In October, on invitation of a Moscow Film School course curator Ingeborga Dapkunaite, a theatrical director and educator Ian Wooldridge came to Russia for five thematic sessions with student actors.
Ian Wooldridge is dean of the British American Drama Academy (BADA), the graduates of which include Orlando Bloom. In Moscow, his course was dedicated to Shakespeare plays, and he was pleased with his students.
Ian, could you please share your impression of our students?
They were fantastic! They are just like us, Celts, - sociable and flexible. I am Welsh, and like the Irish or the Scots, we are more open when it comes to expressing our feelings than the Englishmen, for example. Russian students, just like us, are ready to express courage and take risks; they are creative, it is interesting to work with them. When you get to know them closer, - their dreams, and their picture of the future – you get to understand how free they are.
On the street, outside, the Russians seem quite harsh and reserved. However, on the inside they are friendly, active and have many interests. It is the same in Latin America, by the way. First time I visited Moscow in 1987, and I think the city has since become younger– in many ways. Just look around (we sit at Artemy Lebedev studio café at the Moscow Film School). You could not imagine anything like this 30 years ago!
What did you do here in 87?
That time I came with a group of Scottish theatrical directors led by John McGrath. We explored the Soviet theater, visited the Youth Theater, TUZ, and watched an old version of Ivan the Terrible. After that, we went to Leningrad to watch Lord of the Flies by Lev Dodin at the Maly Drama Theater. You could not imagine anything like that in Britain, it would be impossible to get all the permissions from the authors. Actually, it turned out to be impossible for the Soviets too, but USSR just ignored the international copyright. They launched the play without asking and it was a huge success! MDT repertoire was scheduled for the season ahead and all tickets were sold in a day, so the theater did not even need to spend resources on posters.
During that visit I also went to Lithuania, saw Uncle Vanya by Eimuntas Nekrošius, and it was something totally new and different, some other language.
So you met Ingeborga there?
No, that was in London, more than 20 years ago. She acted in a play Burn This by Lanford Wilson together with John Malkovich. She is an excellent actress, very smart and well-educated, with a rich theatrical background, and she is also a great friend. She is one of those people who you can meet after years and still be very friendly. I am lucky to have her. When three years ago she called and invited me to come teach in Moscow, I immediately agreed, and the same happened this time.
What is the core of your teaching method?
Patience. I try to inspire an actor, to make them search, to use their imagination. I am not a dictator and neither a puppeteer, and that’s the way I am in directing, I’m not trying to control someone, in the conventional sense. The actor’s ideas may be more exciting than mine, and my job is to choose the best.
Why have you chosen to dedicate the classes to Shakespeare?
Shakespeare is an icon, a legend, his characters allow to reach the peak of acting. They are deep, it’s interesting to discuss them. In a certain way, Shakespeare’s plays are similar to the Russian plays, the works of Chekhov, Bulgakov, Gogol. They are timeless, they speak of modern people. While working on them, it’s easy to use imagination, and that’s what makes them beautiful.
What do students teach you?
Courage. And what it means to be an actor. They me humanity, patience, generosity in relationships, they teach me how to be part of the whole, to find new meanings in art. When you live in a big city like Moscow, the communities, be it a theatrical company or students of a cinema school, play a big part. If you want to breathe life into the city, you need to create live communities in it. This is how art works, and perhaps only sport is the same. Art brings life.
Do you have moments when you just want to give it all up and never teach again?
No. If I start having thoughts like this, then it will be time to quit it all at once. I regenerate together with my students. They literally make our tomorrow, they create the language we will all speak. I am 100% convinced that, for instance, in the very near future we will have plays with female-only cast, including those of Shakespeare. For many years the theater used to be governed by men, but this is changing, and within our generation we will see plays created and reinvented by women. Feminism has a bright future. Perhaps in a week we’ll see the first women become President of the United States.
Are there things in the modern world that you don’t understand? For example, what kind of relationship do you have with the Internet?
I try not to get stuck in it, like my kids who have grown up in from of the screens of their mobile phones. I am different. My wife now is in the north of England, we haven’t talked for 5 days, and I see nothing wrong with it. We’ll have things to discuss when we meet at the weekend. Of course, I use the e-mail and other services for work purposes, I’ve taught it myself through trial and error. But I am no slave to my gadgets. For example, I don’t have accounts in any social networks, I simply have not time for that. I want to have a normal life, to spend time with my family. And who would read my tweets? Who might possible need it? I see people taking photos of their food and think it’s quite odd. I don’t want to judge, perhaps it’s just another stage in development of the society. Do you remember fax mashines? Who remembers them now? Social networks will have a similar future.