There's tea, coffee, pastries filled with lemon or cabbage and wafers and cookies.  The people vary in age from 15-60.  Some of them want to take a photo with me where we're all jumping in mid-air.  They're asking me, "So, what do you think of Murmansk?"  I tell them it's a little early to say, but it is rather dark and cold.  "да, да, да (Yes, Yes, Yes)."  I add that the people, present company included, have been warm and inviting. "да, да, да."  A tall man named Demitri says, "Jason, why do you want to write about Murmansk?"  
We're on a large stage in a room that could probably seat two hundred people.  I talk about tension and relaxation. I talk about breathing.  I talk about partnering.  All of this is translated by Olga, who is a student at a local university wishing to practice her English.  She could pass for a minor league rugby player.  I ask them to melt into the floor, starting from their toes and ending with the very tops of their heads.  Later, I ask them to stand and place their hands on their bellies, to allow the natural rhythm of their breathing body to just be, to allow air, which is its own being, to enter and leave their body freely. Some of these Комедиограф (Komediograf) actors have been members for ten years, while others have only joined in the last few months.  One, I'm told later, was a soldier in Chechnya and has an emotional block that is deeply rooted.  They've performed Christmas-themed musicals, classic Russian history pieces, and are currently being subjected to an American theater-maker's channeling of the Linklater-patented body and breath awareness.  I ask them to picture a lake in their imagination- maybe the Baikal Lake, which is the largest freshwater lake in Russia-  that is a focus point for pooling vibration from within their body.  
I can say with a fair amount of certainty that none of them have ever been asked to touch their bellies and imagine a lake in the middle of their person that serves as the storehouse for their voice, nor have they been subjected to anyone with my current hairstyle.  I tell them that though this might be very strange, it's worth investigating because it is very strange (not the hair).
When we get to Meisner on a different day, they are a bit baffled by this repetition of words that eventually lose their meaning, and when I tell them they must repeat exactly what they hear from the other person, they are surprised when I point out that they missed a particular detail like an accent on a word or a flick of the eyebrows. "But I don't hear her eyebrows."  I answer, "Start to hear with your eyes, too."  Some people are excited to jump into the chairs.  I ask everyone else to observe.  Those who do, do.  Those who don't, text on their phones and offer pointers on what should be happening during the exercise that they've never seen before (at which point, I politely ask them to hold their comments).  We continue, getting through about two-thirds of the ensemble.
I ask everyone what they thought of the exercises as I sip my tea.  "Very interesting.  Very different from what we normally do in Russia."  The director of this group, who has been gracious and kind throughout our meetings, tells Svetlana (my wife and conspirator) that what we did with Meisner has inspired him to create a new exercise.  He's been in this business thirty-something years.  His wife (and conspirator) is all smiles.  We talk about when we'll have the next session.  Someone asks about accidents on stage, like forgetting props or dropping lines.  I tell them a few stories and drive home the point that whatever happens is real and it must be dealt with in the moment.  If the gun isn't there, figure out how to kill the guy.  If the scenery falls apart, it's probably time to move.  The point is that if the ball drops, you need to work with whoever's onstage to pick it up, and that you always need to say yes to whatever's going on because things must continue, and, perhaps, by saying yes, things will continue in a surprising way for both the people onstage and those observing.
"Jason.  Selfie?""
"да, да, да."
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