Thursday, May 13, 2010

Victory Day!

James here.

Taking the bus back from Baltimore and the New Russian Drama Conference.

As has happened so many times throughout the process of I am the Machine Gunner we found ourselves staring at a happy coincidence.  By an unintentional stroke of luck in scheduling, it happened that the Conference ended on May 9th – the Russian holiday that marks the end of WWII and the defeat of Fascist Germany.

Photo:  This photo of the Red Army raising the Soviet flag over the German Reichstag is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

It is not as if our group needed a reason to celebrate (our late nights at the hotel bar with Slava and Yury were proof of that already) but Victory Day provided one nonetheless. The playwrights had been kept busy with conference business over the past few days and since they had not had much opportunity to see the United States, we decided to take them to Washington D.C. to take in the sights of our nation's capitol.

Joining us for the trip was Graham Schmidt, a former Russian studies major who now runs the Breaking String Theater Company in Austin, Texas. Meeting Graham at the conference was a boon for all of us. Not only did he instantly fit in with our crew, he was able to act as translator for us during our trip to D.C.  I'm sure its not easy to keep your comedic timing when translating jokes from Russian to English (and vice versa) but he did remarkably well. In Graham, Generous Company has not only made a viable professional contact, but a genuine friend as well.

Photo:  Flanked by the Russians inside the WWII Memorial on May 9th - Victory Day for the Russians.

Standing within the ring of the World War II memorial seemed eerily appropriate given the day and the content of our show. We all took some time to talk about our grandfathers and their roles in the conflict. Klavdiev told a particularly hard story about his wife’s grandfather, a Russian submariner who had to remain motionless and quiet for a week on the ocean’s floor while German battleships and patrol boats listened overhead with depth charges at the ready. The only men allowed to move during this time were the sub’s cook and medic, who crawled slowly around the floor administering shots of glucose to the paralyzed men.

After hitting the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial we retired to a local bar to toast our grandfathers and mothers (it was also Mother’s Day here in the States) and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. Between beers, chicken wings, and more than a few laughs we laid a foundation not for just artistic collaboration, but for friendship as well.


Photo (l to r):  Dave White, Rebecca Eastman, Vyacheslav Durnenkov, Yury Klavdiev and Graham Schmidt.


  1. hi James! I enjoyed (briefly) meeting you and the entire Russian crew at Towson last weekend. (I was the redhead who sat directly behind you and Yury K. during MARTIAL ARTS.) Happy to find your blog & looking for ways to stay in touch re the Russian theater scene. Working out a way to see I Am The Machine Gunner this Sept- This writing/work is fantastic! best to all ~ Alanna Malone (graduating tomorrow from the 2010 MFA Directing Virginia Tech!)

  2. Congrats!! Sounds like it is going great - happy to hear it, and sorry we missed the show in SD. xo :)