It is Leningrad high school educator Elena Sergeyevnas birthday. Several of her students 3 boys and a girl get there unexpectedly at her lusterless little apartment, bearing pricey gifts: a bouquet of flowers, a set of antique amazingly goblets, a bottle of champagne.
The offerings of grateful young adults to a much loved instructor? Almost.
In Russian playwright Ludmila Razumovskayas taut psychological drama, the youths soon drop their face masks of affection and receive down to unpleasant business. That they try first to give incentives to, next to coerce, finally to anguish their committed teacher into raising the low grades a pair of the males have made on the crucial math concepts exam. Through the end of this drunken, raw evening, they may have forced Elena into a terrible revelation: This lady has not recently been grooming morally responsible, humanistic young Soviets for adulthood, but a generation of ruthless, self-serving junior thugs who imitate their parents hypocrisy and corruption very well.
Elena Sergeyevna started in 80, the year it absolutely was written, to electric response from Leningrad audiences. Response came swiftly from the Brezhnev government, too. The enjoy (Razumovskayas sixth work, nevertheless the first to be produced) was quickly restricted. Its stunning expose of the moral rot passed from one Russian technology to the next, and the irrelevancy and impotence of socialist true believers just like Elena, could not be suffered.
But the screenplay did find a clandestine your life underground. And with the ascension of Mikhail Gorbachev, Dear Elena Sergeyevna resurfaced to become a generally produced staple of perestroika theatre, a dramatic representation of the negative and morally bankrupt Brezhnev era that rings accurate today. It is filmed simply by director Eldar Riasanov, and was gathered in a latest Russian anthology of Razumovskayas scripts, Garden Without Earth.
Mixing suspenseand philosophy
Bernard Bond caught up with the play last summertime in Munich, Germany, in the experimental Stadt Theatre I am Marstall. Lately appointed imaginative director at the Seattle Group Theatre, Relationship declares having been blown away with what I saw. Even with very little The german language I knew it had been a powerful part of theatre. I actually vowed to get the script and produce this.
Back in Seattle, Bond called someone he thought could help track down the job: critic and translator Roger Downey, known for his liquid versions of German and Eastern Western dramas. Only back from Russia, Czechoslovakia and Belgium in search of intriguing stage literature, Downey quickly tapped his international network for information regarding the Razumovskaya play, and within one day had the Russian program in hand and a cotranslator, Hungarian-born director Zoltan Schmidt, who trained, like Razumovskaya, at the Leningrad Conservatory, committed to the job.
Bond is staging the modern Downey-Schmidt translation, retitled Special Miss Elena, as the Groups 1992-93 season operator. (An previous English translation by Cathy Porter was presented in 1991 by Londons Gate Theatre and Vancouvers Pink Ink, and a Russian-language creation toured Chicago, il. )
How come would the Group Theater, a company very long dedicated to a multicultural repertoire emphasizing functions by African-American, Latino and Asian-American writers, take on a Russian enjoy? Bond cites the video clips rich, mental, high-powered language, and the emotional intensity that arises from it is admixture of suspense-melodrama and philosophical issue. But the most salient element in Bonds choice was the plays relevance for the contemporary American scene. The play bargains specifically with all the U. T. S. 3rd there’s r., he argues. It reveals the disillusionment of children as they faced the lay in the communist system, and it prophesied what would eventually happen to that system. But for myself it also attaches very strongly to what is certainly going on in this article, and what weve learned from the La riots. When ever enough pressure is put on people, when ever their optimism a better upcoming dies, they start emulating the monstrousness of their frontrunners. The seite an seite is that the Reagan-Bush era created the same sort of pressures in our underclass that the Brezhnev era exerted on the U. S. H. R. h youth. In both cases theres a niche between the ideals that political figures and instructors espouse, and the systemic data corruption young people discover happening all around them.
Zoltan Schmidt, who lived in Leningrad from 1977 to 1982, reiterates the link. People like Elena had this kind of dream of a pure, simply socialism, and they lived it, they struggled for it, this individual observes. Nevertheless the economy by no means improved, except for the same handful Communist aristocrats who enjoyed golf together vacation homes by the Poland. They were just like mafia bosses, and everyone were required to play their very own game to outlive. This culture has also got cynical and mercantile, and young people study that to get ahead you need to be ruthless about catching whatever you want, any kind of time moral price.
The challenge intended for the Group is to highlight the cross-national parallels in Dear Miss Elena with no diminishing the plays Russian specificity. For instance , Elenas one-bedroom apartment (which she stocks and shares with her ill mother) must have the claustrophobic ambience and lusterless decor particular to standard-issue Soviet metropolitan housing. To evoke that, Bond features hired a Russian emigre collection designer, Yuri Degtar.
It is also critical for people to understand the importance of the examination grades underneath Elenas control, and how come her college students would risk so much in an attempt to alter them. As Schmidt points out, If perhaps these males dont enter university they have to go into the military services, a misery and a waste of time. They may be sent to the war in Afghanistan and get murdered there. The suicide price in the Russian army currently was very high.
One of the students, Pasha, offers won accolades for his essays about Dostoevsky, nevertheless he distorts the great Russian authors views on the nature of nasty by twisting them in to an celebrazione for immorality. Says Roger Downey, These kids understanding of Dostoevsky can be as shallow while young Richards reading of Nietzsche in ONeills My oh my! Wilderness! And its just as self-serving.
Locked inside the bathroom
The place that the Groups Dear Elena is going to depart many from its Russian counterparts is in the complexion in the casting. The availability features artists of Desfiladero Rican, Jewish and Mexican-American heritage. Bond insists this is actually consistent with the Lithuanian-bred Razumovskayas unique intention. The girl wanted a cast that represented all Soviet youngsters, Bond says, and we understand that includes a large amount of different ethnicities.
Whether the play will stir up Seattle viewers the way it includes Russian and German playgoers remains to be seen. It will likewise be interesting to see what Americans make of the performs ambiguous closing, which leaves the emotionally distraught Elena in a locked bathroom.
Does the unmasking of her learners drive the teacher to suicide? I actually dont wish to answer that for the audience, says Bond. We dont know what may happen in the ex – U. T. S. R., or even in our own culture. We dont know what is coming out of that room.