Dear Prospective MATS Student
Dear Prospective Student,
On our first day of acting in the American Studio, our professor Sergei Ivanovich told my ensemble, "While our countries might not be on the best terms, you and I are from the same place. We are all from the theater world. Welcome home."
My experience with the MATS program was life-changing. I encountered some of the best professors I have ever had, and worked with a group of incredible young artists with whom I look forward to working again in the future. I had the opportunity to create some very beautiful and some very bad art every day. The performances we saw in Moscow, alongside our work in the classroom, completely blew open my perspective as both a spectator and creator to the potential of theatre; the possibilities for how to create and tell a story are limitless. As many of our professors reminded us, when it comes to theater, there are no rules.
I will never forget my teachers, my ensemble, or my experience. I will never forget Moscow. I am so grateful for the incredible opportunity I was given with the Moscow Art Theatre Semester.
"On our first day of acting in the American Studio, our professor Sergei Ivanovich told my ensemble, 'While our countries might not be on the best terms, you and I are from the same place. We are all from the theatre world. Welcome home.'"
Dear Prospective MATS Student,
Sergei, one of our acting teachers during my Moscow Art Theatre Semester, used to tell us, “You have to be hungry!” He meant that we should be hungry for theater, hungry enough to work as hard as we could to make the best art we could make.
Looking back, I know I chose to attend the MATS program because of this hunger. I wanted the opportunity to devote myself full-time to theater, and I wondered, if given that opportunity, what I could make. As a prospective student, I remember talking to a MATS alum from my school. She talked about her experience honestly and openly; she was very frank about the level of rigor expected of MATS students. Our conversation made me want to go. I saw a huge challenge that could have a huge payoff, and I knew that even if it was hard, that I would make it out on the other end, and would be better for it. I wanted my study abroad experience to be a big, beautiful, terrifying risk, so I chose to study in Moscow. I was hungry.
It turned out that the risk was worth taking. Actually, it ended up being several hundred risks! Our ensemble created at least 200 short theater pieces—“etudes”—in just three months. Not to mention all the training in ballet, Russian folk dance, singing, stage combat, and Droznin movement that filled out our schedules, as well as lectures in Russian theater history, Russian cinema history, and stage design, and attending theater in the evenings. This program pushed me to my creative limits. Our teachers’ constant feedback, all very honest, only drove us to work harder and imagine more. This combination of high expectations and valuable feedback helped me carve my way through the dense theatrical jungle of our training to find my own path and cultivate the skill I needed. While at MATS, I also studied the art of collaboration, as my ensemble members and I worked to develop a common language of theater-making. Many of our etudes were spectacular failures; many of them were some of my proudest moments onstage. The journey was varied, emotional, and exhilarating.
After attending MATS, I feel more in command of my body and voice onstage. My teachers there stretched my imagination to its outer limits; now when I work on a text, I dream bigger and create more. Chekhov’s plays feel like home: their worlds are familiar and beautiful, but also have endless rooms to explore. After spending those three months in such a demanding creative environment, I have a greater understanding of how I respond to stress, my strengths and weaknesses, and can take on the demands of creating theater knowing that I'm up to the challenge. I also feel more capable of coping with and listening to criticism, which only makes taking risks and improving my work easier.
I was hungry before I went to MATS, and now I’m even hungrier, but I have the training and support of my teachers and ensemble members from my semester abroad behind me. As I prepare to graduate from college, I know I’m ready to make theater because of my time in Russia with MATS.
"After attending MATS, I feel more in command of my body and voice onstage. My teachers there stretched my imagination to its outer limits; now when I work on a text, I dream bigger and create more."
Dear Prospective Student,
Upon deciding where I would like to study abroad for my junior year I found myself asking the question: “Which options sounded the most challenging?”
This mindset sent me on to the Moscow Art Theatre School, where I quickly learned that the most daunting task would not be living in a foreign country; it would be leaving a school that had quickly became my home, my classroom, and my foundation for an entirely new way of viewing theater. Within my first week, I had developed a working relationship with my ensemble; had theater history class with one of Russia’s most beloved scholars; and had discovered muscles in my body that I did not even know existed through Ballet, Stage Combat, and Droznin. Our acting Masters were working professionals who had put aside time from their busy schedules to work with our ensemble for three hours a day, six days a week. We attended theater in Moscow that was visually striking and unlike anything I had ever seen before, as well as viscerally stirring in ways in that stretched the boundaries I had known of the form. We saw everything Russia had to offer: from St. Basils to the Hermitage, we worked inside the theater preparing scenes from Chekhov and Gogol as well as found voice-over work outside of school at Moscow’s film studio. We were mesmerized and inspired by the passion that Moscow had for the performing and visual arts. Week by week, our exploration in the theater and in the city became more and more intrepid in hopes that we could satisfy the hunger which Russia had inspired in us.
As a prospective student, I would invite you to use this time to take quite possibly the biggest academic risk of your life. Learn from a group of people with whom you may not always have the luxury to discuss theater over a cup of coffee. Russian culture encourages friendship and trust to be something earned over time and through hard work. They offer the same mindset towards ensemble-building and theater. We must earn Chekhov to perform Chekhov. As a student, you will also learn how to earn your own trust. All of our teachers were essential in this lesson, including our movement teachers, Vlad. One day while my ensemble struggled through headstands and somersaults, Vlad halted our work. He was worried that we saw the tasks in front us as something scary. He then told us that in order to find joy in the work we must always remind ourselves that “we are more talented than ourselves.” For the rest of the semester and ever since, I have been able to work with this mindset. Just as Stanislavsky and Chekhov are considered the foundation for American theater, I consider my time spent as Moscow as the foundation I needed to return as a more open and flexible theater artist whether I am acting in an ensemble or in a one woman show. I hope you will consider the MATS program as a chance for a fresh perspective and a theatrical adventure.
"We were mesmerized and inspired by the passion Moscow had for the performing and visual arts. Week by week, our exploration in the theater and city became more and more intrepid in hopes that we could satisfy the hunger Russia had inspired in us."