Students from the Russian Academy of Theater Arts in Moscow Arrive at CalArts for International Project

Last Thursday, students from the Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS) in Moscow arrived at CalArts for a two-week exchange with the School of Theater, part of a process that will culminate in a production that’s scheduled to premiere in Moscow in June.

The visit is sponsored by the U.S. State Department in hopes of fostering a new cultural understanding and respect between Russia and America. While this exchange marks the first substantive, official collaboration between theater students from both countries, its ultimate goal is to forge enduring artistic relationships between artists and countries.

Dialogue between GITIS and CalArts began last year, cultivated in association with the CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), the professional producing arm of CalArts. (CNP is also developing relationships with other Russian schools, such as the Moscow Art Theater School (MXAT). The two schools held an online videoconference critique and learning session as part of the collaboration nurtured by the Russian and American governments last May.)

“Our commitment and main priority for now is to begin this wonderful process,” said Mirjana Jokovic, director of Performance and head of MFA Acting at CalArts, who is coordinating the Institute’s efforts in the project. She says that in this collaboration, process is just as important as the final outcome since they’re starting this effort from the ground up.

To begin the work at CalArts, GITIS students—led by one of Russia’s own preeminent theater directors Evgeniy Kamenkovich—did their own adaptation of an excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. (See above video.)

24700 will keep you updated on the Russian exchange project. The students may hold a workshop before the Russian contingent leaves CalArts, but that depends on how far they get in the process. Jokovic notes in an email, “Since it is very raw for now, we wouldn’t like to put any extra pressure on our company. The presentation of the work is still an option, however we will be very careful not to damage the process by allowing it to be viewed prematurely.”

– Video by Scott Groller

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