Wylde Q. Chicken Award Winners

University Laboratory High School

2003 Wylde Q. Chicken Award Winners:
The Intensive Russian II Class
Russian Movies

Intensive Russian II Class 2003

Katya Dunatov (teacher), Kate Peisker, Emily Buss, Sasha Steinberg, Jack Liebersohn, & Stephen Bruce

Emily Bruce submitted the following nomination:

I'm nominating all five members (all from the class of '04) of the Intensive Russian II class (Stephen Bruce, Emily Buss, Jack Liebersohn, Kate Peisker, and Sasha Steinberg) for a project that began when they read a Russian ghost story in class called "Pikovaya Dama." They liked the story so much, they decided to make it into a movie, using a small digital video camera and the iMovie editing program. They've now made three more short films of dialogues they wrote themselves (all in Russian, of course).

One revolved around the story of a tourist who wants to go to Paris, France but ends up in...Paris, Illinois. Another was about a competition to decide who will be chosen to take the place of Lenin's body in the mausoleum in Red Square. The third was a dramatic murder mystery, complete with Hitchcockian camera angles, about an evil robot and a love affair. Right now, the quintet is preparing a more classic version of "Pikovaya Dama," based on Puskin's story.

Their teacher, Katya Dunatov, was flexible enough with her curriculum to allow some class time to work on dialogue, but most filming took place on the weekends. Some scenes were shot in Uni bathrooms and the more mysterious stairways of the Math House. Others were shot in Stephen's backyard and Sasha's living room. Mr. Bergandine helped Sasha with the chemicals required to take of the scary fake fingernails he wore for "Pikovaya Dama." They've also gotten some help from extras they've begun to enlist in the films--whom they also force to learn a little Russian.

I think that Wylde Q. would appreciate their efforts on these movies because they took a very simple class assignment (reading the short story) and decided to have as much fun with it as they could. They've had to be immensely creative to write, costume, design, storyboard, and produce the films, but they've also had to learn a lot more Russian outside of class than they would normally be doing for homework. I doubt, for example, that they would have come across the words for "graveyard," "computer programming," or "ghost spirits" if they hadn't needed them for their original scripts.

I hope this is enough information for you.


Emily Bruce, Senior

Special Wylde Q. Matzo Ball Award:
Ms. Katya Dunatov

The Russian II class actually received a second nomination for something completely different.

An Illinois state law passed in 2002 requires all high schools receiving public funding to set aside a time each day for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Katya Dunatov reported that at the beginning of this school year, when the pledge requirement took effect, her Russian II students were not too keen on the idea. On the third day of class, when she invited them to recite the pledge, the entire class stood up in unison and belted out (in Russian!) a rousing rendition of the International Anthem of Communists. Ms. Dunatov thought this was so hilarious that she nominated the class for the Wylde Q. Chicken award.

The Wylde Q judges rather liked this little act of subversion, but in truth we did not find it all that surprising. (One judge commented that, at Uni, this would actually be expected under the circumstances.) But given the prevailing political winds, we did find it remarkable that a teacher would not only appreciate the humor of this stunt, but actually nominate the students for an award. One of the things that makes Uni so special, after all, is a faculty that values and nurtures independent thinking among their students.

And it is in this spirit that we honor Ms. Katya Dunatov with a special Wylde Q. Matzo Ball Award for having the temerity to submit such a nomination. We presented Ms. Dunatov with an appropriate gift: a copy of the movie "Brazil".