SAINT-PETERSBURG: the Texture of the City: 1-12 of April, 2006

MY FIRST INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP

This International Puppetry Workshop, organized in the framework of the ARTSMO: Finnish-Russian Student Exchange (FIRST) program was very challenging for me as for the workshop leader. It was hosted by the Puppetry Department of the Saint-Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy now run by prof. Nickolay Naumov – one of the oldest puppetry schools in the world. The project program included not only planning and leading the artistic research for forty people united and inspired by “my subject”, but also city tours, mini-festival of local puppetry groups (all my formers students, good friends and dear colleagues), observation classes in my alma-mater, and a lot of practical problems solving.

The working group included 12 students from 4 Finnish higher schools where they studied various disciplines, 20 students from Puppet Theatre Department of Saint-Petersburg Theatre Arts Academy and 8 teachers from both countries.

St. Petersburg is overflowing with hundreds of famous and readily available scenic routes where ways of millions of tourists from all over intersect every day. The goal was that during those 12 days of the project the participants laid down and covered a totally new route, nonexistent before. We walked dozens of kilometers, climbed up numerous roofs, descended into cavernous basements, got lost in the labyrinths of the city in search of our own angle.

We tried to find out what the city and its inhabitants are made of. Working for hours in studios of the Theatre Arts Academy, we tried to understand that with their hands by touch, creating their own puppet St.Petersburg, employing simple tools and rough textures to recreate our subtle experiences. Only two things united us: St.Petersburg, our theme; and puppet, our language which we learned to speak, overcoming all kinds of barriers.

In spite of the intensity of the project, in these few days we had created, rehearsed and performed five group etudes, we never forgot that, in the heart of things, we came here for the adventure. The ultimate goal was to experience something totally new, the great unknown. Had we started seriously contemplating the differences in the cultural and educational traditions of our countries, or professional subtleties, or economic necessities, we would have never been able to start doing anything. But, instead we just cruised the city theatres an then created theatre of our own – a pleasure totally and perfectly therapeutic.

COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS: coming soon

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