Rimas Tuminas: and the heavens are watching our play

Publication date: 6 November 2012

Author: Elena Ragozhina

Issue: New Style

Last six months of the theater director, Rimas Tuminas are rich with anniversaries. On November 13, 2011 the Vakhtangov Theater headed by him celebrated its 90 years anniversary. (This was exactly the day in 1921, when the play "The Miracle of St. Anthony" was staged for the first time), and in January of this year, the maestro himself celebrated his sixtieth anniversary. However, in fact, the director is just 57 years old: but after the war, to get a position of the mobile film projector mechanic, 14-year-old Rimas added himself three years. Tuminas joined the Vakhtangov Theater at a difficult period for the theater, becoming, by the way, the first foreign director to head the State Academic Theatre of Russia. Although in 5 years the director had to go through difficult times, today, each premier of the theater becomes event in the life of Moscow. Last year, the Vakhtangov Theater was recognized as the most visited theater of the capital.

Following a high-profile and successful tour of the Moscow theater "Sovremennik" the producer, Oksana Nemchuk could not help but notice a great interest of London audience to the Russian theater. Having conceived the idea of regular Russian theater seasons in London, in November this year Oksana will bring a famous performance of the Vakhtangov Theater, "Uncle Vanya." Winner of the "Golden Mask", "Uncle Vanya" was acknowledged the best performance of Russia in 2011. From 5th to 10th of November 2012 Noel Coward theater stage will host the Russian theater and movie stars in the legendary Chekhov play.

Rimas Tuminas
– is the theater director, artistic director of the Vakhtangov Theater. He was born on January 20, 1952 in Kelme (Lithuania). In 1970-1974 he studied at the Theatre School of Vilnius Conservatory; then studied directing at the Moscow GITIS (the Tumanov course). He made his debut in the theater of the drama of the Lithuanian SSR with "January" performance based on the play of J. Radichkov (1978). His first Moscow production was the "Melody for Peacock" by O. Zagradnik (1979) at the Stanislavsky Theater. From 1979 to 1990 he was the director, from 1994 to 1999 – the chief director of the State Academic Drama Theatre of Lithuania. In 1990 he founded and headed the Maly Drama Theatre in Vilnius. In 2007 he accepted the offer of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography and became artistic director of the Moscow Vakhtangov Theater. Tuminas is the winner of the State Prize of Russia (1999) and a number of theater awards: the "Golden Mask", "Golden Nail", "Crystal Turandot" Stanislavsky Award. He was awarded the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas (1998), as well as the Order of Friendship (2010) for his contribution to the development of cultural relations with the Russian Federation, the preservation and promotion of the Russian language and culture abroad.

For Muscovites the Vakhtangov Theater on Arbat has always been an integral part of the city, a kind of icon. How hard was it to decide to take the lead in such an iconic theater?
That was the difficulty so I was aware of how difficult it is. And at first Irefused. Probably I wanted (and still want!) to be a free director: came - staged - gone! And then put on the bohemian hat draped scarf and walked along the Arbat, "Hi, Vakhtangov! Hi, 'Sovremennik'! To play free creator is very easy, however, it seems to me, the artist is a person who upholds the values ​​- those that still remain. And after asking myself the question, "Who will do it?", - I answered myself, "Just me." I believe in nab, in love, in devotion, in fate, in the theater, and therefore I have to go and win. This belief helps me, I'm not afraid of responsibilities, challenges and management issues.

You've come to the theater with great actors, the established repertoire and a pile of problems. When you enter the business, where there are more questions than answers, do not you down the hands? With what do you start first, the repertoire, the organization of production, household problems? Where did you start?
I began by taking 7 performances off the repertoire. Of course, it was a challenge, but I had to do it. For a variety of reasons: some performances were obsolete or purely entertaining, deceiving viewers with illusory happiness. I do not want to deceive people, I want to show that we are in trouble, in a good light trouble, but we are alive, and even bitter and painful, but we can be happy that we are alive. To fly over these troubles and rise - this is the Vakhtangov Theater. You see a bird in the sky, admiring its flight; and no one has ever raised the question: maybe she is sick? And this is her last flight? Whether the bird is in love or single? But no one has asked the bird about this, all are just happy that it flies. This was the senseless joy I removed. And I attracted attention to our illnesses. People are not to blame: they have taken the fate of the country, its political situation so hard that they would only want to laugh or cry of this load. The public did not have the middle: it’s either Pugacheva or we; drama or Galkin. That’s all. This is the middle I want to fill in, to make it clear: yes, we are sick, but not hopeless. We are just infected, and the theater can help us to wake up, to get rid of the nightmares, to recover. The director has no right to impose his nightmares on viewers - it is his personal problems. He must love, sympathize, empathize.

The "The Pier" play is the anniversary one; it involves all the old and new members of the theater ...
Sorry, but this performance is a reflection of my self. I did not consider the fate of the individuals, Lanovoy, Yakovlev, Borisova. I peered into my youth - in what I loved, things that live in my memory. The performance consists of eight plays. I wanted to bring back the beauty of those years, when I was in love, admired, appreciated. Through the leading actors of the theater, I appeal to the beauty and goodness, to which we were delighted to kneel. We lost all of these values ​​today, and I wanted to bow and say, "Thank you for having been in my life; and if you are still there this is wonderful!" THEY made the play – with their memory, energy, they shouted with their life, and I'm with them! I just followed them.

Do to continue to work on the staged performances, make some changes, adjustments?
Yeah, I do not leave my performances: I come to the theater to see the performance, help, give advice to actors; express some comments. Sometimes we need to be cleansed to hear the time, the echo of our life today.

An example of such longevity is your "Masquerade", which is staged for many years in the Vilnius Theatre ...
I can not take it off... Sometimes I think: that's enough, it's time. But I feel that the performance is still necessary, "it is played in heaven," there is life, blood, and nerve.

When you plan a new performance, what underlines it: the company, actors or the play, the topic you are interested in? What is first for you: who will play or what to play?
Plays. My job is secondary; I recognize the primacy of the author. I go after; I am with life, not in front of it, but near it. Therefore, initially the people, characters, fate emerge. Then you try on: who would have played it, in which theater, in which country? As Ronsard said: "Fate assigns the roles. And heavens are watching our play! "

During you directorial life you returned to the Uncle Vanya for many times. How not to repeat yourself, your Uncle Vanya, staged ten years ago?
I'm not trying to. Sometimes, I like a song or a romance. It sounds in me, accompanies by life, so I sing it again and again. Good! I can sing it for a hundred times! Uncle Vanya is a song! And isn’t it interesting how we will sing it this time? But it will always be a song about how we say goodbye to a life that all of us at some point will have to say goodbye to it, and it is necessary to learn - not to become angry, bitter. And after two years I will stage Uncle Vanya again, I will return to this song. Worse or better – but I will stage it. Perhaps everyone will be fed with me, but I will do it again! We must be honest. Whether you feel food or bad, sing this song. This is not some Vanya – this is my father, my uncle, my dear man. And if I'll be tied to him like to my dear one, then, perhaps, I will not make a mistake; I will not be false.

Have you wanted to film Uncle Vanya?
Yes, I wanted to. I get asked this question – maybe because on stage I'm doing installation; and my education is TV directing. But at some point I realized that what I want to show can be expressed only in the theater. In the theater, you can show all. The film ... Now, perhaps, it's too late, but I still want to make a movie.

Why late?
I will be ashamed to say at my age, "I made ​​a debut in filming." (Laughs)

The fact that the theater again after a long break gained popularity is pleasing. And what about the material side of the issue? Does the theater still need public funding or this is the thing of the past?
The fact that the state does not turn away from us helps – it’s noble and beautiful. Without this it is impossible, but we try to earn for ourselves, to thank the government for support. If you consider yourself smart and talented, you should be able to make money for yourself!

This year, you have already come to London to attend the Shakespeare Festival, now you have to tour with Uncle Vanya. How did it happen that the Vakhtangov Theatre was invited to the capital of Britain?
We are happy and proud that we have been noticed and invited to the Shakespeare Festival. It's very important for the theater - when people know about it, see it, invite. Tour of Uncle Vanya is another story. This year our performance was the best performance of the year and Oksana invited us to bring it to London. So, the world needs us - and not only Shakespeare, but our Chekhov too.