Writing this on the final morning of the New Russian Drama Conference. Arranged by our good friend and CITD frontman Phillip Arnoult, the conference has been a success for the Russian playwrights, who have watched productions of their plays and gotten introduced to a select gathering of American theater artists.
Photo: The man who brought us all together; Phillip Arnoult introduces playwright Yury Klavdiev (background).
Perhaps the biggest highlight over the 2 1/2 days of the conference was the production of Klavdiev's play, "Martial Arts". Artfully staged by Yury Urnov, "Martial Arts" tells the story of a young boy who inherits a few kilos of heroin from his parents after they are brutally murdered by gangsters. I'll admit that the first time I read the script I became skeptical of how it could ever be produced, but Yury Urnov and his crew more than pulled it off. Using casting elements and a set design that bent the visual perspective of the audience, Urnov's direction showcased the complexity of Klavdiev's work by presenting a fully realized and skewed version of reality that was equal parts hilarious and horror driven.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Klavdiev during the show and he seemed very pleased with what he saw.
He was not alone in this feeling. As the lights went down on the final act the audience erupted into cheers and fast paced, rhythmic applause. I'm not going out on too far a limb to say that "Martial Arts" was a highlight for most people at the conference and it underscored yet again a fact that Dave and I have known for years now:
American audiences are ready for Yury Klavdiev.
Dave helped hammer that message home as a member of the post show panel. He worked with Yury Urnov as a translator on "Martial Arts" and had some interesting things to say about Klavdiev's style.
The conference has afforded us a unique opportunity to reach out to people and spread the word about Klavdiev and "I am the Machine Gunner" and for that we are incredibly grateful. It seems to be one more sign that this is a project worth fighting for. . .
I can't wait to immerse myself in it once again in September.