Laura Donovan '13 Interns for Baryshnikov’s New Show

By Charlotte Kugler '14

This summer, Laura Donovan '13 is working on two different internships, both related to her passion for Russian culture and performing arts. One of them has given her the exciting opportunity to meet and work with famous Russian actor and ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

As a theatre arts and Russian literature and culture double major at Mount Holyoke, Donovan is particularly interested in the process of adapting Russian literary works to the stage, which Baryshnikov is doing in his production of Anton Chekhov’s short story “The Man in a Case.”

In the fall of 2011, she was able to explore her combination of majors when she studied abroad at the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia. There she learned about theatre directly from renowned Russian actors.

A subsequent internship this summer with the Trust for Mutual Understanding, based in NYC, led to her second internship with Baryshnikov. The Trust is the only foundation in America that gives grant money to artists who work internationally between Russia, Eastern Europe, and the United States.

“With this internship, I am learning about the prominent artists who work in the international Russian-American theatre world, many of whom I hope to work with in the future,” says Donovan.

While interning with the trust, Donovan met the directors Annie B. Parson and Paul Lazar, cofounders of the Big Dance Theatre Company. The directors told her they were working on a new production, an adaptation of “The Man in a Case.”

“When they heard of my interest in Russian theatre, especially in adapting Russian literature for the stage, they offered me the opportunity to work for the show as a production intern,” Donovan explains.

The production stars Mikhail Baryshnikov, legendary ballet dancer and actor, as the schoolteacher Belikov. The show is currently in the workshop phase and will reach its first audience in the spring of 2013.

As a production intern, Donovan does a variety of jobs. The most important job, in her opinion, is keeping the script up to date.

“Because the script is being created during the rehearsal process, it is my job to sit in rehearsals and edit the script, which is constantly changing,” she says. “I have also translated Russian songs and helped the actors with pronunciation, and for ten minutes, I got to read lines opposite Baryshnikov himself.”

Donovan’s internship for the production has given her a fuller appreciation and understanding of what goes into adapting a text for the stage.

“This is the type of work I love to create, and to experience the process firsthand from living legends is an absolutely incredible experience, one that I will carry forever,” she says.

Donovan is currently working on her senior thesis, which will be a play about Tolstoy and his wife; she will use nearly all primary sources to create the text. She plans to direct the show at MHC on Rooke Theatre’s main stage in the spring of 2013.

“This experience has certainly given me a new perspective on the shape of my thesis work,” she says.

After graduation, Donovan hopes to work with theatre companies that focus on Russian-American exchange and eventually open a theatre company that will operate internationally between Russia and the United States.