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The 20th Anniversary of the Russian-American Educational Program

At the Moscow Art Theater School and at the United States Embassy in Moscow, Russia, an event was held in honor of the 20th anniversary of the collaborative educational program between The Moscow Art Theater School and The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. The Russian Ministry of Culture celebrated the occasion by awarding the program with special honors and expressing its gratitude to the leading teachers of the program. The Moscow Art Theater School was presented with a letter from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which read in part: «The program that you worked so hard to establish and maintain over the years is a model for Russian-American cooperation in education and the arts, as well as an incredible opportunity for our young people to get to know the culture and people of Russia. The hundreds of American students who have participated in the exchange program have gained valuable skills from masterful instructors and made connections with their Russian peers. I understand that program alumni have returned to Russia to continue their education and have even started an English-language production company in Moscow. The program remains popular and competitive, which speaks volumes about the exceptional instruction the students receive at the Moscow Art Theater School and the outstanding support they get from the O'Neill Center. This is an excellent example of public diplomacy in action, and I cannot thank you enough for the efforts you have made in this arena.»

On December 14th, a celebratory gala performance was held on the student stage of the Moscow Art Theater School, where Russian and American students competed with each other performing something of a theatrical «jam-session». The evening was hosted by Moscow Art Theater School graduate Cazimir Liske who, upon completing his education, remained in Russia and is now successfully performing in a number of experimental performances in different theaters across Moscow. The same evening, a reception was held at the American Embassy where American Ambassador John Beyrle greeted the American students, their Russian teachers, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center founder George C. White and Executive Director Preston Whiteway.

The rector of the Moscow Art Theater School, Professor Anatoly Smeliansky recalled «In 1991, we started this program. The first „batch“ was very humble — only five American students travelled to Moscow. A turning point in the quality of the program occurred five or six years ago, when the Eugene O'Neill Center announced its desire for a more representative presence of American students who travel to Russia for acting training from a wide array of American universities. There is, however, one nuance here that few will be able to guess at: The O'Neill Center does not send „trained“ actors to Russia, but rather students who have chosen „Acting“ as their major in school. In the American system of education, this does not automatically mean that the student will necessarily complete his or her education as an actor. All it means is that the students are trying different things in order to better choose their future. It is in Moscow where the students come to their final conclusion; whether or not they are ready to choose „Acting“ as their profession. This year in particular, the „invasion“ of the O'Neill center has been unusually broad — students travelled to Russia from across twenty different states.

Aside from the intense lessons on acting technique (six times a week), the American students also study the history of Russian theater, film, culture, and Russian history, as well as take lessons in fencing, dance, costume construction and set design. Moreover, we constantly organize trips to shows and lectures with guest speakers. Americans are an active people, and they are able to squeeze into in this short period of time everything that they can. Many of them have blogs where they recount to their colleagues in the US anecdotes about life here and the culture of Russia, and their impressions are always unexpected and fresh. Our teachers often compare the level of the acting craft among Americans and Russians, and there has never been an instance where one country or another was short on talent. But we can say one thing: American universities are able to provide an truly fantastic musical education; the Americans always impress us not only with their skills in the culture of „Musicals“, but with their joyous musical tendencies, their special temperament, a way of looking at the world according to certain values that the musical and dance culture of America provides them with. Equally impressive are their philosophical and social views, as well as their „vivaciousness“, the absence of inertia in their pursuit of self-realization: the students from the USA express a colossal interest in Russia, its history and politics. One of the most important results of the twenty years of work on the program is that the system we call „The American Studio“ exists not merely as an appendix in relationship to the main activities of the Moscow Art Theater School, but on the contrary, it is included in the everyday process of the school in the most serious way. Working with the Americans are the same Russian acting teachers along with a whole team of translators, and common events are held with Russian students. Also, especially important is the closely organized work of the students from the Producers Department with the foreign actors (the Americans call them „angels“). The producer students are given the opportunity to learn the English language in a practical manner and gain an understanding of how the theatrical system works in the west.»

International Relations of The Moscow Art Theater School

In the beginning of 1990s, the Moscow Art Theater School extended its reach to the western hemisphere in the development of its international liaisons with other theater training programs worldwide. To date, this influence continues to grow, as the schools relationship to theater institutions everywhere expands. The international activity of the Moscow Art Theater School has been divided into two distinct groups classified mainly by the length of time required for study: the first one is strictly an international collaborations and cultural exchange immersion program (ranging from 2 weeks, to 1 month, to 3 full months), and the second one is a full-time program, equivalent to 4 years of an undergraduate education.

The Moscow Art Theater School hosts students and interns from many countries, including the United States, England, Switzerland, Latvia, Estonia, Israel, Poland, Austria, Sweden. Currently, 30 foreign students are enrolled full-time.

In 2001, as an experiment, the school accepted a group of American acting students into its four year curriculum. The classes are taught in English, and the program includes an intensive course of Russian language. Thus far the program is very successful, and the school now plans to admit English speaking students to the school every four years.

In June of 2002, a group of Latvian students graduated and were immediately admitted to the oldest Russian Drama theater beyond the frontiers of Russia, Riga Academic Russian Drama Theater. Their thesis show, Biloxi Blues, is now part of the repertoire of the theater. And this past fall, in accordance with efforts of the state to preserve and nurture Russian Culture abroad, the school accepted a group of students from the Estonian State Russian Drama Theater.

The Moscow Art Theater School has developed partnership relations with the leading theater schools of the world, such as the Paris Conservatory, London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Art, Theater School of Strasbourg, Wayne State University (Michigan, USA), and the Theater Institute in Stockholm. The school also has exchange students from the National Theater School of Canada, and the Theater School of Austria (Max Reinhart Seminar).

The students of the Moscow Art Theater School participate in international theater school festivals, including The International Festival of Theater Schools (March, 1998), The Karlsruhe Festival (May 2000), Tbilisi Theater Festival (October 2000), Festival of Student Theaters in Prague (May 2002).

From 15 April, 2003 Moscow Art Theater School also takes part in international educational project TEMPUS (TEMPUS "Russia/Europe Mobility&ECTS within the European Modern Languages").
This project gives an opportunity for the professional communicating with humanitarian universities of Russia and Western Europe to discuss problems in European education, student exchange programs.

The school has an international MFA program in conjunction with the American Repertory Theatre Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. In the 2 year degree program in Cambridge, students spend 3 months studying at the Moscow Art Theater School. Their training in Russia includes classes with master teachers in acting, voice, movement, rhythm, ballet, and theatre history. Before arriving, the MFA candidates rehearse a play, and then have an opportunity to perform their play for large, enthusiastic, and supportive Russian audiences.

Upon graduation, the students are awarded an MFA diploma from the Moscow Art Theater School, and a certificate from Harvard University. Auditions are held in several locations each winter in the USA. For more extensive information, visit the web-site of the American Repertory Theatre.

Over the past 20 years, the Moscow Art Theater School has had a partnership with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center (Connecticut, USA). The 3 month theater program of the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and Moscow Art Theater School allows students from different countries to take an intensive course of acting in Moscow. The auditions and submission of the applications are held at the Eugene O'Neill Theater center. For more details visit the web-site, at camel2.conncoll.edu/NTI

Master teachers of the Moscow Art Theater School teach at universities and theater schools in the USA, France, England, Spain, Greece, and Germany. They have also directed shows at schools in the USA and Austria.

In October 2005 an international educational project TEMPUS (TEMPUS «Russia/Europe Mobility & ECTS within the European Modern Languages»), where Moscow Art Theater School participated during two years, successfully finished.

This project gave an opportunity for the professional communication between humanitarian universities of Russia and Western Europe to discuss problems in European education through student exchange programs.

The Italian students, who came to the Moscow Art Theater School for training, were provided programs in Russian Language and Literature, in accordance with their individual wishes and with the program coordinated by Milan University. The students had an opportunity to be introduced to Russian culture, literature and the history of Russian Theatre intensively. Besides the humanitarian subjects, they were also interested in the specifics of education at a theatrical institute. In addition, they enjoyed acting classes and Russian Theatre as a whole.

Two students of the Moscow Art Theater School (their future specialization — Performing Arts Management) during their internship in Milan University took classes in «The History of Italian Theatre», «Modern Italian Theatre», «History of French Theatre» and also studied Italian Language and «Italian culture for foreigners». The school-studio recognized following credits acquired by students as the results of their training:

«The History of Italian Theatre» — 9
«History of French Theatre» — 12
Italian Language — 9

It was very important for us that besides taking theoretical classes our students could participate at The Piccolo Teatro di Milano. Our students carried out tasks connected with the work of the Department of the distribution of plays, taking part in the project «Workshop», which included theatre schools from many countries around the world. Owing to this practice, the young managers were introduced to the organizational system of Italian theatre — which is connected directly to their future profession.

Participation in the project gave the Moscow Art Theater School a powerful impulse for the continuation of the practical work in order to integrate our institution in the European educational arena.

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