Mamedali Agayev: "I haven't changed anything in Satire Theater, just added Azerbaijani tradition"
Moscow Satire Theater was created on October 1, 1924, in the basement floor of a house in the Bolshoi Gnezdnikovsky Lane. This year theater celebrates its 94 anniversary old. Honored Artist of Russia, director of the theater, Mamedali Agayev, discussed history and current state of the Satire theater in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- Did you celebrate this date, October 1?
- There was no special program for the audience, but our team considers every October 1 a holiday. However, next year, on the 95th anniversary, we will organize special celebration for the audience. In addition, next year marks the 85th anniversary of artistic director of our theater, Alexander Shirvindt.
- Do you think your theater is getting old, or is it getting younger?
- It's getting younger. Unfortunately, when it comes to veterans, only Alexander Anatolyevich Shirvindt and Vera Kuzminichna Vasilyeva, who turned 93 on September 30, are still with us.
- Is there succession of generations? Were you able to maintain this high bar, which your theater has always been known for?
- Thank God, so far we have managed to do it, even though it's hard. There are still people like Vera Kuzminichna and Alexander Anatolyevich, Yuri Vasilyev, Alena Yakovleva. Theater will continue to exist because they are raising young people, future generations.
- Your theater has always been known for a large number of outstanding actors. Can you say that the audience still attends just to see performances of specific actors?
- I'm proud that our theater has always been family theater. We had great artists - Mironov, Papanov, Mishulin, Tkachuk, Vasilyeva, Aroseva, Pelzer. Each artist had his own audience. Now those people are grandmothers or grand-grandmothers, but they still attend our shows, because they remember those artists.
- Theater has moved many times in the course of its existence. It's located in the premises of the Triumphal Square since 1964. Do you plan to move again some time or is there no need for that?
- We have 1200 seats. There are days like Saturday and Sunday, when we show three or four performances. We still have the Attic of Satire, a small stage. Tickets are always sold-out. It's really hard, but, thank God, many people still attend our shows. That's why our current home is enough for us, and we proudly live in it.
- Do you plan any tours?
- Tours are not profitable for theaters. Previously, the Ministry of Culture of the USSR allocated money to each theater so that it could travel. We went to Vladivostok, to Kazakhstan, to Azerbaijan... Now every theater, even if it holds tours, must negotiate with producers, so that they would take on some expenses. Tours are necessary for artists so that they could gain new audience. So we visit America, Israel, and Germany sometimes. We used to visit Ukraine once or twice a month in the past. We visited Azerbaijan five years ago, but I think we will travel to Baku next year at the invitation of President Ilham Aliyev. We really look forward to this tour.
- Is this trip already confirmed?
- Of course. President invited us, so there's no doubt.
- Have you already decided on repertoire?
- It depends on requests of the host country. If they want to see specific artists, then we will bring them there.
- How often do you visit Azerbaijan?
- Twice a year. A week in the winter and 10-15 days in the summer. It's my homeland, my parents' graves are there. I always want to come back to my homeland. When I visit Nakhichevan, I mainly live in the mountains. It's my childhood. Always come back to Moscow with new vigor.
- Your actors always visit Baku not only because of their professional duty...
- It's a tradition. Every year 5-6 theater workers visit Baku. I'm proud that this city has changed so much in the last 10-15 years - Baku can now be compared to Paris. At the same time, Azerbaijanis love guests very much and respect them. If our artists have between visiting America and Baku, they will choose Baku.
- Baku and Azerbaijan as a whole is an authentic place with its own traditions and customs. Did you bring some of them to your theater?
- Our theater has international collective. I haven't changed anything in this family, I just added Azerbaijani tradition.
- What kind of tradition is it?
- Respect for elders, respect for subordinates. I am a member of a team, I never gloat about my position as director, I'm loved and respected regardless of it. Janitor or actress - everyone is equal for me. I was taught, raised that way.
- Still, you have to bear responsibility for keeping this giant theater machine afloat...
- I was lucky - I grew up in theater. It really helps, although theater is a complex organism. But director controls everything in order to find common language with everyone, it does not matter whether it's a mechanic, radio operator or people's artist. If you find common language with everyone, then there will be no problems. When everything is in the right place, then it's easy to work. I have great deputies, professionals who know their work. I can leave in the evening, knowing that these professionals will stay here and that everything is in the right place.
- As for repertoire, did you prepare any new plays?
- Theater can't exist without constantly preparing something new. We perform at least three new plays every year. But we have a shortage of directors. That's why either Alexander Anatolyevich himself acts as director, or we invite directors from St. Petersburg or Minsk.
- There's Azerbaijani studio at the Shchukin School, headed by Mikhail Borisov. Do you follow their work? Are you interested in using them in your shows somehow?
- I can proudly say that Mikhail Borisov and I agreed that next month some of his students will study under Alexander Anatolyevich Shirvindt. They will practice at the Satire Theater's small stage.
- How did your theater managed to stay relevant for such a long time? 94 years is almost a century...
- In over 94 years this theater had five artistic directors and four directors. I'm the fourth. It has its own traditions. Many people work here for a very long time. I never say "our team", I say "family." We cheer for each other, help each other with any problem. That's why we're a family. That's why theater is so great. I'm proud that I have been working here for 39 years. I fell like I'm at home. I only come home to sleep. In other words, this place really is my family.