Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
It is difficult to resist the temptation and not start the story about Oleg Amirbeyov with a common phrase like 'he, like all theatrical children, grew up behind the curtains.' But that would be a lie, albeit a beautiful one. Oleg did not grow like this, although he was often in the theatre. His mother Rita Amirbeyova would take him to the theatre only in exceptional cases. In general, she did not plan the future for her son. He chose profession himself. Or maybe the profession chose him, who knows?
Usually, however, situations when the children of actors chose professions different from those of their parents are rare exceptions. As a rule, parents 'spoil' their children with endless talks about the theatre, as the profession becomes a lifestyle for them. They do not part with it for 24 hours. Arnold Kharchenko, Oleg's father, was a popular actor, who worked in theatre in the 1970-80s. He died early, but some people in Baku still remember him as an artist with fine mental organization and an ability to play both comedic and dramatic roles. They say that he was “an artist from God.”
Oleg was about 11 years old, when he first stepped on the stage of the theatre. It was a play based on Rustam Ibrahimbeyov’s play The Loop staged by Alexander Sharovsky. Oleg, who did not utter a word, had to portray Alexei, the son of the last Russian tsar Nicholas II. It was fun. Even then no one could imagine that this this silent and smiling boy would become an interesting actor. He is now an actor of the Samed Vurghun State Academic Russian Drama Theatre, who is in demand both in his native theatre and on television as a host of concerts and other events of national scale. Oleg is fluent in Azerbaijani and Russian, and speaks English.
"Oleg, can we start our talk with your dynasty?"
"Why? I am an actor in the second generation. Dynasty, if we assume that it as a way of transferring the secrets of professional mastery from one generation to another one, presupposes the existence of several generations in the family who have been engaged in the same craft for centuries. My parents are the first members of my family who chose acting as a profession. But I do not know if my children and grandchildren will be actors. It is too early to talk about a dynasty."
"What about your grandparents?"
“I am proud of them. They had nothing to do with acting but I remember them with honour. My memory still preserves the feeling of light and love spilling on me when I was a child."
"Your mother once told me that you were interested in studying your family tree. Why?"
"This is not quite true. Just at some point in my life, I thought that I did not know anything about my grandparents. What was their fate? Who and what were they? They were all different by nationality, the nature of their activities and social status. Perhaps someday I really want to tackle my family tree because I came across quite intriguing facts..."
"It turned out that all the characters in my family history are people with amazing and extraordinary fates. Each of them deserves a separate novel or an adventure story."
"Which of them, do you think, is an adventurer?"
"Well, if a representative of the male line of our clan is concerned, I would say it is a knight named Syrokomlya."
"What a strange name…"
"He comes from a Ukrainian-Polish family. He had his own coat of arms, which later somehow became the family coat of arms of Bogdan Khmelnytsky (Ukrainian commander, politician and statesman), and now is one of seven medallions hanging on an openwork chain in the collar of the President of Ukraine (Abdank - Syrokomlya)...
"Like the history of all mankind."
"Fond of history?"
"Yes. But I am an amateur, just curios; it is not a professional research."
"Maybe you had to choose history, not theatre?"
"Of course not! History is an additional component of my profession. It is no worse and no better than others, but I personally am interested in acting. If you treat it with the respect of a good craftsman, you will get a lot of fun for the rest of your life for sure!"
"Sounds optimistic! But this is all theory. What about reality?"
"We create reality ourselves. Much depends on you, but not all. It is important, for example, to know and maintain the balance between the nature of the character you are going to play and the idea of director, his stage aesthetics and vision..."
"You’ve been in the theatre for nine years..."
"No. Actually yes, nine years officially. Plus another five years, when I, as a student of our University of Culture and Art, was part of theatrical extras. I count since 2005."
"But you played Donald Baker from Leonard Gershe's play These Free Butterflies in December 2007. This is a big and difficult role..."
"Yes. The play itself is amazingly gentle. The story of young Donald touched everyone: both us actors and the audience. Perhaps, Alexander Yakovlevich thought twice before giving the role to me. It was necessary to play a blind boy with a heightened sense of justice, and the director did not let me put on black glasses. He forced me to look so that I could 'see' the world around me as Donald saw it. It was difficult but interesting. I learned to watch without seeing..."
"What lesson did you learn from your first big role?"
"I believe that someday I will become an actor. And if I'm lucky, I'll be a good one."
"Did you wish come true?"
"I'm trying hard. Walking on stage and reading from the script is not enough to be an actor. Proficiency is a lifelong learning path. Knowing yourself and the profession, and people."
"Do you mean psychological subtleties?"
"I mean them too. Oddly enough, the interlinkage between the role, human character and a person is about not only psychological nuances, but also history, geography, cultural studies. I believe any actor should know everything about his or her character: the era he lives in, mores of that society, etiquette, etc."
"Which of your roles made you look at yourself a little differently?"
"The role of Claudius Goretsky in Timur Nasirov’s play Wolves and Sheep. Playing a kind of charming adventurer, I realised what an antihero in real life is. But by the time I got this role, I was already with some kind of relative experience and knew how to look for small details so that the image would be voluminous. Director Irana Taghi-zadeh entrusted me the role of Alyosha Karamazov in The Karamazov Brothers. I was very excited as to how to play my part. I was reading the novel all the time, thought a lot, listened carefully to everything the director said about my character. She was patient with me. But only years later, I realised who Alyosha was in my heart, not in my mind. That also happens."
"What do you expect from your profession?"
“I'm not. I always learn when I am in the role of a TV host, concert host or on stage."
"What about your roles in cinema?"
"I don’t know if cinema likes me. I have played four roles only but I find cinema very interesting. It is different from theatre; it is another type of being on stage. It is my comfort zone. I generally like to discover and learn something new for myself."
"What character do you find close to yourself?"
"It is difficult to answer this question specifically, because I was not involved in all theatrical genres yet."
"You are mainly offered roles in comedies. Is it because directors have stereotypical perception of your professional abilities?"
"I cannot answer this question. I do not know. But Irana Taghi-zadeh gave me the role of Alyoshenka. I also played Moustached Artist in The Fate of Artist. She probably sees not only a comedian in me."
"Would you like to have a reputation as a puppet actor?"
"The word 'puppet' today is most often interpreted as blind obedience to someone else's will and power, that is, director's. Although in fact, in drama theatre this concept means an actor who knows how to easily perform in any genre. In other words, it is a synthetic actor who knows how to flow from genre to another even in one performance, in one role. That is the type of a virtuoso puppet I would like to be."
"Any problem? You like studying anyway?"
"Yes. But besides theory that I can get from books, I also need practice. We need master classes that help not only improve, but also go beyond obsolete concepts. The world is developing, and theatrical art too. It’s good if you’re not alone in these master classes, but with your stage partners when you can develop and strive for qualitatively different results together. That is why theatre is a collective creation. Participation of a group of young actors in international, professionally developing classes this summer in Shekvitili, where we mastered new techniques of professional craft, is what a modern actor needs."
"What does friendship mean to you?"
"We live in times when high concepts are depreciated or replaced by diametrically opposite ones. In Facebook, for example, it is very popular to “collect” friends, then to compare who has more of them. Situations reach the point of absurdity when it turns out that someone has five thousand people as friends! Well, these are not friends anymore, sorry. This is a substitution. This is what is not. I have friends. But there are very few of them."
"What kind of friends are they?"
"They are always by my side – be it my difficult or happy days. Oddly enough, both sadness and joy are tests of this world. Tests for strength, loyalty, fidelity, dignity and humanity, if you want."
"Where do you like spending your leisure time?"
“I don’t have that much. But when I do, I spend it with my family, traveling. I like to discover something new for myself in the history, music, architecture of cities, where I happened to visit. I like to meet new people. I'm interested in people. They attract me indeed. Perhaps that interest is due to my profession."
"What about visits to night clubs?"
"This way of sharing energy is not for me. Just like football or gambling. I prefer chatting over coffee. Exchange of information is also an exchange of energy. Intellectual energy."
"A man of the 21st century is..."
"…the one who knows what and how is going on his big house called Earth. He is the one who is in the structure of his ime, and not in parallel with it. Today you can’t live apart from time. You may or may not accept its ideals and attitudes, but you must be aware of all this. The world is full of discoveries. Scientists discover something new every day. We must know this. Because the slogan "knowledge is power" is still relevant. The more you learn about discoveries and people, the more you realize that the world is not only huge, but also amazing."
“Have you discovered anything new lately?”
"Shekvitili in Georgia. There we had classes at the International Theatre School attended by actors from theatres of Russia and different CIS countries. People are always a discovery. Colleagues - even more so. I discovered new things not only in the profession, but also in people. For example, we, the actors of the Russian Drama Theatre, discovered that our director Adalet Hajiyev was an interesting and patient interlocutor. We discovered this fact in Georgia."
"Theatrical calendar is measured by seasons. Russian Drama Theatre enters season 99. What are your hopes for the new season?"
"With the same as all my colleagues. I wish us all an interesting, creative, exciting pre-anniversary season. Next September we will enter the hundredth season of theatrical life. We all will immediately turn 100 years old! Think about how often it happens that everyone turns 100 at the same time?! Certainly, we are waiting, including myself, for something unusual. Seizing this opportunity, I would like to congratulate all my colleagues on the start of a new, 147th, if I am not mistaken, theatre season in the country. I wish all of us more creativity and professional achievements, and I wish the audience pleasant artistic discoveries and excitement."