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

Philip Estrera: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Philip Estrera (A.C.T. M.F.A. Program class of 2014) with his $6 pumpkin latte from a Moscow Starbucks.
I am dreaming. I must be. I am sitting in an auditorium with students from all over the world looking at a monochromatic stage with a man speaking German sitting next to a woman translating in Russian. The delayed quiet murmur of an English translator is heard somewhere off in the distance. Like all dreams, I understand nothing. Due to technical problems, my headset with the English translation is broken. We were told to tune into Channel 2 on the headset . . . nothing but static. My whole class is with me and none of us can understand, but we watch. So, in my seat, my mind drifts back to the beginning of today.

After a night of long anticipated deep sleep, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. The sun hasn't risen yet, which I'm still not used to. It's very strange to wake to what feels like midnight. But I am happy to report that jet lag is starting to fade away. The never-ending low grade headaches, probably from the dehydration of a 16-hour flight, and sporadic moments of waking up throughout the night are disappearing. I tell my roommate, Asher [fellow member of the M.F.A. Program class of 2013] that I heard him talking in his sleep. He informs me I was snoring like a cow. And that I have five different types of snores. Sorry, Asher. Sigh. Shower. Brushing my teeth with bottled water . . . safer than the tap, I'm told. To the elevator.

This whole trip feels like a dream of sorts. I don't really recall how I get to places (mainly because everything around me is written in Cyrillic, so I just trust whoever's hand I'm holding). Elevator. Ding. Walking. Now, before me, a spread . . . bacon, fish stew, strawberry yogurt, and a curd tart . . . hotel breakfast. The coffee is surprisingly good, and the curd tart (which translates to the best cheese bread ever) is delicious. I avoid the stew. In this dream, I find myself sitting next to A.C.T. Conservatory Director Melissa Smith as we chew on toast and talk about the latest role she tackled as an actress and how it lined up with her son leaving for college . . . then a blur of  hallways, and I find myself in a random hotel room with all of my classmates. We sit on beds; some on the floor. A window overlooking a gray Moscow is on my right. We are running lines from the show we will perform tomorrow night: The House of Bernarda Alba. We laugh. The lines spin quietly in the space. We finish. It's 10:30 a.m.

Members of the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program class of 2014 wait for the train in a Moscow Metro station.
Elevators. The hum of the Russian metro. A homeless woman with an intricate headscarf reaches out from the ground. More underground metro tunnels lined with chandeliers, then I find myself standing outside a quaint little Russian home in the heart of Moscow. It is the master Russian acting teacher Stanislavsky's home. His great-great grandson is there. He is our guide. He is young and sharply dressed and slightly nervous because it is the first tour he is leading and he has to give it in English. Charming. The bottom of a grand staircase. I put on blue shoe covers that look like shower caps on my feet. I ascend the dark staircase. I find myself wandering through the dark rooms of Russian theater history. I can smell the faint smell of dust. Ancient portraits line the walls. A woman that was his wife. She's dressed as Sonya from Uncle Vanya in one photo; in another, as Natasha from The Three Sisters. I follow the crowd that is my class through untouched hallways. A Russian man's passion documented in every detail of each room. The desk he sat at. The rug that was used in the first production of The Three Sisters. An intricate chair that made its way through a production of Othello. A samovar . . . I want one. We make our way through and I find myself standing outside of Stanislavsky's home watching my classmate Dillon [Heape] ask the great-great grandson to take a picture at the threshold. Flash. He waves goodbye. Gray skies. Through the mist. Starbucks. Tall pumpkin spice latte that costs around $6.

Then I find myself back in my seat, in the auditorium. Suddenly, out of the steady stream of German and Russian, the man onstage speaks clear English for the briefest of moments. "Authenticity authenticity authenticity. Once you've learned to fake that, you've made it." Pause. Back to German and Russian. It must make sense in context, but context is something in short supply these days. However, I am learning there is something beautiful in living in its absence. I'm not awake enough to articulate exactly what that is yet, but maybe it's better that way. All I know is that if this is a dream, I am loving it. Please don't pinch me.

Stanislavsky's desk in his historic home in the heart of Moscow.    

Photo Credits: all photos by Philip Estrera.

Related Posts

Thursday, October 25, 2012
M.F.A. Program Students in Moscow: Asher Grodman

Thursday, October 11, 2012
A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program Performs in Moscow

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