Marius Kurkinski: Theatre took me to God

I understood suffering and pain only after I had gone through them on stage

Getting to play so many roles, so many different characters, sometimes four-five at a time, actually helped me to exorcise my demons, my budding sins. I just wrenched them out of my being and tossed them. That is how I dealt with the terror that grips a young and unprotected soul, says actor and director Marius Kurkinski in an interview to Europost.

Marius, many of your younger colleagues have pointed to you and your one-man plays as inspiration for becoming actors. Do you have the sense that you are creating a school of acting?

I know about these comments. Many of the young actors I have worked with have told me that personally. I try not to pay too much attention to such praise for fear of getting blinded by it, getting conceited. But this is part of the job, being useful to people professionally is important. I hope that theatre is useful, that is to say, I am certain it is - it is among the achievements of civilisation. The fact that the audience in Bulgaria has not abandoned theatre over the years is really tremendous. People continue to have a great deal of trust in that form of art. Perhaps that is because it gives them an experience in real time, in the here and now - not in the past or in the future. Theatre always happens in the here and now! The stage, the audience - there lies the magic. I discovered theatre as my calling a very long time ago: I have been on stage since the age of 10 and I am starting to see that maybe I really should pass down the lessons I have learnt. I will have to make a decision soon. I have had many offers to do so but, you know, it is only normal for an actor to question whether or not they are going round in circles, doing the same thing over and over, sinking into their own world and problems. Over the years, I expanded my horizons, learnt to observe others more instead of focusing so much on the personal, so I can be more of help. But I do realise that this inward gaze has done me a ton of good because thanks to my one-man plays I was able to cope with the myriad of temptations that reared their heads in my youth. Getting to play so many roles, so many different characters, sometimes four-five at a time, actually helped me to exorcise my demons, my budding sins. I just wrenched them out of my being and tossed them. That is how I dealt with the terror that grips a young and unprotected soul. At this stage of my life, I recently turned 50, my focus is more on my loved ones, people around me, and the world in general. Until not so long ago, theatre was my life. Perhaps having a calling is a gift and I am grateful for it, I just hope I have not wasted it. Until recently, my eyes could see nothing but the stage, the road that leads to it, the lighting, the spotlight…

Now that your life is not all theatre, what is it about?

My social life is still about theatre, my job. But things cannot end there. Over time, one grasps more important concepts - the dynamics of one's soul, faith in God. There is a period of internal struggle - on the one hand, I realise what the human soul needs in its communication with God, and on the other hand, I see how far theatre is from “true humility”, but that is the path I have chosen. What is interesting is that - and I can say this with certainty - theatre took me to God. It is God's work. When I started acting, understanding some texts at a deeper level, and wanting to communicate with people's souls (this is what theatre is - touching people's souls, otherwise it is pointless) in more unconscious, almost godless years, when faith was scarce, I prayed to God to watch over theatre.

Can you share which of your projects were born in happiness and which in suffering?

I do not have a recipe. My thoughts are always directed towards what will be unfolding on stage. Maybe there is a moment I detach from it at the end of a show, but 10 minutes later I am back to being consumed by what is next. In my darkest days, following the deaths of my mentor Krikor Azaryan and my mother - they died a few months apart - I went through a really deep crisis. But during that time I created shows that are being played to this day. I am glad that my life has been the way it has, with theatre preceding truth. There is some kind of phenomenon to it - I understood Earth, our planet, suffering and pain, only after I had gone through them on stage. They even seemed somehow more real there. It sounds horrible, but it is the truth.

Would you ever play an arrogant bastard - a personage that seems so removed from you spiritual essence?

I want someone to offer me such a role. Because at times I have been too arrogant with my loved ones and I know that. You do not have to be muscular, brutish or carrying a gun to show arrogance. It can manifest in other, more horrific ways. I would like for a director to think of me for such a role, I would have fun playing a character like that!

What are your dreams like? Have you seen some of your directorial or acting choices in your sleep first?

No, nothing I have ever dreamt has been realised on stage. The theatre in my dreams is so beautiful that it cannot be achieved in real life. It is breathtaking and someday I may try to recreate it in a film. To me, everything in theatre is decided in real time - with a clear mind and lively spirit and in a state of peace, as far as possible.

In the eyes of the audience, you are a personification of absolute dedication to the stage; your performances are reminiscent of a ritual of sacrifice. But what is your personal experience? Do you reach that coveted state of duende every time?

Yes, in each of my shows. Well, maybe not every single one. There may be about a dozen that did not work out how I wanted them to due to various situations, the type of audience, cold theatre halls… But my mission is to make every night a profound experience; that is the whole point of doing this. I always expect the unexpected; I go on stage thinking that I will find something new.

What else moves you?

I care about the growing suffering of people and the transformation of countries into corporations worldwide. It is a chilling but, I fear, irreversible process. The only salvation is our inner world and other people, the real help you would offer to whomever you can.

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Marius Kurkinski (whose real name is Ivaylo Stoyanov) was born on 15 October 1969 in the town of Novi Pazar. He spent his formative years in Varna, joining at the age of 12 the children's theatre programme with the “Stoyan Bachvarov” Drama Theatre and then the Raykov brothers' theatre Shturche (literally translated as “cricket”). Kurkinski earned a degree in acting from the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in the 1993 class of Prof. Krikor Azaryan and Todor Kolev, their most successful group of students ever. His body of work includes 11 one-man plays as a performer - a format of which he is widely recognised as a master - and 30 shows as a director.

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