Oh my sagging balls, why oh why is it so hard to write this next blog entry? I could put the blame on my pretentious writing genius who needs to get drunk to be able to give you all that, whatever that is that you are reading right now, but… I would be telling you lies. The bar is fully stacked. I can’t find any excuse for staying sober and for not being able to write something spectacular about the next theater director I have been having dreams about. I should tell you the truth, I forget about any need to be artificially intoxicated when I watch theater works directed by Rimas Tuminas. His works are just that good. I feel a natural buzz and my soul gets that needed je ne sais quoi to survive in this age of consumerism.
I saw his Cherry Orchard for the first time more than twenty years ago and… I became his lifetime fan. I could just write: Rimas Tuminas is perfect in what he does in theater and that would be it, so why do I need to write anything else about him while “perfect” defines everything he touches creatively? You know what? I should just put a bunch of videos with his work here and say, see this? This is how theater should be made. End of story! Plastikoff is besides himself. He is not able to say anything clever. No, no, no, no this is not me! I have to find a way to tell you about this tremendous theater director who is becoming better and better like this wine which with time turns into an expensive Cognac.
That Rimas Tuminas is one of the greatest theater directors is not even a question. The question is: how does he do it? Is there some kind of drug one needs to take to be able to release all this wonderful madness? Do I need to dip myself into some kind of magic lake and kiss a frog or something? I don’t know. This really kills me! I want to be just like him. That’s right, I said it, so deal with it.
As a young actor I grew artistically watching shows directed by Tuminas. I was broken as Ranevskaya in his Cherry Orchard. I traveled to Vilnius like Ephraim in his Smile at Us, Oh Lord. I got frozen into a statue from love while watching his Masquerade. I feel like Tania from his Eugene Onegin in the scene where she tells to her nanny how much she loves Eugene when I talk about Tuminas. I can recall almost every scene from these shows, even though I saw some of them, that’s right, more than twenty years ago.
Rimas Tuminas is able to “open” actors and their creativity. He makes them feel secure on the stage. Every single piece, directed by Rimas Tuminas I saw, has stuck into my brain like some kind of spell. As it often happens when one begins to talk about a great director one finds himself talking about ideas, feelings, emotions. One finds himself talking about meaning of life and… damn where is that port I need so much right about now? You know what? Instead of talking about Tuminas I am going to talk about his actors and their work on stage. They might be that magic potion Tuminas drinks before bed every night to become this fantastic.
A Lady Bug (Bozhya Korovka in Russian = Little Cow of Gods) just landed on my finger and Lord smiled at me (this I am going to count as my smiley face, no?)
Cherry Orchard and Sigitas Račkys
I believe we would have not known how good Sigitas Račkys is if not for Tuminas. Lopachin was his first break through role in Cherry Orchard. It seems like Cherry Orchard was a break through show for many actors of Little Theater of Vilnius whose Artistic director Rimas Tuminas still is to this day, even though he has also become the Artistic director of Vakhtangov theatre in Moscow.
A side note: it is said that Cherry Orchard almost didn’t happen. The little gossip gnomes of theater have told me that the show was literally created a day before opening. Apparently Tuminas was so unhappy with the way the show was going that he scratched almost all of it a day before opening and built a brand new version that is still running to this day. Is it true? I don’t care to know. I love stories like that. They create the needed drama and mystery. Theater loves s**t like that.
Who knew that Cherry Orchard would become the defining moment of Tuminas’ creative life as well. The show has all the elements Tuminas is famous of: a great quiet opening which turns into a large movement later, little scenes defining every character, a slow pace which builds up into a dramatic emotional explosion and, of course, a quiet ending which leaves your soul burning long after the show is over.
I decided to tell you about Tuminas’ creative genius through his actors for a reason. First, of course, you needed to be reminded about how great Plastikoff is and second… well this makes me more excited about writing and the process of connecting the dots. I know, of course, that for some of you connecting what Račkys’ acting has to do with Tuminas way of directing might be challenging, but… I believe in you. I am not going to write about each character and actor in every production Tuminas directed, no. Are you crazy? That would take me days and days with no end to finish. I decided to cherry pick (see what I have done here?) actors from some of his shows and just concentrate on their work highlighting certain specifics in Tuminas productions. Sorry, but you will need to find those dots yourself. I apologize in advance to those actors I haven’t picked. I promise to redeem myself later somehow. Maybe I will just come and put a show with you or something?
As you already have guessed from the name of this part, I am concentrating on Sigitas Račkys while talking about Cherry Orchard. It seems like Račkys really understood Tuminas and vise versa. After Cherry Orchard Sigitas became one of the leading actors of Tuminas’ productions. I am so glad that they found each other. This relationship gave birth to Galileo Galileo and Smile at Us, Oh Lord, two of Tuminas’ shows where Račkys leads the gang.
I could be clever and say that Račkys bought Tuminas’ attention the way, his created Lopachin, bought Cherry Orchard, but I digress. Nobody was buying anybody. This collaboration became one of the greatest collaborations seen on theater stage. I should say that you all are a very lucky bunch because you can watch the whole show right here:
Vytautas Šapranauskas and his Jewish nose
About Vytautas Šapranauskas one needs to write a book or several of them for that matter. The way this guy lived on the stage and made everything even the most tragic scenes comic is uncanny. There is no comparison to him in Inspector General and in Smile at Us, Oh Lord.
While a student I experienced this great theater moment. I got a comp to watch Smile at Us, Oh Lord. There was absolutely no space anywhere in the audience even to stand. The only way to watch the show was to stand in the sound booth on tiptoes holding your breath. Just before Šapranauskas came onto the stage I found myself surrounded by actors who just finished a scene I just watched. Later I realized that they all came to the booth to watch the mastery of Šapranauskas. One could only wish to be honored like this by their colleagues. Šapranauskas was Tuminas’ actor. It felt like Tuminas just let Šapranauskas play in his sand box called theater. You can see Šapranauskas almost in every production of Tuminas. Here I am giving you Smile at Us, Oh Lord.
There is a lot to say about Eglė Gabrėnaitė, but instead I’ll say nothing. If you already watched through Cherry Orchard you already know that this actress is one you are not going to forget. I am presenting here excerpts from Inspector General to remind you that she is as great in a comedic role as she is in a dramatic one. Enjoy! Oh yeah, watch Vytautas Šapranauskas and Arūnas Sakalauskas do their magic there too. My mouth is salivating from all of this wonderful madness.
I could continue writing, but I am just too lazy. Besides you have all this tremendous gorgeousness of theater to watch and connect the dots. Who knows, I might return to Tuminas some other day and tell you why I cherry picked these three specific actors, but… maybe we could discuss that in the comments section?
To end this entry I am leaving you with a link to Vilnius Little Theater. Get familiar with the place where a lot of the above mentioned magic was born.