Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Theater Class

The Russian history students in the class I am TAing this term had two options for their final project. They could write a standard research paper, or they could write and perform (or produce) a drama drawn from the historical sources. Today was the day that the theatrically-inclined groups or individuals presented their work to the class.

I realize that when I was in college I did not have access to the technology that these folks do, but notwithstanding that, I do not think I would have had the guts or the skills to create what they did. Besides plays, there were two animated films—one was a hand-drawn cartoon interlude between live-action play scenes, the other was the tale of Boris Godunov told entirely with red Solo cups. One play ended with a filmed sword-fight finale (quite well-choreographed), and another group did a whole live-action movie about the succession crisis that launched the Time of Troubles.

Besides the required historical narrative, there were allusions to Young Frankenstein and Star Wars, and a truly bizarre range of musical styles—from Russian rap to Spamalot and classical piano—to accompany the action. Of course, the acting was uneven, and the production values would have made James Cameron cringe, but given that these were not film-school students, and these were projects created at the same time that papers were due and tests were to be studied for in other subjects, they were a marvel. And funny. I wish they had uploaded them to YouTube…maybe they will eventually.

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