Actor and director Marius Kurkinski:
We should love others as we love ourselves
Even though it might seem otherwise, the art of theatre is harsh and exorcises vanity
13 January, 2018
Close-up: Marius Kurkinski was born on 15 October 1969 in Novi Pazar. At the age of 12 he joined the children's theatre programme with the “Stoyan Bachvarov” Drama Theatre in Varna and then the Raykov brothers' theatre Shturche (literally translated as “cricket”). In 1993, Kurkinski earned a degree in acting from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in the class of Prof. Krikor Azaryan. He studied film directing for two years with Prof. Georgi Dyulgerov. The list of his accolades includes the most prestigious Bulgarian prizes - Askeer and Icarus. He has directed films like Diary of a Madman and Someone Visited My Soul.
- Happy New Year, Mr Kurkinski and may we have many more! What was 2017 like for you?
- Full of work. I travelled all around the country with my latest monodrama Black Chicken based on three “wild” stories by Nikolay Haytov. I received the Chudomir Award for it in Kazanlak.
- What does that award mean to you?
- I generally do not like talking about accolades but this one is special, because it is voted by the audience to the show it best liked. The viewers' feedback is the most important thing to me. I work for these people; I am doing my best to tour all over the country and convey the messages of a great Bulgarian writer. Last year, I was awarded the Order of St. Cyril and Methodius for lifetime achievement. I have no objection to the people who give out awards because I have been shown plenty of attention. I do not collect the actual prizes, but I take good care of them. The last time I moved, I barely carried the sack full of statuettes.
- What was the thought process behind selecting these three particular stories for Black Chicken?
- I was looking for a slightly larger-scale monodrama of two hours, so that the audience spends more time in the theatre. This is becoming an increasingly greater challenge for the young generation - to sit for two hours in silence, not using a smartphone, watching someone else. This is becoming an ever more difficult task and a huge problem. We are unable to really listen to each other and this is causing many troubles and suffering. We are not searching for our likeness in the person before us, when we should love other people as we love ourselves. It was an experiment to see how much people will be able to stay in a contemplative mode, soaking up the verbal messages. I looked for texts by contemporary authors, I wanted to perceive the modern chaos and dread - it is fascinating to me but it seems to be unexplored as if we still struggle to comprehend it, so there is not enough material for a good show. This is why I went back to Haytov, whose work I adapted in my 2006 Crisis, as a precious childhood relic I could rely on, something close to me I could share with people. Every period is interesting in its own right. The world has always been an aggressive place, but there seems to be some kind of acceleration, inability to truly listen to others, scepticism, vanity in spades, hostility, raging demons, and atrocities. We are touched, hurt and killed by all of this. We enjoy the privilege of living in peace in Bulgaria, but there are so many people who feel the spiritual pain of what is happening around the world. This is the time we live in, not least because of the blinding speed with which information travels nowadays. The soul can be confused and ruined by so many things if one lacks sound principles, faith and good people surrounding them, and if one makes the mistake of being sucked into this masquerade.
- Was the message received by the audience?
- I think so. I selected stories in which, even though the characters face problems, are in a bad state and suffer, there is always a moment of joy, something good that is part of the human fabric. Whatever they go through, they do not lose that stubborn flickering light - it is the subject of my show. The characters live a sinful life and have problems like everyone else - they do not complain but also do not miss the chance to commit this moment of heavenly blessing to memory and pass it down, even if it is with a single episode of sharing wisdom. The most precious in human nature should always be preserved!
- It would seem that the problems today are no different than those 50 years ago.
- Problems are always the same and very simple - a struggle between good and evil; that is all. The form in which they appear - in a car, on a horse, carrying a phone - is inconsequential. Technologies are ultimately invented with good intentions so they are vehicle not only for evil but also the thoughts and moments of good people. Modern people are victims of the multitude of viewpoints they are bombarded with, every uncertainty causes them distress.
- What is your relationship with new technologies?
- A patchy one, which is silly. I should really bring myself to attend one of those computer classes for pensioners because this is ridiculous. I use Facebook to reach my audience and promote shows. I do not use Skype, and I do not feel this as a detriment, perhaps because the art of theatre is harsh and exorcises vanity. It may seem otherwise because you have to be in good shape, as thousands of pairs of eyes are trained on you, but this is simply the nature of the job, I do not see it as a self-serving image consciousness. If you do not treat it as a job, you run the risk of getting involved in vain and small-minded stories.
- Do you make sacrifices in order to do your job well?
- Not that I can think of. I have no hobbies or things that occupy my attention outside of theatre. Perhaps this is the problem. I almost become a non-entity when I am alone or neither on the stage nor in a rehearsal process. It is a shame, and a show of cowardice, and I am trying to be more involved in real life.
- Do you have any rituals before going on stage?
- It is not a ritual per se, I try to stay away from superstitions, but I always stay at home the whole day before a show. I stay in silence and do not talk to other people the entire time.
- How do you wind down after a show?
- When I was younger I used to party a lot, go to the clubs. I could not contain the excitement, and youth comes with wildness. Not everyone is like this, of course. I had a pretty wild youth. After a show, I would go to night cubs until dawn and all that stuff. I had the stage and led a carefree life, those were some wonderful years. But life has a way of getting back at you for the escapades and teaching you some lessons, taking you down a peg or two, punishing you, showing you how careless you had been with some people, and making you start on another path. Now I prefer quieter, less crowded places. Not that I would mind blowing off some steam after the end of the season, although it is not currently in my plans. Your body changes too, being on the stage is different, it takes more energy and discipline. I am grateful that theatre has been my way of making a living for so long. I have never worked another job.
- Have you ever wanted to do something else?
- No, never. I knew that I would be an actor from a very young age. It was easy for me in that regard. There was no searching, the direction was clear. My parents helped me and encouraged me tremendously, same with my professors. It is a blessing to meet such people.