If the film industry was able to partially recover from the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic by transferring premieres online, then the theater was much worse. Despite the lifting of a number of the most stringent restrictions in large cities and the partial resumption of work, the artists are faced with another problem - people are simply afraid to come to the performances. In this difficult time for the stage, Ivan Vyrypaev is working on the most tenacious and to some extent even revolutionary project - the transfer of performances to screens, and this is not a simple video recording of performances, but a completely new product Okko Theater, which is part of the Okko multimedia service. "Lenta.ru" talked with the recognized director about his upcoming work, about the devastating impact of the coronavirus on his craft and about how this pandemic will end for the theater.
"Lenta.ru": For many, the pandemic, the closure of borders and the regime of self-isolation have become a difficult psychological test. How did you spend this time?
Ivan Vyrypaev: I have a lot of work due to the fact that I am engaged in Okko Theater, and this is also an online structure. Of course, all our offline activities stopped, but we quickly reorganized - we made two films, three projects, concerts, and launched educational activities. And since our team is small, about five people, I simply buried myself in work. The only thing that is a little strange and surreal is that I am at home, I see my family. But I am very tired of the internet. I did not even experience this magical feeling, which many talked about during the quarantine: "Oh, I finally stopped, finally was alone with myself."
But, even though I worked all the time, I still had more time for myself, since the transfers were canceled. I spent this time with my family, doing yoga, sports, walking in the woods with my daughter.
A pandemic, on the one hand, means indispensable difficulties in the implementation of any team task, on the other hand, drawing attention to online projects, because, roughly speaking, people are sitting at home. Has it become more of a positive or negative factor in the work of Okko Theater?
On the one hand, you are right, of course, the demand for what we do is higher, because more often people have nothing to do, and they can look at something in Okko. In general, any streaming service will benefit from this. On the other hand, the essence of Okko Theater was that what you can see on the screen is also shown live, and these are related things. The live part of the project has suffered. The only thing we managed to do was the theatrical premiere of the UFO performance, and it was one of the few premieres in all of Moscow. There was a very short period of time in which the scene was allowed to open up.
And now we do not play again, although it is still possible to play on stage - we are just a private theater, we do not have state subsidies. Unlike other theaters, we have to pay both rent and actors. At the same time, the halls can be filled only halfway, and people themselves are afraid to come due to restrictions, tickets have dropped in price. All private theaters are no longer paying off.
We canceled a very good tour in St. Petersburg, the artistic director of the Alexandrinsky Theater Valery Fokin and I came up with a wonderful project on the small stage - four performances, an educational program, a meeting with the audience.We have been preparing this for so long, and, unfortunately, due to the high all risks had to be canceled. Bring 40 people to St. Petersburg now, expose them to danger. In addition, everyone can be covered at any time, and the tour will not take place. And this is a lot of money.We made the decision to cancel offline projects, and this, of course, does not make me happy.
In addition to UFO, you also managed to deliver “Entertainment” offline. I saw both the premiere and the video performance - for you, as I understand it, these things differ almost on some metaphysical level. What is the difference?
Thank you, this is really a very important question. We proceed from who is our audience, for whom we are doing the performance. From the real stage, I see a spectator in the hall, I understand that I am working for these specific people. When we do this in the Okko multimedia service, the so-called video or cinnabar version, then instead of a whole auditorium, we have only one viewer, who is most likely watching this at home on the couch. And in any case, this is already a film product, you make it according to the laws of the film. This is definitely not a theater, this is a theater in the cinema. Therefore, the usual shooting of theatrical performances, as it is most often found, is not suitable here, since it is just a demonstration of a product created for a completely different space. You need to create it anew.
In the cinema, you can show more scenes of action, make editing, and get closer to the actor. In the theater, you are always, as they say, "in the general plan", the editing there takes place at the expense of light, computer graphics, and other components. This set of components is determined by who you are playing for.
In an interview at the beginning of the year, you talked about the difficulty of communicating the concept of a video performance, a film-play to the team with whom you will work. Did you manage to implement this format one hundred percent, as you intended, or did you have to rethink it?
We have rethought a lot. My colleagues and I who help me a lot - this is both my team and the Okko team - have found a very interesting format, and next year we will try to implement it. This has not happened yet - I cannot tell you: "Go to Okko, look at this." First, we did the same UFO because of the pandemic. We did not have this production in the plans, this is my old play, and we decided to work on it only because of the ease of implementation - these are monologues.
We want to make full-fledged performances-films with a large number of people, various interiors. Our next project is very interesting - called "Siberia", the action takes place in the taiga. We are going to recreate all these decorations artificially, then we will transfer it to the stage. People will be able to watch a live film on stage and a filmed theater in the film. It is in a sense a marketing toy, but it also has a meaning for art - if we succeed, we will show the theater community the way to go in the event of disasters such as the coronavirus pandemic. But even without it, the theater must expand the potential of its audience, given that technology today allows it. But not just shoot your own performance, but make it anew.
Commercial filmmaking has always been dominated by American production, followed by British production. Who among us watches any Serbian or Polish TV series? You need to look for them somewhere on the Internet. And now good Hungarian and German TV shows are quickly becoming popular. The Polish "Witcher", for example, the Russian TV series "To the Lake" (in Russian - "Epidemic" - approx. "Lenta.ru") - people got easy access to international cinema. Netflix is creating a platform for this, we, in fact, sat in one big cinema.
Of course, in theater, online will never replace completely offline, and there is really no such goal. But there is an opportunity - for people with special needs, for example, or for people from remote cities. Therefore, I am for such opportunities and am not afraid of them.
About the upcoming projects of Okko Theater - which one excites you the most?
All projects excite me! But Storytelling and Enlightenment are especially dear to me. The first is a project by Alexey Rozin and Ilya Barabanov, very interesting actors. I am a longtime fan of theirs, they have always done a lot of interesting things in storytelling and stand-up formats.I admire stand-up comedy, it seems to me that this is aerobatics of the theater, it is much more difficult than playing a role. The project they came up with is purely their idea - to tell the classics in their own words, without distorting the plot. Their first work is on "Crime and Punishment", in the future we want to launch a series of such projects. This is both theater and education - maybe a schoolchild, laughing, will want to re-read the book!
Barabanov and Rozin are primarily actors - did you somehow supervise their project, contributed your ideas?
They are both actors and co-authors of the project. We participate in it as producers, they told us the idea, and we joined in to help as best we could. My role here is purely a producer, we financed them. Of course, they asked my opinion all the time, we gave them some advice, but there weren't many of them - the authors clearly knew what they wanted to do. And we all like it so much that I would not like to assign merit in this project. We just let it happen.
Is the concept of "Storytelling" a retelling of the classics in modern language or a rethinking from the standpoint of modernity?
It is precisely that the retelling of a classic work without any change in the plot in a somewhat comedic, ironic language. All this was done with humor - in an hour they tell a rather pretentious "Crime and Punishment". But at the same time, with great respect for the author, everything is textbook there, the plot has been preserved. Comes in with a bang, perhaps for slightly lazy people. If teachers in schools told this, perhaps the level of literary education would be very high. (Laughs.)
Sites with a brief retelling of the works were, I remember, very popular at school, he himself sinned like that.
And in this case, it was made by the actors and with love to the author! This is not just a dry retelling.
The second long-awaited project, which we simply “endured” and launched today, is a course of lectures “Theater as a model of the Universe” on the nature of things. We talk about theater in it, but it is not for theater-goers - it explains what a Thing is, why it is important, who is a Master, how to create a Thing. Many outstanding masters, both ours and foreign ones, are participating in the project. For example, the architect Yuri Grigoryan, the greatest Indian master of Indian dance Kutiyattam Usha Nangyar, will appear in one course. What she says is amazing. There will be lectures on meditation from a Buddhist master, on the skills of mindfulness from Viti Shiryaev. It seems to me that this is the correct, modern approach - when you talk about a narrow, specialized topic, you need to expand it.
And what degree of theatrical prowess should be for students of such a course?
Almost zero. We came to such a concept - there are six of my main lectures, each has an additional lecture with one more speaker. I am talking about the theater, as if in front of me is a person who does not even know what it is. I even tell a little corny. Because, perhaps, we have become so accustomed to a certain understanding of the theater that our eyes are blurred, and the theater has already become something completely different. This is common in life - we sometimes look at things in a stereotyped way, thinking that we know everything about them. But once you update your knowledge, it turns out that this is something completely different. It enlivens our relationship to things.
Next we are waiting for the release of the film "Alice. Excitement "about actress Alice Freundlich for her birthday in December. This is a documentary film by her grandson Nikita Vladimirov. Alisa Brunovna is a rather closed person for the press, but thanks to the fact that her grandson took on the film, she allowed him to film an unknown side of her life on camera.
Okko Theater project is completely transferred to Okko subscription, what does this mean for the project, for your work?
I really like this solution. It seems to me that the idea of buying a separate ticket, like in a movie theater, was a little complicated. Yes, and humanly, the subscription is somehow closer to me - you go to the site and watch everything that you like. Otherwise, the same course of lectures would have to be sold either in a package or serially.
In fact, how the Okko Theater will look is still being decided. I think we need at least another year to figure out where it belongs. We are moving towards the fact that we will have a separate page with our own entrance, but for this we need more products - over 15, 20. We do not have such a quantity yet.
What was the most important achievement for you during the year of Okko Theater operation?
The fact that during a pandemic we were able to reorient ourselves. We are not lost. We had an honest, long lasting business plan that is booming! - collapsed in a second due to the coronavirus, and during a month of very difficult work we were able to outline another plan. To some, our exit will seem modest, but against the background of the fact that we could have disappeared altogether, like everyone else, this is a huge achievement.
How did the audience react to the projects that have already been released?
Very good! For example, I have a theater audience in Vladivostok that knows well about me, but cannot watch my performances for various reasons - not only because of the pandemic, but also simply because of the prices of plane tickets and ticket prices to the theatre. I hope that Okko himself is very pleased with us, with the way we position it, and our goal now is to make more access to our product. I think subscribing will help this.
We have a lot of ideas in our plans - this is by no means Ivan Vyrypaev's theater, ahead of the next season with projects by other authors. We will be doing a project with Valery Fokin and his new performance, with the Polish theater director Wojtk Urbanski, with the guys from Irkutsk. Let's imagine a wide theatrical scene. We want to make theater accessible!
Are you talking about performances already staged?
No, while the philosophy of Okko Theater is original content. We can take something ready-made, but then it will become ours - we will produce it, it will be released under the brand name "Okko Presents". We, one might say, put a quality mark on it.
Good luck in your endeavors, we hope that the theater does not die offline due to the coronavirus!
Will not die! They will wait for us with greed and will rush there even more. The main thing is for the actors to survive this time.