Friday, 29 January 2010


The Science of Acting will be exhibiting at Backstage's Actorfest in NY on the 24th October 2009 and LA on the 14th November 2009. An introductory seminar in The Science of Acting will be taking place at the LA event.


Russia’s city of Perm was a main centre of the Gulag system and still has a large number of prison 'colonies' (approximately 50). Alex Dower, graduate of The Academy of The Science of Acting and Directing was invited to work with Colony 29, a 'light regime' prison of around 1,500 inmates. Colony 29 is a 'red' prison, one internally controlled by the prison authorities, as opposed to a 'black' prison, where the prisoners rule (based on an aggressive, traditional hierarchical structure).

The project was initiated by Kirill Serebrennikov, a celebrated Russian director of theatre and film and is one of the artistic directors of Territory Festival of which the project was part of. This was the first time an outside director had directed a play in a Russian prison. The production was a huge success and led to national media coverage, including exposure from Russia's most-read and influential blogger, who spent two days with the cast, describing the experience as 'the most incredible of his life'.

Dower worked with a group of thirty men from varied backgrounds, each doing time for very different offences; from Neo-Nazi murderers and child sex offenders to male prostitutes and thieves. He directed them in three short-story adaptations by Chekhov, Isaac Babel and one by a prisoner (a literature competition had been set up a few months prior to the Festival - the winner had their story adapted).

In Perm for the first three weeks of September 2009, Alex spent the first week teaching the prisoners The Science of Acting (Imagination, Purposes, Characterline, OPAE's etc. starting with very simple exercises, slowly building their understanding, ability and confidence). The second week was spent rehearsing the three pieces – culminating in the final production being almost an hour long. Attention and commitment from all cast members was so high that the end result was a very impressive standard of acting.

The project is the subject of a major Russian documentary for TV, directed by Kirill Serebrennikov and shot by top cinematographer Sergei Mokritsky with a team of three cameramen. The project was covered by two photographers - one Russian (Sergey Ponomarev of AP) and one British (Sebastian Lister) - with exhibitions planned for Moscow and London early next year.

Some words from Alex -

‘One of the men, Igor, probably the most enthusiastic and dedicated student I have ever had, went up for a sentence review in the second week we were there. He has been up for a few of these before, but has always been declined early release as he can't stop laughing in the interviews, faced with four stern prison officials. However, he was having the same problem of uncontrollable laughter in rehearsal so I taught him how not to laugh when he didn't want to. At his review he used this technique to avoid laughing and was granted his release! He now leaves prison next month and has been offered a job at the local theatre by my technical manager on the project. Further to this, the local minister of culture, Boris Milgram, who saw the show in the prison (in which Igor played a main role in the Chekhov piece and did a really excellent job) has arranged for Igor to attend the local drama academy!

The day after I decided on the casting of the plays and told the men the parts they would be playing I discovered that the man I had cast as the main part in the Isaac Babel piece 'My First Goose', as a Jewish intellectual journalist, was in fact a neo-Nazi in prison for murdering three people in a race attack. Bloody hell though! He did a great job.

On a final note it was very moving to find out that the head of the prison, Alexei Romanov, told my manager Nika Gruzdeva that "Alex has achieved more with these men in two weeks than my team of five psychologists have managed in five years!"

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Radio Interview - Bob Salter on WXRK New York

Helen Kogan speaking to Bob Salter on WXRK New York
17th Jan 2010