Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
The flickering gaze in her dark brown eyes shows how attentive to details and emphatic she can be. Well-toned emotional background coupled with a state of tranquillity provide the necessary ambience for our conversation with the Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan Rita Amirbeyova. I remember her characters as fragile, easily vulnerable and impetuous: Nelka (Cruel Intentions by A. Arbuzov), Zinulya in the eponymous play by Gelman, Lidka (Privates by Alexei Dudarev), Stella who lives in fear and suffers from her own timid character (A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams) and many others.
Her characters grew up together with the actress. Margo of the Marriage Agency 1+... (Dowerless by Lyudmila Razumovskaya), Fortune Teller in Nonsense by Natig Rasulzade, Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Mrs. Bliss in the Bliss family (Hay Fever by Noël Coward), Adila-khanim in Vagif Samedoglu's play Playing with Snowballs in Summer... There were many of them: fairy-tale, melodramatic, dramatic and comedic, spicy characters.
During 43 years of continuous work in the theatre (excluding the period of acting as a student, which began when she was in her third year at the M. Aliyev Institute of Arts, now the University of Culture and Arts), Amirbeyova has played a huge number of female characters on the stage, hence having lived more than one female destiny.
Everyone knows that there are no self-acting plays, just as there are no self-performing actors! It is a bliss and happiness when an actor and director find each other. What does it mean? By no means this coincidence should be understood as a principle of mutually beneficial exchange of values when one of the masters scratches the back of the other expecting the latter to do the same in return. Rather it is about a psychological compatibility, about the aesthetics of the profession, coincidence of attitudes. In short, a key to overall success is trust, ability to communicate in the same professional language, a tendency to analytically study the psychological subtleties of the human spirit in the character, the director's patience and love for the actor. Because actors are like little children. They need attention and love of the director, with whom they build a story of human lives on the stage. Director's faith and love give them not only confidence in their professional abilities, but also improves their creative searches.
I often ask myself: why are girls and boys so eager to engage in acting, which is so dependent and so emotionally overloaded? How does it happen? When do they feel that they want to be actors and why? I ask the same questions to the Honoured Artist Rita AMIRBEYOVA as well:
"Everyone has different experiences. I cannot say that I was dreaming of becoming an actress when I was a child. But like many children, I sang, danced, and recited poems. I was reading a lot. It was our family tradition. I saw that my mother spent her free time reading books, and I did the same. My parents did care about our development, my brother’s and mine. Therefore, they would always take us to the countryside in the summer to take some rest. Mom knew well how to rest without impeding education and enlightenment of her children."
"… that on our way to some place for vacation chosen by my mother, we would definitely stop in Moscow for a few days. There we would always visit museums and theatres. I liked watching fairy tales in the theatre. I liked looking at the artists. In general, I liked everything associated with theatre. There has always been something special about the theatre."
"I did not understand this, but now, looking back, I think that I intuitively felt the presence of a meditative essence inspired by acting."
"Oh, this seems too difficult for me."
"It is about inner contemplation, which helps to see and feel the moments that are impossible to determine simply through the analytical study of your character..."
"Do you mean working with the subconscious?"
"I mean acting is like a Buddhist meditation. I became an actress because this was predetermined, like my spiritual development, rethink my destiny..."
"But how did decide to be an actress after all?"
"One of our new classmates was a girl named Olya. She was cheerful, sociable and charming. Everyone liked her. But most importantly, she was a member of a theatrical group. She used to tell us about every time and with delight. She was even boasting a little being proud to be an acctress."
"Then you came up with an idea..."
"Yes! I thought that Olya’s cheerful character and charm was because she was studying acting at the theatre. My conclusion was simple: actors are not only funny, but also special people. I wanted to be one of such people when I was in the 7th grade of the school."
"What did you find so special about actors?"
"Perhaps I thought they were exclusive. After some time I told my mother that it was interesting to be an actor and I would like to become one. Mom advised me to learn more about the profession before I make a final decision. That’s how I found myself enrolled in the folk theatre, the Semyon Steinberg Youth Theatre. Then I studied at the M. Aliyev Institute of Arts followed by permanent workplace, the Russian Drama Theatre."
"What did the ‘universities’ of theatrical backstage give you?"
"If we think of a theatre as a battlefield of ambitions, then these ‘universities’ have given me a lot of useful things."
"Ability to preserve myself, views, my principles, my understanding of the role of my profession as a way know the life deeper; this formed my character, made it possible to understand the true and false values in this life."
"I won't say anything new. Truth in acting cannot be set beforehand. Truth is in your craft is what you define yourself. It allows you to be a professional. At the same time, faith, hope and love play important roles in this case. Love for the space and the people living in it, to the chosen profession and the cause you have dedicated yourself to in order to serve while you are alive, while you can breathe and walk."
"What about lie?"
"Do you expect me to talk about gossips, intrigues and conspiracy theories? Not at all. Lying in our profession is the inability or unwillingness, or the fear of telling yourself the truth. Truth about how talented or ungifted you are, how much you fit your profession, how much you fit into the constant process of professional renewal. You become a liar when you stop developing. Finally, a lie is the inability to tell oneself this simple truth: do the audience and theatre need you the way you are today, here and now? Are you interesting as a person for the theatre and the audience?"
"How do you answer these questions yourself today?"
"One cannot replay the life to live it again. That’s how it is. The key is to understand everything in a timely manner. It is absurd to get mad at the past. There is no point in blaming anyone for your failures. You just have to live. Here and now. And honestly serve the idea called the theatre. This is the only thing that matters."
"Do you mean you no longer have professional dreams and desires?"
"Quite the opposite. I am ready to serve my profession and my theatre in any role, in any genre. I enjoy the period of professional wisdom, maturity and reassessment of professional values in my life. This is an amazingly harmonious period! As if I suddenly opened my eyes and value the cheap jewellery next to me as something more valuable that I thought it was. It is a period in my professional life when small roles seem extremely attractive and interesting. Thanks to my profession, I now understand why the great Faina Ranevskaya was called the Queen of Episodes: Stanislavsky was absolutely right, asserting that there were no small roles, but small actors! It is the opposite feeling when you are young – you think that the bigger the role, the better. But one can grow professionally even playing the minor roles..."
"Why did you come to theatre then?"
"I was asked the same question when I was in my third year as a student..."
"What was your answer then?"
"The same that I will tell you today. I came to the Theatre to live..."
These words belong to an actress whose record of roles deserves huge interest and respect. She has played a large number of living recognizable characters, which she had a chance to perform in different genres. Today I cannot say in which genre she looks the most convincing for me as an actress. Because at each stage of her professional and human maturation, she found in herself a set of additional capabilities, which helped her to easily switch from lyric-dramatic and dramatic roles to heroines with sharp character, even the comedic ones. It was extremely interesting to observe how the stage lives of her characters developed.
Now, many years later, she thinks that she determined her own destiny when she was a third-year student Rita Amirbeyova. Because from that moment one Theatre and Life, Life and Theatre became mutually complementary conceptions for her. And she could experience the feelings, emotions and suffering that she lacked in life on the stage. Not because she lacked all kinds of passions in her life at all. Her personal life has also developed in line with all the canons of a romantic drama. However, it was her profession that provided her with a unique chance to equate these concepts. It turned out that her entire life, with all the twists and turns, fit into a simple formula defined by herself: "I came to the theatre to live..."