Flight to St. Petersburg - It's finally here! Bucket-list-dream-come-true day!
We, the cast and crew of Track 3, Theatre Movement Bazaar's modernization of Anton Chekhov's “Three Sisters”, are flying to Russia as the first American company invited to participate in the International Chekhov Festival in Moscow.
The Three Sisters finally get to go to Moscow. If you are not familiar with this play-I hope you will be inspired to read it.
It will be me as Masha; Kendra Chell as my older sister/spinster Olga; Caitlyn Conlin as my younger sister Irina; Mark Skeens as my squandering brother Andrei; Elizabeth Ellson as Andrei's cheating wife Natasha; Mark Doerr as my lover Vershinin; Jesse Myers as Tuzenbach, Irina's intended; David LM MacIntyre as Solyony, not Irina's intended, but will stop at nothing until he is.
Then the masterminds:
Tina Kronis is our savant director/choreographer and her husband Richard Alger is our savant writer/technical master/everything else.
And last but not least, Loretta, Mark Doerr's wife, and Aaron Francis, our stage manager who never wears shoes.
Tina and Richard are the brains and bones of Theatre Movement Bazaar. This is my 3rd tour with them and with this cast - with the exception of Elizabeth Ellison, who is fresh to us.
I never like saying goodbye to my gorgeous husband Jeff Gardner. I don't do it often. By choice. And today was no different. My husband dropped me at the fly away. We hugged as we waited for the rest of the group to show up. I slipped him a card I'd written. We kissed and said goodbye. Only 2 weeks. I wish I could see his face tonight when he finds the card I snuck onto his pillow. And the one I hid in the fridge. Might be a couple of days til he gets to the napkin that I buried at least 7 deep that says - never mind, that's private.
The first bus is full so we have to wait for the next one a half hour later. Cutting it a little closer than any of us would like. I make a point of chatting with our skycap Emmett.
It is 2:20 when we get to LAX. Our flight leaves at 4:05! Elizabeth and Aaron have been standing in line for 40 minutes already -a line that is still 50 deep in front and behind them. I finagled my way to the front of the business class line and asked if they can help us since we are such a large group with so much luggage. You see we are going to perform in Russia and it is imperative that we get on that plane.
What most people don't understand is the extent of the luggage necessary when touring. The props, the costumes, the shoes - everything needed to take the show on the road. Gaff tape, glow tape, back ups of what is going to break in the trunks during transit that you won't find out about until you are at the theater and can't get a replacement. You get your one personal bag and then you check a show bag and when there are 13 of you plus a bag each that's 26 bags.
We are an extensive sprawling motley crew taking up entire aisles.
This is when I meet our producer Vladimir. In the midst of luggage and all of the global travelers of LAX's brand new International Terminal.
Once we get into the security line, I asked the security ladies if we were going to make our flight and if not, could they help us. She says that our airline never leaves on time because they always wait for everyone. I don't know if it is too early to read some cultural innuendo into this because I've never heard of such a thing.
Once we get through security it is 4:24.
They haven't started boarding yet? Sweet!
I grab dinner and snacks since I have no idea whether there will be any food served that I can eat. (My restricted menu-that is an entire other blog)
As we board the plane we are greeted by a crew of delightful, beautiful stewardesses in red dresses with matching scarves and shoes. Svetlana, Anatasia, & Oksana.
I am always shocked by how large a 737 airbus is. 12 seats across separated by 2 aisles-50+ rows deep…they are really big.
Our section of the plane consists of us, a group of 50 Russian school girls probably junior high school age, several groups of families at least 3 generations wide and at least a dozen infants and toddlers.
An hour or so in, Doerr can't find his glasses and while helping him look for them an Armenian woman in broken English asks what we were looking for. She had seen the glasses and placed them in a seat pocket for safe keeping. I get up to retrieve them and the flight attendant scolds me in Russian and points to the seatbelt sign.
Several hours into the 11-hour flight, we fly over Antarctica. On one side of the plane, the sun has been setting for hours. On the other side, it is a mostly still full moon and below I can see ice floes. I wonder about the separation of the ice floes and how much it's grown due to global warming. I wonder if Jeff has found that card on his pillow yet.
4 movies and 3 magazines later, we start our descent.
First sight of Moscow through the clouds is forest. Trees and lakes. A whole forest of birch trees and rivers. Then these houses. With terracotta roofs and painted green roofs and bright orange roofs.
The airport is a little confusing - customs is always perplexing. I don't like the sensation of having to be on my good behavior. Makes me feel like I did something wrong.
The signs are written in Cyrillic, English & Mandarin.
We have to go all the way to the end. Of the airport. And downstairs. And then to the other end. To wait for the bus that will take us to the tarmac to board the plane.
Funny that we had a 5 hour layover and our flight is leaving in 15 minutes?
Luckily we get on that plane too.