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From (Detroit to) Russia with love: Undergrad Research grant and scholarships fund Study Abroad dream trip for theatre student

June 1, 2015

The words “Russia” and “superpower” usually bring to mind the Cold War, nuclear arsenals and espionage, but for undergrad Alexis Barrera, it means something entirely different: Theatre.

“The Moscow Art Theatre School is a superpower in the theatre world,” she says. “People come from all over the world to study there. I’ve planned for this trip since I was in high school.”

The Hartland High grad is now a theatre major who will hone her craft in June through the Study Abroad program “Russia: A Month in Moscow (MIM) at the Moscow Art Theatre School,” during which she will take classes six days a week and learn the Stanislavsky System of acting from master artists and teachers. Thirteen students will participate: five from WSU and others from the University of Windsor and the University of Idaho, both of which have WSU PhD theatre alumni on their faculty.

Organized by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance and facilitated by the Office of Study Abroad and Global Programs, MIM will allow Barrera to earn three credits in four weeks and complete the foreign culture course required for graduation.

An RA in The Towers for two years, Barrera stepped down from the post this spring because she has so much planned for her upcoming senior year. Instead, she applied to be an Orientation leader and is now helping new students navigate through the WSU system, register for classes and master using their OneCard.

Theatre Professor James Thomas directs MIM and says Study Abroad students become totally immersed in another culture and language and learn to see American culture from the perspective of other countries.

“They become more independent and self-confident, improve their employment prospects and develop new personal relationships and future networking opportunities,” he says.

“For theatre students, this opportunity is especially valuable because of our partnership with the Moscow Art Theatre School, where the Stanislavsky System of acting originated and continues to be taught. The school is the conservatory wing of the Moscow Art Theatre, which witnessed the birth of modern psychological theatre as we know it. This experience deepens the students’ creative technique, validates their career path, and strengthens their professional work ethic.”

Students prepared for their study trip by reading plays by Anton Chekhov, books on acting by Konstantin Stanislavsky and learning the Cyrillic alphabet.

Cost for the entire program including tuition and books, airfare, accommodations in a newly renovated dormitory, classes, interpreters, access to theatrical and historical sites and living expenses totals close to $6,800. Barrera received three scholarships from the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and a $2,300 grant through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program for her proposed research project “The Senses in the Theatre: Making a Connection between the Body and the Art.” Thanks to hard work and smart planning, Barrera entire Study Abroad experience is paid for.

Unsure what route her career will take after graduation, Barrera is planning a 2016 stint in New York City and says directing “is definitely in the cards.”

“The whole point of acting is to find truth and to present that truth to another,” she says. “I’m going to take what I learn in Moscow and use it to help me when I direct a one-act play next year. I want to learn; I want to be challenged. I can’t wait.”