Asen Terziev: Theatre can't stay in its own “bubble”

A 15th annual Malá inventura festival will start shortly, traditionally organized by a cultural NGO Nová síť. The festival offers an opportunity for independent productions, emerging artists and managers to establish cooperation with abroad or across the Czech regions.

Asen Terziev, a theatre critic, theatrologist and coordinator of one of the biggest international Bulgarian festivals-International Theatre Festival „Varna Summer“ was one of the festival´s guests last year.

Apart from the traditional productions, Asen Terziev has the courage to release daring performances. Several productions of Czech artists were successfully presented within the Varna festival (Vertedance, Handagote, Andrea Miltnerová – I think this is wrong, we have not presented her work, etc.). Bulgaria is open to the Czech culture. And how it works vice versa? We will have an opportunity to find out the answer to this question with the help of the "inconvenient" performance Mir Vam presented at Venuše in Švehlovka. This piece reflects the situation of immigrants in Europe and will be presented within the Malá inventura regional section.

What are Your first associations when You think about the Czech theatre and what are the origins of these associations?
Quite various in fact. I think about the plays of Vaclav Havel, about the Czech traditions in puppetry, about the Prague structuralism and its great contribution to the understanding of contemporary theatre. Prague was also for me one of the first places where I was introduced to contemporary dance from all over the world when I visited the Konfrontace festival back in 2002. Later on visiting Mala Inventura my impressions on the importance of the alternative theatre languages and spaces has become stronger. I associate also Czech theatre with experimentation – I love the theatrical imagination of Jiri Havelka, Handa Gote, VerTeDance, Jan Mikulasek (to mention among others). All the Czech works which our festival had presented had impressed us with their bravery and innovation.

As a program manager of a big festival and a theatre critic You have plenty of opportunities to watch the foreign productions. In Your opinion, is it possible to find any parallels between the Bulgarian and Czech projects of New Theatre /multi genre/ ?

Sure. I think the tendencies are more or less the same. In Bulgaria we lack experimentation in terms of puppetry, which very often is associated only with children. And what I think Prague is way ahead of us are the venues – unfortunately we cannot boast of having such well developed and technically equipped venues as the ones I have seen in Prague like Alfred ve Dvore, Ponec, Archa, Studio Alta, La Fabrika etc.

Mir Vam, a performance of a director Neda Sokolovská is going to be presented within the Malá inventura festival. It's the same piece You chose for the Varna festival. What do You consider to be the most interesting aspect of this performance? And what were the Bulgarian critics´ reactions towards it?
What I appreciate most in Neda Sokolovska’s work is her total dedication to the subject, her ability to transfer that to the people she works with and her talent to translate that into a powerful theatrical experience. She was the first to start doing documentary verbatim theatre in Bulgaria, but I think it was not just the “new-ness” of it in our context, which made her shows so attractive. I like the way she and her crew manage to get so close to the people they study, that the people really open themselves. This very human aspect of her work is most exciting for me. Sometimes contemporary theatre with a social or political focus can be pretentious or speculative, but I do not think this is the case with Neda Sokolovska. In Bulgaria “Mir Vam” was very well accepted by the critics – it was chosen by almost everyone in the quiestionnaire for “best theatre event of 2017” of the “Literary Newspaper”.

How is the performance like this one created? Is it a classical rehearsal or do the artists prefer artist-in-residencies?
This question would be best answered by Neda Sokolovska. What I know is that for her type of work she either makes a casting or invites people who would be interested, because she never expects them to be just actors. They have to do a great deal of the research and the interviews themselves.

In the Czech Republic, these residencies are actually on the increase. Is this also happening in Bulgaria?

No, unfortunately. I have not heard of anyone apart from the Derida Dance Centre ( developing residencies for artists in Bulgaria.

Is there anything particular that has delighted You in the field of culture? Or disappointed?

Well, hard to answer this one… Let’s say performances like “MIR VAM” delight me because they remind me what good theatre stands for – exercise in empathy, an attempt understand yourself and the other. Disappointment for me comes from bad theatre or when culture and theatre also stay in their own “bubbles” (if I may use this word, which has become so popular lately).

What are Your wishes?
My wishes are for stability and peace in Europe and the world, for overcoming the separation which destroys society.

The interview prepared by Adris Světlíková