Visiting scholar says American theater is different 

 

MILWAUKEE – She’s directed, choreographed and taught theater overseas.

Now, teaching in Milwaukee, she’s quite certain that theater here is awfully different from theater back home.

Tanya Weinstein is spending this semester and next teaching at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Tanya and her husband, Alexander – also an enthused thespian – have observations about the differences between American and overseas theater.

The Russian-Jewish couple came here for the start of this semester after Alexander encouraged her to apply for a Fulbright Scholar opportunity. The grant she won funds her nine month stay as a visiting scholar with the Peck School of the Arts at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.

The Weinsteins say that theater directors in European and Russian theater will take more liberties with source material. They’re more likely to alter or ignore the original script, in accordance with their own vision.

“We can destroy the whole plot,” Tanya said. “It can be completely different.”

The couple said Russian students choose their professions around age 16 or 17. Theater students will study under one great, living master, with the same group of students in the same classes, for five years, Tanya said. Alexander thinks better of the American system, which offers students more academic choice and variety, he said.

“The economy of the theater works differently here,” said Alexander, who plans to pursue a doctoral degree in economics and theater management at Aalto University in Helsinki.

The Weinsteins have noticed differences in personal interaction. Overseas, you might know someone for years at work, but never share any personal information. Tanya said it’s different and more personal here and she likes that.

The couple lives in Helsinki, Finland, but they also do visit St. Petersburg, Russia, where they own an acting school, “The Light People” (or easy-going people). They’ve spent several summers traveling throughout Europe with their “Meeting the Odyssey” project, which had artists visiting city after city by boat, offering workshops and performing theatre pieces.

Her stage productions in recent years have included “Evolution” at the International Malta Art Festival; “Baby Blues” at Praktica theatre in Moscow and “Again” in Milan, Italy, among others.

Now, she’s directing a local show with UWM students, “The Blue Lantern.” She’s using the rehearsals to work with them on physical theater, telling a story through movement.

The Weinsteins say they’re happy with Milwaukee and that it’s a nice break from traveling all the time – staying put for nine months. Their 3-year-old son, also named Alexander, is with them here in Milwaukee. Tanya had other schools interested in her, she said. But she chose Milwaukee, in part, because it offered a clear vision of what she’d be doing with her time here.

In 2005, the older Alexander visited Chicago on a student program that had him working in cafes and traveling.

He wanted to come back to the Midwest, he said, “to feel the same spirit.”

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See Tanya Weinstein’s ‘The Blue Lantern’

What: “The Blue Lantern” is the product of a semester-long collaboration between director Tanya Weinstein and 10 student actors. With tone and structure borrowed from Russian author Victor Pelevin’s short story, “The Blue Lantern,” the performance recounts an evening at an overnight camp during which a group of young teenagers tell each other scary stories.

When: Dec. 6-10, Wednesday-Sunday, 7:30-9 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Where: Kenilworth Five-0-Eight, 1925 E. Kenilworth Place, Milwaukee.

Links to Tanya’s other work: Skorohod.me/en/AboutTanya