Russian theatrical star Alla Demidova posseses the unique talent of being able to follow your thoughts from only at few words. This is a gift, but Demidova prefers to see it arising from her ‘experience of humanity’. DE I continues its investigation of the psychology of actors who have ‘descended from heaven’. In our conversation we discussed the powers that affect a person in moments of creativity.
DE I: Were you ever interested in whether your will coincides with the will of God?
A.D.: I love the saying “If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him about your plans”. It’s impossible to relate one’s own fate to the will of the God. Man is vile, he sins, and he doesn’t receive what, perhaps, is meant for him. He distorts his path. But I for one never kill things that are vile, even the ones I’m scared of – spiders or cockroaches. Not because I pity them, but because I’ll have nightmares about it for a long time afterwards. If it comes down to it, I’ll warn them first and then spray them with something: the brighter ones disappear, the stupid ones ignore me and die. It’s the same with people. It doesn’t mean I’m soft. I never do anything deliberately bad, because I know it all returns a hundred fold. And I never wish anyone anything bad because I know it’ll come back to me like an energy boomerang.
DE I: It seems to us that creative people are like candle light that attracts the dark.
A.D.: I mix with different people and among them not all are actors and not all are talented. They fail to notice so many things, they have a different life altogether, other pleasures. I loved the monologue from “The Life of Galileo”: “Why bother discovering, what’s that knowledge for, why suffer, why be burnt at the stake, what is the point of this inquisition. What’s it all for? My parents were peasants – they got up with the sunrise, they sowed seed, they reaped the harvest, and then they went to sleep with the sunset. They bear children and that is how life passes by.” All you can think is, ‘that’s absolutely true’. But some people have it all sorted out: nobody is dragging you anywhere, everyone is fulfilling their own mission.
DE I: To what extent did love influence how you performed?
A.D.: One doesn’t bear any relation to the other. And that’s not only my opinion. According to the laws of the stage, an actor in love will never be able to perform ‘Romeo and Juliet’ properly.
Being in love is one of life’s more intense feelings, giving you increased vitality and burning up you psychic energy at a rapid rate. These are questions for young actors who have not yet mastered their profession. So much can be achieved using different methods, different technical exercises.
Over the years I’ve noticed during rehearsals that you’re more like a composer who is writing down the the notes of the music for a particular role. Your notes are emotions, thoughts, images, and goals which are given to you by the director. The richer that music, the less time you’ll have for being in love in rehearsals, or for anything else, even if you have a headache or a sick stomach, you just follow the music and do your best. That’s why it’s better to be pure, and empty.
Vasily Rozanov wrote a wonderful story about how he watched a play where a beautiful actress was performing. He went up to her after the play to pay her a compliment, entered the dressing room and…”I saw emptiness” he wrote. In other words, what he saw on stage was in fact ‘reality’. It had shape and form and perspective, and a genuine state of being in love. You must never mix the stage with real life. In the first year of any Stanislavsky course you learn that you are in ‘suggested circumstances’ using your emotions, your feelings, your infatuation, your hate. That works for modern roles, but you will never reach the big roles, or make any discoveries for yourself based on your own feelings or your own infatuations. They can help, but only in another profession.
DE I: It seems paradoxical that an actor has to experience so much and yet remain empty. How can he relay greatness?
A.D.: To perform ‘Medea’, I don’t have to murder my children. God forbid! When I play Electra, I don’t kill my real mother. Each role I treat individually, turning it a little to lend it a new interpretation. I try to connect with modernity without conflicting with the author. At rehearsals, I don’t think about the audience. My colleagues say that they get distracted by mobile phones ringing. They don’t distract me at all. During my poetry evenings, those calls distract the audience, knocking them out of the creative stream. But I’m in a corridor of rhythm, music, holding on to the vibration of harmony so as not to break the flow of the text. Not even thunder and lightning puts me off!
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹12-13. "ALLA DEMIDOVA. ELEMENTAL ACTRESS"