian Drama and entertainment.
We expected you to bring us entertainment. And you brought us Drama. Russian Drama.
Well, okay. Thank you for that. Again I am crying.
Then more speeches and more tears.
Then Richard gets up for a speech.
With the eloquence of a writer he is able to express the depth of gratitude that is felt for the work that has gone into making this dream come true for all of us and now everyone is crying because he is crying.
It is a proud moment.
Even prouder as we discover that this room that we are in was originally a printing shop. Anton Chekhov used to sit in the corner that I am seated in when he was still a doctor and he would write his short stories which later were printed in this same room. The room where we celebrate now was the beginnings of what led to his beautiful work and eventually to The Three Sisters and now to us retelling his story.
In some way, I feel as if we have come full circle back to where it literally began.