On September 25, the School of TEART starts and presents its events, dedicated to the role of the director in the theatre. First, the curator of the educational platform Alexander Marchenko thanked the organizers of the Forum and the partner Belarusian Insurance Company “Belgosstrakh” for their support. At the discussion the directors Dmitry Bogoslavsky, Alexander Yanushkevich and Igor Kazakov tried to find out how the modern Belarusian theatre context affects the work of stage directors.
At different times the profession of director was understood differently, but it has always depended on conditions in which theatre existed. At the opening of the “School of TEART” our speakers – directors of three Belarusian theatres who left their posts this year – conducted a creative study of the theatre and the role of director in our society. Having left their theatres and accepting it as a consequence, together with the audience they tried to find out the reasons and identify new opportunities for the development of a creative individual in the Belarusian theatre.
Identifying the reasons: what makes a director leave the theatre, where he actively worked for many years
Moderator Alexander Marchenko outlined the similarities between the stories of Igor Kazakov and Alexander Yanushkevich: the directors left regional theaters because they saw no chances for changes and no reaction to their initiatives.
Alexander Yanushkevich: “I felt they don’t need me. I was an obstacle for them with my initiatives and my requirements. Then I thought, why should I torture myself and cause discomfort to others? When I left, I saw the relief in the eyes of the management”.
Dmitry Bogoslavsky, who left one of the capital theatres, explained his choice by the divergence of opinions on how the Belarusian State Youth Theatre should evolve.
Dmitry Bogoslavsky: “I have always believed that works made in theatre are very difficult in production, but very fast in decision-making. I was not agree with the position of the Youth Theatre, which is now being made a “branch” of the Russian Maly Theatre, where plays are staged according to one possible scheme and not otherwise. It turns out that all initiatives are not suppressed, but are slowed down and take a back seat, and you no longer understand why you are doing this work.”
Despite various “symptoms”, all the speakers agreed on one thing: they worked in the theatre not “due to”, but “in defiance of”.
The definition of the “object” and the “subject” of research: what is the theatre in our society today, in what forms does it exist and how can we evaluate the director's “product”
Having clarified the problems a director faces in the academic theatre environment, the discussion participants tried to explain what modern state theatre is and how the administrative component affects creative work.
Dmitry Bogoslavsky: “Theatre is a process. We have always been taught not to go for the result, but to focus on the process; the process is interesting, not the result. Unfortunately, this is the point where we disagree: the administrative staff needs a result, but we and the theatre need a process. And we can’t find some common ground, we mentally disagree.”
All participants agreed that the working process and the experiment are the most important components of the theatre, and these are the things that are not fully realized on the academic stage today. The ways out of the situation are the underground theatre forms and experimental productions outside the state theatres.
Alexander Marchenko: “I guess that it is very convenient for our system to call contemporary drama and direction marginal and “attic-basement” art. After all, if underground forms of art will suddenly become mainstream and get official status, it will become uncomfortable for the system: it will have to admit there exists not only paradise and happiness, but also ugly, problematic world, which is legitimate for a person.”
Igor Kazakov: “Today, the director of the theatre bears a heavy responsibility. The fate of the theatre and its masters largely depends on talented or unsuccessful leaders, their worldview and appreciation. I see a way out in a strong theatrical expertise.”
Elena Malchevskaya, theatre critic: “Expertise is a good word. But the point is that the evaluation criteria of the theatre community and officials should be the same. Only then it will make sense.”
Theater critics Tatyana Orlova and Lyudmila Gromyko agreed that theatre community and closer cooperation of specialists, competition and mutual influence are necessary elements for Belarusian theatres to get out of stagnation.
Alexander Marchenko: “It seems to me that this is the very step towards unity — a way out of groups that do not offer reciprocal love.”
Dmitry Bogoslavsky: “So far we have no vivid example of a community worried about its members.”
Today: Why does Belarusian audience go to the theatre
In the pursuit of premieres plan implementation, the quality of the productions is most affected. There is a popular opinion that comedy is the most relevant genre to the viewer, and therefore it is the most cost-effective genre.
After asking the audience “Why do you go to the theatre?” the participants introduced a completely different point of view: the audience spoke about interesting, meaningful productions that go beyond the usual framework.
Dmitry Bogoslavsky: “The administration insists that the viewer is waiting for comedies and goes specifically to them. But who have conducted a research in this area? Where does this confidence come from? We need to think about how to take the viewer to a new level.”
Practical part: what qualities a director needs to possess in order to work in the existing conditions
Following the slogan “Concentrate. Director as persona” the participants identified the most important quality of their profession – to be yourself.
Alexander Yanushkevich: “I think you have to be true to yourself: if you feel sick from something, then don’t do this. Self-sufficiency is important not only for the director, but for any creative unit. Internal cleanliness and careful attitude to your essence will help to work in the new art formation, where constant changes are taking place.”
Igor Kazakov: “Directing is a profession. Not a diploma and specialty, but a crushing profession, needed only to the person who chose it. If you need a recipe: do not think that the theatre is only a government entity in the approved list. Do not be afraid to be initiative.”
Text by Vera Kachanova
Photo by Marina Karpovich
International Theatre Forum “TEART” is held with the support of the Belarusian Insurance Company “Belgosstrakh”.