With the year winding down, the maestro and his troupe have been extensively globetrotting the world, but the theatre’s interim director Daiva Baltūsytė – Len kindly talked to the Lithuania Tribune about the theatre and its distinguished founder and director Tuminas.
Did you ever think which of Tuminas’ performances has been on the world stage most?
I’d say many of Tuminas’ works, such as “The Cherry Orchard”, “Smile upon us, Lord” (1994), “Masquerade” (1997), “Inspector” (2001) and others have visited a number of countries - from Sweden to Italy, from South Korea to Mexico – and won numerous prestigious awards and became the theatre’s visiting card.
Maestro Rimas Tuminas’ performances, though, could hardly do without the composer Faustas Latėnas and stage designer Adomas Jacovskis.
What would be your message to those who bypass theatre today? What is the clout of enrooted hedonism on theatre?
At the Small Theatre of Vilnius, none divides the society into the two parts: hedonistic and non-hedonistic.
On the contrary, the message we always send out there is this: come visit us and see the classics-imbued beauty of the word, acting and stage settings. With over 20 performances in our repertoire, the ultimate endeavor we are striving for remains the same: to keep creating and maintaining the highest level of art. Sure, it’s up to the audience to say how we are good in the pursuit. Rimas Tuminas’ team at the Small Theatre of Vilnius endeavors to lavish the public with meetings with exceptionally charismatic personalities, like theatre directors, actors, musicians or writers. There are permanent ongoing certain educational programs for schoolchildren at the theatre and, during them, in the form of lectures and excursions, the theatre-going younger generation is acquainted with the live theatrical heritage.
I think the live and heartfelt communication with the viewer is the driving force encouraging one to come back here again and again. Definitely, this is what every theatre strives for.
How important is the state’s support for theatre?
Our theatre is a budgetary establishment that 100 percent depends on the state support, so the formulation of the question isn’t right.
How much Lithuanian theater is Western, I mean in terms of the mentality and the spirit it exudes? How would describe the clout of Russian classics and contemporaries on the SSTV’s repertoire?
Theatre must be apolitical, catering to quite other human needs. From that standpoint, the theatre is more affected not by the mentality of one or another state, but by the expectations held by the audience, who have been with us for the last 25 years. So the ultimate striving is to have the classic works played on the stage and keep them alive for centuries and millennia. What matters is that the theatre could relate to the spectator and that it could help him or her find answers to the quintessential questions.
Our theatre doesn’t offer superficial entertainment; on the contrary, we offer only high-quality intellectual productions capable of uplifting and emboldening one’s spirit.
Who are the people capable of meeting the objective?
The Small Theatre of Vilnius has been famous for its performances behind which stand legendary, worldwide acknowledged art creators, like composer Faustas Latėnas, set designer Adomas Jacovskis and the theatre founder and art director Rimas Tuminas. In the theatre plays the new generation of actors and actresses- already legendary theatre personalities like Eglė Gabrėnaitė, Gediminas Girdvainis and, until past September, Regimantas Adomaitis acted.
How important is to combine entrepreneurship and professionalism in a theatre today? How different is your marketing?
One of the tools of marketing is participating in festivals and disseminating the news on obtained rewards- any kind of acknowledgement and achievements.
Already, for the second consecutive year, businessmen in the resort town of Druskininkai initiate and disburse resources for the Rimas Tuminas theatre festival held in the town.
As the festival is there two months, we deem it to be a powerful tool of marketing, enabling our theatre to popularize the Lithuanian theatre creators’ works, execute cultural exchanges and educational programs. We also spread information about the theatre and also invite people to it for a great quality time.
Certainly, the theatre also applies traditional marketing: putting up billboards in the city and handing out flyers and small booklets with the repertoire. Obviously, the Web provides immense opportunities to reach out people.
Where do you see the biggest challenges to your theatre coming from?
I don’t like the formulation of the question, more suitable for a sport competition. As theatre, we don’t participate in any competition. Theatre produces an intellectual product through putting on stage classic and modern plays and inviting people to give a thought on the happening.
To quote the theatre language researcher Ingrida Ragelskienė, “the modern man feels discomfort and uneasiness in the realm of spirituality. There is in it a lot of anxiety and pressure, many doubts and confusion. Thence, it is necessary to seek help, look for people who feel alike. Going to theatre will let one cope with the feeling of loneliness and the metaphysic anxiety…”
How is the Small Theatre of Vilnius addressing the social aspects of life? How much is the theatre “rebellious” and, to what part, reflecting metaphysics and issues of creed?
Indeed, we have a nice mix of a different kind of performances, from reflecting on social aspects of life, for example, “Uncles and Aunts”, “The Suicide”, “Inspectors”, to those exuding rebellious moods, like “Blood Wedding” and “Madagascar”, to prompting metaphysical musings, like “Waiting for Godot”, “Masquerade”, “Three Sisters”.
How important is Christianity in your repertoire?
On that let me quote our theatre director Rimas Tuminas: “As much of you will remain afterwards as much of repentance you have. The extent to which you can get to know another person and react to the life also gauges the art creator.”
Is there a notion in the theatre that a great actor must complete acting studies?
The theatre would not be so strong and solid for its performance and troupe if it was not for his students, who always supplement the troupe since 1981 when Tuminas started pedagogical work in the Lithuanian music and theatre academy, department of acting and directing.
It is exceptional talent of Rimas Tuminas to organize and educate his actors by implanting exceptional stage art values that are close to them.
The Open Theater, fostered by Tuminas, is a theatre of freedom, contrivance and ease. It is a theatre divergent by its faithfulness to the cultural memory and traditions, attentiveness to “old-fashioned” notions and feelings.
“You must celebrate the life in theatre. You must open abysms to make a spectator giddy from life, to make him fall in love for at least a moment,” Tuminas tends to say.
Enrolling and coaching theatrical skills in a school is not tantamount to excellence in acting.
More important, Tuminas believes, is forging talents on stage.
In Vilnius Mažasis Theatre, we have an entire generation of Rimas Tuminas’ students: the laureates of the Golden Stage Cross Daumantas Ciunis, Tomas Rinkūnas, Agnė Šataitė, Indrė Patkauskaitė, Tomas Stirna, Tomas Kliukas, Jokūbas Bareikis, Audrius Bružas, Vytautas Rumšas, Balys Latėnas and Gintarė Latvėnaitė. The performances are directed by the talented Gabrielė Tuminaitė, who is also a former student of the maestro. All of them have completed studies at Lithuania’s Music and Theatre Academy.
Tuminas is especially loving and caring for his disciples. I cannot quote here him again: “I’m proud of them- that they are everywhere in demand and are snatched out. Let them also host TV shows… All of them are hard-workers, endeavoring, willing and capable… That are the derivatives not only of the youth. That is the way of mentality. They are following the road they have chosen. They do not hinder anyone. In fact, they do not want to rough up somebody’s life. They don’t want to offend anyone. They just strive for professionalism, perfectionism, and I will help them as much as I can.”
Some other theatres out there see a decline in classical drama. Is that the case at your theatre, too?
On the contrary, I’d say. It not only retains its strong position in our theatre, but, in fact, that is what for it has been famous for- the theatre’s classic repertoire.
As a matter of fact, the theatre’s last two premiers- the performances directed this year by Gabrielė Tuminaitė according the well-known classic writings J.Tumas Vaižgantas “Uncles and Aunts and Nikolai Erdman‘ play “The Suicide”, which written in 1925 has already been staged in the theatre six times over the years- were classical.
There is a slew of other classical theatrical plays in the repertoire, too.
Where do you see the SSTV and Lithuanian theatre on the whole, say, in 2050?
That far, director Rimas Tuminas hopes to be still “hitting with love and hope and continue the endless search of love”.
As he put it himself: “I hope we will still be exerting to harmonize the world. And, sure, continue speaking of death, but that way that the speaking of it would create a new life. I really want our actors to be making some day a decent living, I want them always to respect themselves and that they were always respected by others.
What are you expecting from the year of 2015?
We are eagerly looking forward to it, as we have planned to show 141 plays in Vilnius and 41 in various Lithuanian towns.
Are you going to have any new specials next year?
Certainly. In early March, 2015, for the 25th occasion of the theatre’s anniversary, director Tuminas and his entire team will throw out a spectacular performance, sure, directed by the director, that will embody the key masterpieces of drama, the creative heritage of the theatre that is proud of and much more. All the creative resources the theatre possesses will be involved in the project.
Then in May, 2015, Samuel Beckett’s play “Happy Days” will be staged for the first time at our theater.
And in September next year, the State Small Theatre of Vilnius is set to show “President’s Wife”, one of the most significant plays in modern Lithuanian drama.
Edited by Paul Moriarty
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