This popular author doesn’t yet consider himself a playwright
By Veniamin Petrovsky
To Love People, based on a play by Belarusian writer Dmitry Bogoslavsky, 25, premiered at the Moscow Academic Theatre (named after V. Mayakovsky) at the end of the season. Headed by Lithuanian Mindaugas Karbauskis, the theatre is paying more attention to young writers and directors. It is a joyful event to see Belarusian writers on the academic scene in Moscow — as it has been some time; in fact, Bogoslavsky is not just another ‘engineer of human souls’ but an actor with the Belarusian State Youth Theatre.
Dmitry, when did you decide to take up your pen? Were you dissatisfied with the dramatic material available?
I’m yet to feel like a true writer or playwright. I began writing deliberately, once reconstruction began on the Youth Theatre, as there was little work for me or opportunity for self-realisation. I wasn’t dissatisfied with the drama out there; it’s just that it can be difficult to find a piece that really speaks to you, reflecting your feelings at a particular time.
It’s a very common problem: the director failing to take the writer into consideration. He can cut a play into pieces, add something himself, or strike out something if it hinders him. However, I do think it’s better to simply find the right play, which doesn’t need alteration.
How did you begin collaborating with the Mayakovsky Theatre?
Mindaugas called me and offered me the ‘right of first night’ — in Moscow, for this play, at his theatre. As artistic director, he offered the material and the director, Nikita Kobelev. Of course, I agreed and we met to discuss the play. Right up until opening night, I was online, answering questions from the director and actors.
Did you manage to avoid the ‘deceit’ of Muscovites playing villagers? Or did the premiere inspire the desire to shout ‘I don’t believe it’?
Russian and Belarusian villagers share common problems. The director chose the actors very well and they played their characters wonderfully. We created an uncensored version, leaving in the curse words, which is a big step for a theatre with such a history. No one would have wanted to shout ‘I don’t believe it!’ at any moment of the three hours of the play. Of course, there are always some members of the audience who are intent on disliking a play, refusing to understand. However, there was a foreigner with an interpreter sitting in front of me. The latter actually forgot to translate at the most dramatic places!
The play has quite a tough story, with some of the ‘Southern Gothic’ style of Faulkner and the urban Guignols of Balabanov...
The ‘rigidity’ of the plot is a matter of circumstance. Some argue that there is no love in the play but I beg to differ: love is entangled in the nets of anger, laziness, drunkenness and loneliness. We often turn away and close our eyes, saying that we don’t have this or that when we do! Drunkenness and domestic violence are things we close our eyes to, alongside desperate loneliness.
What is the main problem with modern Belarusian drama?
There is no drama — so there is no problem! It’s true (laughs). I think we lack enough communication: dialogue with one another and with the theatre. In December, we young playwrights came together at the Alternative Drama Studio. We’ve organised three events already. Over 13 evenings, we read modern Belarusian drama and had an audience every day.
In Russia, every festival and competition has a master class, as is normal practice, absolutely expected today. We should create a workshop at the National Drama Festival in Bobruisk, organising annual drama competitions to encourage people. Everything is too tame these days, pandering to the perceived wishes of the audience. Minsk lacks anywhere with a rigid repertory policy; few take risks with their team, except perhaps the main director of the Puppet Theatre, Alexey Lelyavsky.
How does the Youth Theatre cope with such difficulties? It lacks its own stage while the theatre is being repaired, and the chair of artistic director is empty...
We’re waiting for a new building, as everyone wants to start regular work again. Actors need to constantly keep in shape, which is difficult if you only go on stage once or twice a month.
Will you continue to liaise with the Mayakovsky Theatre… and will your plays appear on other stages in Moscow?
I don’t know, as I’ve only just made my debut. Time will tell. It’s important that something get off the ground. That’s the most significant thing.