M.F.A. Program Students in Moscow: Asher Grodman

A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith, right, with A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program students Asher Grodman and Elyse Price. Photo by Philip Estrera.
The A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2014 recently returned from Moscow, where they were honored as the only U.S. acting school invited to attend the prestigious Stanislavsky Festival. They performed Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba, were featured on the evening news, and interacted with students from England, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Poland, France, and Russia.

We asked the students to share their photos and reflections from this unforgettable trip. To read more about their experiences, search for hashtag #ACTinMoscow on Facebook and Twitter.

Asher Grodman

We’re back home in San Francisco after a long flight, and I started thinking about how this incredible trip began.
When we first landed in Moscow, we met obstacles in every direction. There was a lack of information, energy, food, water, internet service, and functional showers. Most of us settled into the hotel and got some much-needed rest, but [A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Head of Movement] Stephen Buescher and [A.C.T. Conservatory Director] Melissa Smith wanted to go get lost in the city, and I decided to tag along.

Learning how to use the subway without language was tricky, but once we got downtown the bleak landscape of the hotel was a distant memory. We wandered through the streets, going any direction that seemed to call us. Eventually, we landed in a back alley and entered a small, tucked-away bar covered in Soviet paraphernalia. Clearly, there weren’t going to be any tourists here. The menu was entirely in Russian and the bartender had no interest in helping us decipher it, but we took a shot and got about half of what we thought we ordered—including three vodka shots served by Melissa herself.

After the bar, we found our way to Red Square at night. It was breathtaking. The stone, the buildings, the air—you could feel the weight of hundreds of years of history. St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin and Stalin’s tomb on one side and, somewhat ironically, a giant shopping mall on the other. The communists would be thrilled. When we reached the top of the mall, we found a private dance party guarded by two uniformed men separated by a row of chairs forming a wall. Everyone was swing dancing to American music from the ’90s, as they put on a show for those of us not allowed in. I turned to Stephen to ask, “What’s the worst that would happen if I hopped the fence?” He replied, “We get thrown out and we leave.” So just as the guard looked the other way, I made my move over the chairs onto the dance floor and asked one of the Russian ladies to dance. Of course she was immediately disappointed to discover that I didn’t know the same routine as the Russian guys, but she put up with me.

Before we left for Moscow, [A.C.T. Conservatory Producer] Dick Daley told all of us that anything could happen and we would have to go with it—we did and it made all the difference. Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible. From start to finish, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

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