Saturday, April 19, 2003

Day 9

So, writing these daily journals can be a bit of a drug. I find myself being happy to need to find the Internet time to write these things. Today, I don’t have that much time to write because Tatyana and Igor shall be following me here shortly. I told Igor I would introduce him to Internet chess and that he could play with other kids who are all over the world. This thought really made him kind of crazy and he started to dance around the room and such. Nice to be able to make some one happy I guess.

Yesterday was all about the theatre. I stopped in at the school of dance to tell them that there was going to be am audition last night at 6:00 at the theatre for the part of Nadia and for Marina, so that was cool. I was introduced to a guy, and dancer aged 21 named Colia, who expressed some interest in playing the part of Robert, which was a very cool thing to me. The guy is really about as handsome as a guy could be, pretty tall, dark curly hair, dark complexion with a two day stubble on his chin and you know, he has got as nice a body as you can have. I don’t need overkill for the part of Robert, but the idea must be something more then money why Nadia would think about walking away from Edward. Colia speaks pretty good English, not super, but good enough to communicate with me, and I think if he was willing to do the work, he could copy my “American English” phrasing easily enough. This, and I think he could get the American body language down pretty quickly as well. I don’t know that this is not the perfect solution, but I am not convinced that there is a better one available to me in Pinsk.

But the morning was spent at the theatre where everyone was into a spring-cleaning there. I think it was a spring-cleaning but the most important part of it was the collection of the used bottle to be brought back to the store for deposit. The actors I think had never done this sort of recycling thing before and were a bit offended when they found out that there was only a nickel coming back or each bottle. There was a time here when the collection of the bottle, for no money, went to the babushkas. This was really quite a quaint idiosyncrasy of soviet life that when one was out and about and had the urge to drink a beer (not seen as a crime, drinking a beer out of doors) when they were finished, they would simply put the bottle down against a wall some where, and a babushka would follow along some time after and pick it up for you. Now the Babushka’s did bring the bottle back for the 5-cent deposit, so it was not any sort of “the whole world is my home” idealism. But, the issue of those nickels was satisfied and the babushka’s had the monopoly on those bottles. Now however, this job is no longer their prerogative and the collection of those bottles and the getting of those nickels is now the job of the alcoholics themselves. This probably accounts for the preponderance of broken bottles and glass that you can see here. I mean a nickel really isn’t a lot of money, but when you have so little that it matters, I guess you figure your rage is worth the nickel, so you throw the bottle. And it is getting worse.

But the theatre people were feeling pretty good after the morning of exercise, and they seemed in a pretty agreeable mood, and so I was with them, and the idea of tipping a bottle of something or other came up, and so I was off to pick up a bottle of bresktkaya vodka (read the play) and some chocolate and then I was back to the theatre. I ran into the theatre director Ivan Ivanovoch and I told him about the auditions and about how I was going to agree to play Robert if I had to and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood. So, after the bottle was bough and a few sunflower seeds purchased from a babushka next to the store (a new babushka occupation) I was back at the theatre. But, all I was to have handed to me was the argument from Ivan Ivanovoch that he felt that there was not enough time to do the play. He told me (and I knew this) that they had three plays going on at the moment. He told me that in July the theatre was going to go on vacation (they work so hard!) and that he was looking at October for the production. I came back that *I really wanted and needed the end of June to make all of this worth my while. I retold them how furious I was with their stopping the play four months ago, and how my situation in Poland was impossible to change, and how I worked for seven months at my own and the expense of my friends to put this play together for them, and how I needed to have this play6 in progress, right now, and moving or that it infringed upon my ability to even stay here. This seems to be a reasonable enough thing for everybody, but the general thrust of the argument was seconded by everybody, all of whom seemed to think that some long-winded, central African like pace was called for in order to insure order. I told them that the fucking thing was written last year and dealt with a world that exists now. I told them that I was glad that Chekov is considered such a great classic (the want to play “Uncle Vanya”, but that Chekov was Russian not Belarussian, he has been dead for 100 years, and my play is from their city, everyone is talking about it, the city fathers are interested in it, it concern’s their lives right fucking now, and I am here! But, you know fighting the bureaucracy in a culture of bureaucrats is no easy thing, and Ivan Ivanovich disengaged himself from the party to go find another party of so to party with.

I stayed and drank with the actors. Which in an of itself was not such a bad thing. But also, it was not such a good thing. I say this because that great kinship of Russian drinking, and the requirement of agreement and order and reasonableness has in fact given way to the more western ideology of “I need a drink”. Which… is… sad. So what is there for me to do? We sat and we talked and people gave me their arguments and their opinions, and as we drank a bit more. A few of the actors came to me and talked to about what they were probably feeling about the play at the moment and about how they were indeed interested in the roles and in the parts. This I believe to be quite sincere, but it is in the application of the whole and in connection to the endless bureaucratic in breeding-or some such combination of words- takes any joy out of such a demonstration of heart. It is getting so hard…

And then at the end of the game, I went out with Alexander, my “could he possibly show up for the role of papa”, papa, ostensibly to, what else, drink some more. No, Alexander is actually and old, fat man with bad eyes and a bad leg, and really there is no stretch for him to play the role of papa, because this guy is the guy who I wrote about in the first place. However, the reality of getting a fat drunken old man to play the part of a fat drunken old man is not as easy as it sounds. I guess even typecasting has its pitfalls. But, undaunted we set out to find a place to sit and to pretend we gave a crap about each other as well as to get the other to agree to the bottom line of each of our propositions. He wants to take a decade or so to develop the role, and I need the bastard to show up for work. We found one of the cafйs along Lenin Street to be to his liking, though I protested without much interest from him that I had always ad bad luck at this particular cafй. The owner grabbed us before we had a chance top actually to get into the cafй and we were shown to a table outside. Now, as it was a nice day this was not a particularly bad thing, but, the umbrellas were not as yet on the tables, and about 1 meter away was two guys with a jackhammer ripping up the old stonework to install some plumbing or other. So, we sat there amidst the din and I tried to make out the guys Slurred Russian. Well, you know it was the same argument, so I grabbed his arm and dragged him inside where, if you could believe it, it was actually louder because the have a Russian language carioca machine, blaring away at a level that would deafen and airport worker. However, several deciliters of Vodka later, we were really there screaming at each other about the work/no time argument, all to no real avail. I asked Alexander if he would at least be so kind to take home the script and at least read the whole thing, and this, and you know he had actually agreed to play the role, was apparently over his head as well. He started screaming at me about how he was an actor and I was a writer, and the things that a writer knows are not the same things as that an actor knows, and some shit that sounded like he actually knew Chekov and Stanislowski and had played in all of the cities in Belarus and how Stalin personally… you get the idea. So, finally, two or three headaches later we stumbled out of the cafй and back to the theatre where I dragged him in to the auditions for our new Nadia. A new gaggle of apprentice nuns showed up in full war paint, but the luster of the exercise was really starting to wear out on me.

To be honest, my situation is such that I simply do not believe it is feasible in my present, post Poland position to play with this at the moment. My thinking is that if these guys could at least go out and make an effort about putting on the play, it makes my face a little better all over the place. But an empty promise is an empty promise and I can’t even bribe these 40-dollar a month artists in residence. I don’t know what they had to play Chekov right now. I have been around for a year and they have played exactly two plays, both of which I saw last year and one of which, though absurdly poorly received, is still here and is going to b played again on the 29th. I don’t know why they had to dust off Uncle Vanya, and I know these people are underpaid, but I simply do not understand where (Poland?) the bribe came fro to stop it? So, the situation is bad, ad it is affecting Tatyana’s house and everything, and things are bad. There really is no chance to try and play here as if I was hanging out in some country with an actual economy, and the bike shop was several thousand stolen dollars and one year ago. I really am about out of patience for the endeavor and other than some nice moments with Tatyana and Igor (just a few minutes ago introduced him to internet chess: Lost to India, beat San Jose, California) I am thinking that my time is growing short. I do not want to play Robert because I am too old, and I simply do not like to be on stage. But I would have, including a DeNiro like slim down if these former soviets would have simply given ME something concrete to hang my hat on. And I would have helped if I could, because that was what the money was for in the first place, But now I simply cannot, and what makes it worse is that I am an American, and this has everything to do with how people see me now, and that is all there is to it.

So, is it over? Are we done? Have I reached the end of this road? Well… ya know… Tatyana is not very happy right now, but she is also without answers. If 17 virgins begging for a part in a nice play doesn’t move these people. If I haven’t made enough of a splash, well, all I having is that the corpse mat finally me cold enough to take from the bed and put in the cart and carry it off to the spot grandpa picked out oh, so many years ago. I don’t know if they play taps in Russia, but they certainly have more than their share of fat ladies and with lent coming to the end, there is simply nothing to prevent a song, or even a dance on the freshly dug and quickly forgotten grave. Such is drama, such is life…

And you know, I like the word “irony” a lot. Everybody does. Irony makes you feel smart and awake and cool. But irony is pain, when you are the only one seeing it. And… it was ironic… that while we were sitting at the table having our little wake, I tried to show these people on seven different occasions where the words or ideas they were telling me were already written into the play. Seven times. I was right! I got it right when I wrote what I wrote. And I am also right that when I write I am right, and I just wrote that right now! Anyway… right?