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   07 May 2013

   interview by Audronius Liuaga

Dialogue: Eimuntas Nekrošius

Why has The Divine Comedy appeared in your creative career?
I don’t particularly try to pose this question to myself. An album of illustrations given to me by the late Vytautas Kalinauskas has been on my shelf for a long time. Three or four other books – the translations of The Comedy by Sigitas Geda and Aleksys Churginas, a Russian translation... A body of books has been amassed.

Dante called his work simply The Comedy. How do you think why?
Perhaps this genre is the most capacious in depicting a journey to a place where no one has even been. How else could you call it? Certainly, this title carries an underlying implication.

Which parts of The Divine Comedy will be in your production?
Inferno and Purgatorio.

How did you choose what to transfer to the stage from Dante’s text?
I wish I could transfer everything. Everything is important in that text. But my possibilities are very limited. So are those of the theatre. You are physically incapable of conveying this fantasy. In any case you are going to lose against this literature, its scope and horizon. Some themes of the literary work did not yield to the stage altogether, while others seemed simply excellent, but somehow I didn’t feel like touching them, perhaps out of ethical considerations... There were some themes that apparently should be addressed, but I put them aside.

Which themes did you find the most important?
At this point it is difficult for me to delineate them. Of course, there are the themes of Dante as a poet, Virgil and Beatrice. I tried to stick to what is the axis of Dante’s work. It is possible that occasionally I digressed and went astray from this axis… Anyway, this material is not a novel or a play; it is something entirely different. It requires a different kind of work when transferring it to the stage.

In what is it different?
Above all, in its poetic language. Secondly, in its laconicism. The lines of the text transfer you to an entirely different dimension. This work gives you a creative freedom so huge that you don’t even know how to handle it.

In The Divine Comedy, Dante manifests himself not only as a creator, but also as a citizen – he openly voices his views on the state, society and politics of that time. How is this topic important?
It is definitely very important. Dante was a dissident of his time. One can imagine how much courage he needed to be able to speak out his thoughts against the church, the pope, and against his own state. He was persecuted for this all his life.

Do you find it important?
Probably not.

Why?
Of course, one could try and look for some far-fetched parallels with the present, but I’m not inclined to do it.

T. S. Eliot said that Dante’s hell is “not a place, but a state”, and that an individual is both condemned and saved in the works of his own imagination and in the consciousness of the surrounding people. What do you think about it?
I am familiar with T. S. Eliot’s views on this work. He put it very nicely, and I totally agree. But there were a lot of great writers and poets who referred to Dante’s work. For example, Dante had a great influence on Shakespeare. He used almost the same artistic means, psychological elements, and dramatic climaxes. This influence is strongly present in his plays, of course, indirectly. I even think that the meaning of my work with Dante’s poem is getting to know it better. It is not enough to read it once or several times. Quite possibly the late poet Sigitas Geda translated it with the aim to know it better, to apprehend it. It is a never-ending process.

What is the suffering experienced in Dante’s hell? Is it an artistic image or a religious experience?
Obviously, through his own experience he plunges us into extreme states. In order to experience the absolute light, one must apprehend the darkness.

Is the religious theme of the poem important to you?
It is. But the point is how much I succeed in conveying it. If it has a distinct sound in the performance. Yet, the theatre reality might be quite different from your wishes...

In the afterworld represented in your production, the strongest experience is not the physical suffering, but the longing for the lost life and the bond with one’s home and relatives.
Yes. Like our entire nation since the pagan times and even later, after the adoption of Christianity, I have been and am cherishing this relation. Even today, in the 21st century, its importance has not decreased a little bit. I have in mind the respect that people feel for the afterlife. Certainly, scientific discoveries and new technologies have suppressed this relation, but I think that all people – perhaps to make life easier - deep in their hearts believe that their life does not end with death, that something is going to happen after death... You always carry this word with you, and you find some peace in knowing that a day will come when you are no more… I can assert that I’ve become convinced that nothing disappears anywhere. Nothing vanishes. Not only one’s physical body, but also one’s soul and thoughts.

And those who depart to the afterworld feel the need to maintain a relation with the living?
Yes. But we seldom receive messages from them...

In your production they communicate with the living by letters.
Yes, if I succeed in conveying this topic...

Dante repeatedly exclaims that the art of words is helpless to describe the experienced images and states. What about the theatre art?
It is helpless as well.

Why?
There are two endless spaces inside and outside of an individual. In my opinion, the inside space is much richer and wider than what we see outside. Theatre has certain possibilities, but they are quite limited. That is where the superficiality of theatre comes from. It is much more difficult to express certain themes in theatre than it is in music or fine art. It only seems that theatre has unlimited possibilities. Although other art forms have fewer means of expression, they are more capacious.

Does it mean that the creative thought is always more capacious than its material expression?
Yes. Perhaps sometimes it is not even necessary to materialize it. If you have formulated or came upon a thought, it is not necessary to express it. What is important is to know it.

What is left then?
The knowing.

Isn’t it necessary to share this knowing?
I think it isn’t. Perhaps when you’re young, you have this wish, but as the years go by, less and less of it remains…

Why Dante needs Virgil in his journey through the circles of Hell?
They are two wise people...

In real life two artists cannot walk on the same road for long, and here they even make a journey into Hell...
Yes, it is indeed complicated to imagine the relations of Dante and Virgil. It is difficult to find any tension in these relations. But I think that Dante needs Virgil like the wind that blows against his back. Sometimes it blows against his chest, to cool him down. So that Dante keeps the rhythm of the pace.

What about Beatrice?
Beatrice is nothing new under the sun. A muse is a muse. She is very important.

How did you choose the actors for this production?
It is not the most complicated job for any director to choose the actors.

But there are those who are irreplaceable and the performance depends on them. For example, Dante’s role – there can be only one performer for this role.
Yes.

Why did you choose Rolandas Kazlas?
At the present time he has all the necessary qualities and strength for that. Firstly, he is clever, secondly – talented, and thirdly – an integrated personality.

A group of young actors who are still students will make a debut in this production. What role are they going to play?
A great deal depends on these young actors. They will try to create the entire atmosphere, mood, and ambience of the performance. Alongside their ensemble will be like one character. I find it very important. They will also perform small episodes in the mosaic principle.

In this production you take the way of theatrical minimalism and seek to convey the idea laconically…
I’m only trying. I always admired laconicism. Sometimes because of that I consciously limit myself. I would like to make this production laconic, but I’m not sure if it works out.

Why is it important to be laconic in art today?
So that you don’t make any references. Laconicism has a great value. Sometimes it is difficult to explain it logically, but it helps the actors to create a much wider space for the audience and a greater possibility to grasp the essence of the work. Laconicism is more directed to an individual person, it encourages thinking. You don’t have to try to suggest something.

What kind of ending would you like? What opens after the Purgatory?
I could express it in a very complex and interesting way. But I would like it to be very simple and clear. Perhaps this ending will not reach Paradise, Hell, or Purgatory. It will be kind of ungraspable.

      © FITS

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EIMUNTAS Nekrošius

Eimuntas Nekrošius (n. 1952) a absolvit Institutul de Teatru Lunacharski din Moscova în 1978. A lucrat la Teatrul de Stat pentru Tineret din Vilnius (1978-1979) şi la Kaunas Drama Theatre (1979-1980). În 1980 revine la Teatrul din Vilnius unde colaborează pentru următoarele producţii: Pătratul de Yeliseyeva (1981), Dragoste şi Moarte în Verona de Antanėlis şi Geda (1982), Pirosmani, Pirosmani, A Day Longer Than a Hundred Years de Aitmatov (1983), Unchiul Vania de Cehov (1986) şi Nasul de Gogol (1991). Toate spectacolele sale s-au bucurat de distincţii atât la festivalurile din Lituania, cât şi la cele din statele baltice. Între 1991- 1997 a lucrat ca regizor rezident la Festivalul Internaţional de Teatru Lituanian LIFE, pentru care creează: Mozart şi Salieri, Don Juan, Plaga de Pushkin (1994), Trei surori de Cehov (1995) şi Dragoste şi Moarte în Verona (1996). În 1994, Nekrošius a primit premiul „Regizorul anului”, din partea Uniunii Teatrale din Lituania, iar Uniunea Teatrelor din Europa i-a acordat Premiul New European Theatre Realities pentru spectacolul Mozart şi Salieri, Don Juan, Plaga. În 1997, Nekrošius a creat una dintre cele mai de succes producţii ale sale: Hamlet de Shakespeare, care a fost jucată la aproape toate marile festivaluri europene, câştigând numeroase premii.

Din 1998 înfiinţează şi lucrează ca regizor artistic pentru teatrul-studio Meno Fortas. În 1999 a regizat Macbeth de Shakespeare, iar în 2001, Othello, care a avut premiera mondială la Veneţia. În 2002 a regizat prima sa operă, Macbeth de Verdi, la Teatro Comunale din Florenţa. În 2003, Nekrošius pune în scenă Anotimpurile, bazat pe poemului epic al marelui scriitor lituanian Kristijonas Donelaitis, şi Livada de vişini de Cehov, cu actori ruşi, având premiera la Moscova, şi este lăudat de criticii ruşi ca fiind cea mai memorabilă producţie a piesei lui Cehov din ultimii zece ani. În 2004 creează unul dintre cele mai poetice spectacole ale sale, Cântarea Cântărilor, bazat pe Vechiul Testament. În 2005 s-a dedicat regizării a două opere: Children of Rosenthal de L. Desiatnikov la Teatrul Balşoi din Moscova şi Boris Godunov la Teatro Comunale din Florenţa.

Ultimele sale producţii includ Goethe de Faust, creat la Meno Fortas, şi Valkyrie de Wagner, la Teatrul Naţional de Operă şi Balet din Lituania. Anul 2008 marchează premiera spectacolelor Anna Karenina la Emilia Romagna Teatro din Modena şi cea mai recentă operă, Legenda Invizibilului Oraş Kitez, regizată atât la Teatro Lirico din Cagliari, cât şi la Teatrul Balşoi din Moscova. În 2011, acesta a creat o producţie teatrală la scară mare, bazată pe romanul Idiotul de Feodor Dostoievski.