As part of their plan to bring Soviets and Americans together, Shiryaev and Collins staged a practice session in Los Angeles last weekend, drawing about 20 students, psychologists and others for a day of role-playing, discussion and lectures on the startling changes unleashed by Gorbachev's reforms.
One of those attending was Sonya Balakrishnan, who said she left the Soviet Union 14 years ago and now is a graduate psychology student at Pepperdine University. "I'm interested in the Communist personality, which I distinguish from the national (Russian) personality," she said, adding that she wants to "explore the effects of the Communist system on the human mind."
In that vein, Shiryaev presented a series of character sketches of contemporary Soviet citizens that depicted a society driven by doubt, fear, greed and anger.
Standing in front of a TV showing videotapes of Soviet television, Shiryaev was alternately intense, sincere, indifferent and timid as he role-played his way through the sketches of citizens grappling with a riptide of change.