A week ago, on December 4, Nikolay Kolyada and his theater celebrated a joint birthday. On the morning 29 November I arrived in Yekaterinburg and that evening went in “Kolyada theater” to watch the performance “Woe from wit”. The theater occupies a former cinema building in the city center, which is why it has a specific layout and atmosphere.
Nikolay was very busy that day, but he was able to give me 20 minutes to talk in person. We talked of his plays and his pupils, without touching on the subject of politics at all, and scarcely on the subject of finances.
Artana: Today I will watch the first performance in your direction — “Woe from wit”. I haven’t seen any of your productions before, but I’ve heard a lot of feedback from friends and colleagues. Most of them claim that your works are “specific”. Do you agree with this opinion?
Nikolay Kolyada: You know, I don’t think any specifics exist. I have a live theatre, as you will see today. I have good plays, they are staged all over the world. I think it’s a sign of quality. If my works differ in any way from others, it is, first of all, according to the Stanislavsky system. They’re alive. Stanislavsky said: “There is a living theater and a dead theater”. That’s all. By the way, we have full house — this is the measure of everything. So everything’s all right, I don’t think anything is specific.
A: Do youmonitor the fate of your numerous plays?
NK: I have 130 of them, so I do not monitor them. If my works are staged, first of all, I demand a contract. For me, the sum of money is important, not the quality of the performance. I understood already that it is senseless to quarrel with directors, to insist on something I believe would work best. Since my theater lives solely on what I earn, I care how much I’m paied. Paid well — thank you, had a good performance — I’m very pleased, didn’t work — sorry, just pay me the money. Unfortunately, I approach now from such a cynical point of view, but it is impossible otherwise. The theater is private and employs 65 people, and I need to pay them.
A: No wonder you have so many performances in a week.
NK: Yes, there are a lot of performances, because we have to earn money. Here, you see, I have an actor preparing [points to the TV on the opposite wall]. I Have 12 TV cameras in theatre.
A: Great, you can be aware of all the processes without leaving the office.
NK: Yes, I can keep track of what’s going on in the cafe, what’s going on behind the scenes — I keep track of everything.
A: How does the team feel about it? Personal space…
NK: And what? You came to the theater, here everything is for sale. Surely, we don’t have cameras in toilets or dressing rooms, only in public places.
A: Do you have productions-favorites for your plays?
NK: I have never singled out any of them. It takes too much time monitoring th fate of my plays and the career of my students.
A: In addition to writing plays and directing theater, you also teach at the Theater Institute in the faculty of drama, where you have many students. As a person who writes, it seems to me that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to teach writing. Grammar, spelling can be taught, but the sense of language — no.
NK: I force all my students attend rehearsals, watch performances. Many of my students, including former ones, work for me in the theater as actors, tehcnical units, or are present as playwrights. They see how I work, they are, probably, influenced by the fact that I love theater and have always loved it. That is, I teach them by example: do as I do, write as I do.
Writing a play is easy enough. On the left side you write who speaks, on the right side what this person speaks. Another thing: it should connect your brain and your heart, you shoul tell about myself. If the story is about yourself, about your childhood, mom, dad, Russia, Homeland, winter, spring, the life you live — everything works brilliantly. If you tell stories about some of the people there who the hell knows where they are and what they do there, then it’s not interesting. When you write about yourself, you laugh and cry at yourself, hiding behind the characters.
I was somehow lucky that many of my students became famous. Just talked with the “Caravan” that is a large group of producers from around the world. My students, for example, Anna Bogacheva, Irina Vaskovskaya joined the conversation with “Caravan”. I was pleased and happy that I have such talented students.
A: If the students will only repeat you whether or not they create something of their own?
NK: Yes, they start by repeating me. I don’t see anything wrong with that. When I started my writing career, I wrote stories. Then I studied at the Literary Institute in the direction of prose. Very imitated Shukshin, Belov, Astafyev. Then, when he began to work on plays, imitated Vampilov, and after a while he crossed it and found his way. So I don’t see anything wrong with this approach. I always say: first do as I do, and then step over my dead body and do something of your own.
A: How else can people can become your students?
NK: I have a theatre school at my theatre. It withered because I began to stage many plays in Moscow, now I will go to the Provincial theater to stage a play, then we have a big tour, and the other day I fly to Moscow to work in a film by Serebrennikov in a sufficiently large role. It’s all on me. In this school people pay to study: they come here, sit on this very sofa on which we’re sitting, I give them tasks, in a week they come with ready paper, we discuss it and so on.
A: People often come out with the words: “Oh, what I just saw…”. Yes, this is not quite a familiar production even for our audience, I mean the audience of the Arkhangelsk youth theater.
NK: The viewer must be educated. Let them get used to the new contemporary theatrical language. It’s very important. The theater develops. Play Shakespeare in velvet pants, swing a sword and talk beautifully… We live in the XXI century, it is necessary to change something, probably, to bring it closer to today’s world, today’s audience. People are in Internet, they are advanced, and it’s not good to show them these things.
A: In January you are going on a really big tour to Moscow, in three weeks you will play 52 performances. Isn’t it too much?
NK: We are going to Moscow for the 12th year in a row. Last year, we played even more — 72 performances in Bulgakov’s House and in the theater on Strastnoy. This time we play less and repeat performances — “Caligula”, for example. Some performances are already sold out, people are asking to add more performances. We have already earned 4 million rubles, before the tour a month and a half. Therefore, I think we will earn in sum 10 million from the tour.
About the team… All their lives they coped, why can’t they cope with it now? Artists love their work. The theater is 18 years old, so as a result of long years together, we have a great team that knows how to work.