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An Un-Contemporary Concert

A senior acting class’ showcase, directed by one of Moscow’s master directors, An Uncontemporary Concert is a series of vignettes about the distance between past and present generations in Russia. To create the piece, the students met older Russians who had been young in the Soviet era, interviewed them, and developed characters and monologues based on these interviews. In performance, these monologues are interspersed with romantic scenes and song/dance numbers from famous Russian (and sometimes American) films from the 1950s. The set consists of large white walls, with benches lining the walls that the kids sit on when not performing. Upstage lives a band made up of the students, primarily, (or perhaps entirely). Projections do the bulk of the work of creating the mis en scene: most notably, there is a Lenin statue projected onto the center of the back wall, which morphs into Lenin statues in other locations throughout Russia over the course of the piece. 


The piece has a decidedly existential bent: the monologues are sweet and specific, pretty a-political, in some ways could have come from anywhere, though details of hardship during the Soviet Era are mentioned. More than anything, they focus on the speed and simplicity of 1950s’ era courtship, and the pain of loss: loss of youth, loss of old loves, loss of life. When performing scenes from 50s films, the students do their best to mimic the performance style of the time, to mixed results. There is a limit to the students’ ability to embody both the 1950s style of film performance, and the bodies and souls of their elders. At times the goal seems to be for comedic effect, but there are moments when they reach beyond that, towards a kind of empathy. At moments, I became deeply aware of a truth: that the 22 year olds performing in front of me would one day grow old, that the energy and exuberance with which they attack this production (showcased dizzyingly in a series of dance numbers at the end of the piece) would eventually fade, and then disappear entirely. 


The piece’s finale is worth mentioning in a bit more detail. It fell into two parts. First, the group performs a swing number to The Atomic Fireballs “Man with the Hex (Man with the Power)” a song from the late 1990s. During this song, images of fire dropping from the sky (along with bodies, maybe?) over Moscow fill the back walls as the students scream, “save us!” along with the song. This is followed by a contemporary pop/hip hop song, to which they dance a more contemporary style. They pull out all the stops for these numbers: flips, lifts, contortions, speedy synchronized moves: the crowd goes wild.



Cast size and detail: 18 (Including Musicians)

Touring Size:  24

Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 12m, 9m

Set Up time (including sound and light): 4-5 hours

Freight: 30 m3, 1.5t

Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes

Representation: Victor Ryzhakov, +7-903-763-6464,

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