ETERNAL IMAGES IN MODERN DRAMATURGY:

A talk with the poet and playwright Viktor Korkiya

By Yekaterina Kislyarova

In RUSSIAN CULTURE NAVIGATOR
Tuesday, December 18, 2001



Whether theatre is prospering or experiencing crisis, critics never stop urging directors to put on more contemporary plays. The latter agree... and yet, most of them prefer to stage the classics. Still, many dramatists have risen to prominence in the past decade - Nadezhda Ptushkina, Maxim Kurochkin, Yelena Isayeva and others. Among them is the poet and playwright Viktor Korkiya. Viktor started writing poems in 1969 and in the 80s he ranked among the top five poets in Moscow. But is was not until 1988 at the peak of Gorbachev's perestroika that his first collection of poems and his first play The Mystery Man, or, I Am Poor Soso Dzhugashvili, with Joseph Stalin (whose father's name was Dzhugashvili) as the principal character, was produced. The parallels drawn by the author, the slightly altered monologues of Tsar Boris Godunov from Alexander Pushkin's drama, inserted into the text, induced thoughts about the nature of power in Russia, ways of achieving and maintaining it.

"We post-modernists are fond of quotations: we use them as metaphors", Victor Korkiya explains. "Everything we hear around us enters our vocabulary. In fact, there isn't any poetic trick or poetic image that can't be found in Homer".

Mounted by the student theatre of Moscow State University, The Mystery Man, or, I Am Poor Soso Dzhugashvili was a tremendous success, to the author's surprise. His new play, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on the Island of Taganrog, staged by actress and director Oksana Mysina promises to be another hit.

"It is likely to become one of the most sensational productions of the coming season", Korkiya says. "The part of Don Quixote is brilliantly performed by Dmitry Pisarenko".

One is stunned to see Hamlet, Don Juan, Joan of Arc and Casanova among the characters. "There are many curious facts in the history of drama. Nearly all the plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Moliere and other playwrights are based on well-known episodes from history. The most "contemporary" of Shakespeare's plays is Henry VIII. In terms of time, it's the same as writing about Lenin or Stalin today. It is easier for a playwright to create a plot and express his ideas within a well-known myth".

But what about modern life? What chances does it have of being shown on stage? Korkiya's forecast is rather pessimistic: the present-day realities are too divorced from the conventions of theatre. A telephone call leaves no trace, hence it cannot play a fatal role as, for instance, letters used to. A true-to-life scene of murder committed in modem times is far more complicated to stage than a similar act in the past, involving such "theatrical" means as a sword, a pistol or poison.

"Modem theatre and modem playwrights learn more from antiquity or the Renaissance than from the 19th-century classics", says Korkiya. "Because the conventionality of ancient theatre is closer to that of modern theatre. The latter is more inclined to work with metaphors than reproduce everyday realities of modem life. The movies and television appear, on the other hand, to be more interested in 19th-century psychological realism - plays and novels with intricate relationship between the characters. Chekhov, for instance, is a brilliant cinematic playwright. His famous plays look more like scripts that are easier to translate into the language of cinema than to bring to life on stage".

The tacit laws of dramaturgy rule that a play is only considered finished after the premiere. "A peculiarity of dramaturgy is that sometimes in the course of rehearsals a new text suggests itself, which induces you to rewrite the play, because you feel that it must be included. This is probably why such major dramatists as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Moliere, Bulgakov and others either worked in the theatre or were closely connected with it. Theatre is an experimental art.




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