Russian art, Western lens
David White, an assistant professor in the department of theater arts, has always enjoyed Russian culture. He’s visited the country on four separate occasions and has translated plays between English and Russian. He’s even housed Russian artists.
White will make his way to Russia for a fifth time this summer.
He was one of eight Americans and 12 total participants chosen by the Likhachev Foundation and Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center Cultural Fellowship to pursue a study of his choice for two weeks in St. Petersburg.
In his study, White said he plans on composing a play, in which an American jazz musician travels to Russia to rediscover what jazz really is.
“St. Petersburg actually has a thriving jazz scene, where you can hear early Dixie jazz all the way up to modern, avant-garde jazz,” White said.
Participation in this study will not only benefit White, he said, but also his students.
“I already was using this program in the senior thesis course,” he said. “I am keeping all of the processes of the trip on my blog and I’m sharing that with my students…I’m putting together this program the same way I’m asking them to put together their thesis.”
White also oversees the Towson Theater Lab, where students can read, discuss and critique new plays. He said he hopes that his students will reflect upon this intricate process, drawing from it tools with which to create their own work.
“I want them to read [my play] and give me feedback on it, and learn how to use theater as a way to explore and research a subject,” he said.
The organizations funding the study are attempting to attract Western attention to Russia, White said.
Unlike White, not all of the participants are professors.
“I’m going over with someone from the Tenement Museum in New York City, who is putting together a display on Russian immigrants coming from St. Petersburg and coming to New York,” White said. “I’ll be there with all sorts of people.”
White said he is honored to be selected, and is looking forward to his trip. He will be leaving for Russia May 13.
“It’s like imagining your wildest dream, and them saying ‘yes’,” he said.