Photos: Ekaterina Musatkina
Makeup: Irina Grishina
Interview: Alisa Taezhnaya
IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask journalists, writers, scientists, curators and other heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in their bookcase. Today, Alyona Starostina, an assistant director and actress of the Post theater, shares stories about her favorite books.
theater post actress
Relationships with books are like relationships with people. With some you spend your whole life, and some leave after the first meeting
I am not one of those children for whom reading books was an integral, necessary part of life. But the stories of parents and reading fairy tales before going to bed every evening was a real holiday. I couldn't sleep if Mom or Dad didn't read something to me. Until now, it is much easier for me to perceive by ear: the imagination starts to work, there is space for filling, stories and characters appear out of thin air, as if from nowhere.
There was never a large library at home: every book had to be taken out or brought from somewhere. I grew up at a time when the appearance of a new edition was a real event: for the waste paper handed over, you could get a ticket and write out something, for example, the children's encyclopedia “What is? Who it?". We did not wait for three volumes, for me it is still a mystery, what is there in the letters X, Ts, Ch, Sh, Sh, E, Yu, Y. Every summer, returning from Kazakhstan after the holidays, we brought some books (I don't know why, but it was easier to get them there). A suitcase of books on trains, halfway across the country!
My first self-read book was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I was in love with Huck and dreamed of traveling on a raft along the Mississippi River with him: America was so different from what is outside the window. In general, in childhood I really liked to imagine myself as a boy, youth, man, as if I had a second self, known only to me. Male self. Then I had almost no girlfriends, but I had a lot of friends. Hence, probably, the love for the novels of chivalry by Walter Scott, the adventure stories of Jack London and the novels of Hemingway.
Thanks to my literature teacher Tamara Grigorievna Belokoneva, I learned and fell in love with reading with a pencil in my hands, underlining, signing and making notes. Doing all this, I establish a real connection with the text, leave my mark: the book becomes mine, and only mine. When I now open “War and Peace” or “A Hero of Our Time” and look through all the bookmarks and signatures, I remember not only the works, but also return to myself the one that will no longer exist.
Relationships with books are like relationships with people. With some you spend your whole life, agree, swear, fall in love, and some leave after the first meeting. It still seems to me that if I go to Venice for Christmas (Brodsky spent his first fee in emigration on a trip to Venice and then returned there almost every year), I will meet with Brodsky or understand something about him.
Now in my library new books appear very rarely, I mainly download for the Kindle. It is much more convenient, and for some reason the reading speed in the reader is much faster. Nevertheless, my library of real books collected over 15 years is very dear to me, because it is a part of me, what I am now, the pages also preserve my past. Each book has its own story. It's surprising to me that now all these books are stored in the cloud, and at any time, anywhere you can open each of them. Without owning them, you still seem to possess them.
My library of real books collected over 15 years is very dear to me
With memory alone
The book that made me want to be behind the scenes. These are the memories of the actress about the Moscow Art Theater and the 1st Studio, created inside the theater under the leadership of L.A. Sulerzhitsky, where Vakhtangov taught. Happiness, delight, awe and tenderness in every line that tells about the life of the theater, about the people who created it. There are Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, Sulerzhitsy and Mikhail Chekhov, Alexei Diky and Birman. And, of course, Violet - as her classmates called Hyacintova. “It happened, it collapsed, stunned: I am an actress! Art Theater !!! " - this is how the first part of the memoir begins. Further complications, misunderstanding, bewilderment, first roles, relationships with classmates, endless rehearsals, meetings with great actors and a long way to myself.
Personal memories of Jeanne d'Arc by sier Louis de Comte, her page and secretary
This is a story about an amazing woman on behalf of a close friend, a man who “was with her from start to finish”, filled with the smallest details of the life of Joan of Arc. For a long time I could not get rid of the feeling that Jeanne lives inside me, that I know her personally and together with her find myself at the trial in Rouen. I feel anger and resentment at the unfairness of this judgment, and together with the author I bow before her steadfastness and honesty. In addition, Mark Twain himself wrote: “Of all my books, I love Jeanne d'Arc the most; this is the best of them; I know that very well. And besides, she gave me seven times more pleasure than everyone else; I cooked it for 12 years and wrote it for two years. For others, no preparation was required."
At the very first class in acting, we were given a summer assignment to read "My Life in Art" and "Ethics" by Stanislavsky - basic books for all students of theater. To the question of how to create a play or how to compose a drawing of a role, these books do not give an answer, but there is no single correct answer. The peculiarity of theatrical art is in its collectivity: the actor should feel himself only a part of the whole and be responsible in his work to him. The acting ethics developed by Stanislavsky seems to limit you, but in fact only inspires you to work tirelessly on yourself. Now some simple rules are natural for me: do not make noise behind the scenes, do not interfere with partners, be prepared for the rehearsal, come to the performance in advance. But once these commandments of existence in the theater were a discovery for me.
The book about the theater - about the fact that there is a Rough and Inanimate theater, and there is also a Sacred and Theater as such. But the most important thing for me in this book is the feeling of freedom that it gives. There are no systems and laws for the theater, each time it is necessary to invent something new, to explore and experiment without fear: "A person who claims that the theater has its own limits, thereby denies the wealth, diversity and inexhaustibility of life itself."
From poor theater to art-conductor
This is a collection of texts from different years by one of the most important theater researchers. I can’t remember how this book came to me, who recommended it to me, but it, like no other, helped me understand acting. It still seems to me that mastering a profession is not a set of stage skills, but above all a spiritual process, the utmost degree of sincerity. The body of the actor must get rid of everything that is blocking internally. The actor's body is, as it were, subjected to destruction, combustion.
For Jerzy Grotowski, the fundamental issue is the “non-existence” of the body, overcoming boundaries and barriers. The actor must improve the act of self-nudity, "nudity", must be capable of identifying psychic impulses that are just emerging. The point of the exercises described by Grotowski is in the full surrender of oneself.But even these tasks are very individual, there is no one universal set for everyone: each actor develops his own personal training. I am very close to Grotowski's idea that the structure of an acting game can be built, but the process itself can never. The performer is a man of knowledge who cannot be sure that he has achieved true understanding.
The cruel world of cinema
There was a period in my life when I watched two Bergman films a day on videotapes or in the cinema: then I literally lived in the world of the director and looked at the world through his eyes. It seemed that everything around was a projection of Bergman's "magic lantern". "Laterna magic" (this is the name of the first part) can be literally translated as "magic lantern", "phantascope" or "foggy pictures". This is a very frank autobiography of the director, in which the author describes his childhood, work in cinema and theater, and personal life. The "Pictures" tells the story of the creation of the main Bergman films.
This is a very small diary book of the great Swedish actor, hero of the films of Bergman and Tarkovsky, touring with the play "The Cherry Orchard" directed by Peter Brook - the troupe tours Moscow, Tbilisi, Leningrad and Tokyo in winter and spring 1989. Jozefson's recordings are not only reflections on the play and the role, but also notes about the cities in which Jozefson finds himself for the first time, about the directors with whom he managed to work, about people, about the theater in general. The actor documents his feelings from rehearsals and communication with Brook, inspiration, joy and fear in front of the audience, fatigue and homesickness. In addition, this book is also the view of a foreigner who first found himself in Soviet Russia on the eve of changes. “Moscow is a painful city. They move in silence, indifferent to the goal itself, devoid of vigor. The prevailing feeling is helplessness appointed by fate."
“Roll call in the darkness. Joseph Brodsky and his interlocutors "
This book helped me to understand more clearly or even to feel that history is about people. The historical process is, first of all, human content, filled with concrete actions, countless human wills. It is impossible to simply cut off the past and break away from it: this inevitably leads to mental trauma. The idea of absolute responsibility arising from understanding the integrity of history, it seems to me, is very important, especially now.
The heroes of the first half are Akhmatova, Gumilyov, Mandelstam, Pasternak. In the center of the second - the fate of Joseph Brodsky, the author's memories and documents. The advantage of the book is that the author does not just separate these two parts, but reflects on the relationship between poets and a single field of Russian culture. “In a real tragedy, it is not the hero who dies - the choir dies,” wrote Brodsky in the Nobel Lecture, and Yakov Gordin took this epigraph for the second part of his book. The choir is the common wealth of the culture of the 1920s and Brodsky's circle of friends in the 1960s in Leningrad. “We have different thoughts, different beliefs. But we do not argue, we search together. Voices echo in the darkness."
The Slumbering Palace
This amazing book is a collection of screenplays of Parajanov's never-filmed films. These are not just scripts, but rather poetic novellas, fragments, flashes, drawings. Parajanov's fate is reflected in these stories of non-existent films. Parajanov understood that he would not be allowed to shoot what he wanted, but no one could take away his opportunity to write or tell friends. Like the films of this director, like his whole life, this book is about the power of beauty, fantasy, imagination. The slumbering palace of kinos. The last script “Swan Song. Zone "about the piercing love of two men was recorded on a dictaphone by the operator Yuri Ilyenko. This is how the only film appeared, shot according to Parajanov's script by another director. I cannot imagine that anyone will republish this collection now.
“Marcel Duchamp. Afternoon Conversations "
Marcel Duchamp is one of the main artists of the 20th century, theorist and philosopher of art, chess player, a man who stood at the origins of Dadaism, Surrealism, Conceptualism, but never considered himself a participant or follower of any one direction. Director Dmitry Volkostrelov once said to me, holding this thin book in his hands: "Be sure to read it." For six months it lay on my shelf, I took it with me on trips, but my hands did not reach. And then I read it in a couple of hours and realized that this is really a book that is important to read to any person who feels like an artist. Duchamp believes first of all that your life, the way you breathe and move, can be used as a living picture, a scene from the film: "Art is something like an internal flow in a person."
I got acquainted with the work of John Cage at the exhibition “John Cage. Silent Presence”at the NCCA: there I first heard his music, saw his paintings and interviews. Cage inspires with openness, cheerfulness, attention to life and every sound. This book includes lectures and articles by the composer, many of which were written "by the method of random actions." This book is one of the fundamental texts of the 20th century and is felt only in print: it is impossible to reproduce its graphic beauty in electronic format, it must be held in hands. The way of arranging lines, words, structure of each lecture is unique - it is rather a score. Cage introduces the concept of "everything that sounds" into the musical field: not only noises, but also silence. Unlike sounds, silence has a duration with which Cage proposes to work: in his opinion, absolute silence does not exist. Even in a room with very good soundproofing, we can hear two sounds - the high sound of our nervous system and the low sound of the circulatory system.
Conversations with Cage
A year ago, my friends gave me this book for my birthday, and I finished reading it quite recently - I really wanted to extend the meeting. This is a collection of almost a hundred interviews that Cage gave at different times to different publications. Richard Kostelyanets combined them into one large text, divided into thematic chapters, similar in form to a conversation with oneself. Here they talk about music, the artists who influenced his work, about the theater, about his personal life, about politics and his favorite mushrooms. Cage talks about how Eastern philosophy and Zen Buddhism changed his attitude towards music, and the Book of Changes helped him in his work. Talking about the unity of life and creativity, he quotes the words of the American writer Henry Thoreau: “It doesn't matter what form the sculptor gives to the stone. It is important how the sculpting sculpts the sculptor."
Aesthetics of absence
In Russia, very few books are published that investigate the processes taking place in theater today: quite recently, important books by Hans-Ties Lehmann “Post-dramatic theater” and “Aesthetics of performativity” by Erica Fischer-Lichte appeared in Russian, but these are books by theater theorists, not practitioners … Heiner Goebbels is a director who lives and creates his performances today. He tries to analyze the way the viewer perceives and interacts with the unfamiliar. How to create on stage an unrecognizable, incomparable reality that can touch, inspire and encourage creativity.
It is important for the actor to understand and accept that attention is directed not only to him, but to all the elements that make up the reality of the scene. Between him and all other objects, voids arise, free for imagination. The disappearance of the actor, the separation of the effect of presence and attention of the audience, polyphony, the separation of the voice from the body, an empty center - these are just some of the concepts in the theater of absence. The theater of absence cancels out the center and displaces the subject in order to enable the audience to focus their gaze on their own - this book explains and gives freedom of choice.