This Friday, the 10th of June, we would like to invite everyone to the premiere of a performance inspired by William Shakespeare's drama 'Othello', directed by Jan Orszulak, the founder and director of Standby Studio at the Academic Cultural Centre of the University of Gdańsk.
Elwira Romaniuk: - What is it like to 'create'?
Jan Orszulak, director at Standby Studio - It gives you an incredible sense of freedom and self-determination. The moment when you see how something you've invented suddenly transforms into a full-scale work is indescribable. But it also comes with great responsibility, because even if you create something strong and powerful, you can't hurt the viewers, you can only try to shake them - with this motto I try to create my performances and films.
- How did your adventure with theatre begin?
- It's funny because I took my first theatre classes at the age of 2-3 with an outstanding specialist Leszek Bzdyl, but apparently, I didn't last more than half an hour. My mother, who also directs, took me there. In fact, it was she who instilled in me the love for art, theatre and film from an early age. At the age of 15 I started to earn from this 'adventure', being an actor in the Musical Theatre 'Picorello', we travelled around Poland and played fairy tales for children. After a few years, however, I decided that I liked being on the other side of the stage much more and so, at the age of 18, I founded Standy Studio - a theatre and film studio under the aegis of the Alternator Academic Cultural Centre of the University of Gdańsk, which I have been dynamically developing ever since. There was also a film school and I could go on and on, but I definitely do what I love. I run classes as a theatre instructor and director in high schools in Gdańsk, e.g. in I High School in Gdańsk and in Gdańska Akademia Seniora (Gdańsk Senior Academy), where we activate elderly people in artistic activities through art. Additionally, I successfully prepare young people for acting exams, which are held every year in state theatre schools.
- Do you think that method acting is a desirable form? Or do you advocate the 'sterility' of the actor's mind? Is it at all possible to maintain such sterility?
- The subject of an actor's emotionality is much more complex than the division between the two. As creators, we are sensitive people and we absorb, observe and experience this world in a deeper way than, for example, a car mechanic, although each job must be respected. Method acting used in its extreme form, i.e. not leaving the role even during breaks, or even in private life (sic!) is absolutely unhealthy for the psyche of an actor, a human being. Sure, in the absence of the possibility to reach the appropriate stimuli of the day, knowing the mechanisms of this way, one can try to feel anything on stage, but is it really a good way? I'll always believe that a talented actor doesn't have to use it because what - if he played a murderer, he would start murdering in his private life? I try to treat directing as a job. When I go home I'm only Janek, I don't give stage commands to my girlfriend, I pass the same attitude to the actors, but it's up to them to decide...
- Do you support utilitarianism in theatre? What do you think about 'art for art's sake'?
- If we are talking exactly about the fact that theatre is supposed to teach society, then I am most in favour. Everything that comes out of us, the creators, should carry a message, give food for thought and sometimes shake the recipient. After all, even pop culture does this, let alone art. And we take a rain check for those who make art for art's sake because they contribute nothing but an excessive fascination with their own work.
- How does your 'Othello' correspond with the theses mentioned above?
- 'Othello', as directed by me, is first and foremost meant to expose the ridiculousness of our Polish beliefs, vices and blind traditionalism, as well as to show the scope of our social behaviour through hyperbolising presented in the play. While working on it, more than once I heard from the actors that they have something in common with this and that character. This is very important because it means so much that the viewer will also be able to correspond with them and identify them in themselves, which in turn will perhaps lead to some reflection.
- Do you expect your actors to cooperate or only to submit to the director's vision?
- When I'm preparing for a performance, I demand a lot from myself and I tend to have a fully defined vision of every aspect of the piece. But sometimes I also don't know something, that's why I like to let the actors speak and implement their ideas because they also see everything from a different perspective. I try to combine both.
- What does a director's job look like in practice? As I understand it, it's not a 9-5 job?
- Actually, there is more work at home, especially when it is combined with the work of a playwright or screenwriter (in the case of a film). The work of a director is an extremely complex mechanism involving a variety of knowledge not only in the field of art but also purely technical knowledge. It is an extremely specific profession, involving continuous development in many areas - from general knowledge about the world to specialist knowledge, to whether you can lead a group of a dozen or several dozen people without a stutter. We could do a separate interview about that, but if someone doesn't feel a knack for it, some kind of inflammatory stimulus, they will burn out very quickly, if only from the stress that is the order of the day. In terms of hours, it's actually constant work, and if you're poorly organised, there's a good chance you'll fall into real workaholism. Let's just hope it's positive and laced with passion and love for what you do.
- Looking at your work, one cannot help but notice that you like to shock. What is the purpose of this?
- The funny thing is that I don't feel like that at all. Sure, I like to add a dose of brutality in my plays, show some intimacy and sex, reflect on the meaning of existence, including death, but it is worth noting that these aspects accompany us in everyday life - brutality in the media, sex is actually a physiological need, and death, unfortunately, each of us will live to see. These are the facts and they should not shock us, but perhaps give us food for thought - why do they shock us? Currently, in my plays I try to touch upon various problems of the external world, but also of the internal world, to which I ask myself questions every day. I think it's a kind of therapy, both for me, the actors, and for the potential audience.
- Why did you choose 'Othello' for your latest production?
- I've made no secret of the fact that in Standby Studio Theatre, I choose the play to suit the actors, and 'Othello' as a drama simply seemed the most compatible with the ensemble that has been working with me this year. Unfortunately, in student theatre, the composition of the theatre group changes from year to year, if only by one person, so this aspect is very important if you want to do something really good, fitting to these gathered people. Besides, I wanted to do something loud this year, something Shakespearean, and the theme of 'Othello' immediately intrigued me, because it was very life-like, universal. Moreover, I immediately saw my actors in these characters, so working on it was a great pleasure and fun.
- Thank you for the interview.
The event will take place on June 10 at 7 pm in the Professor Jerzy Limon theatre hall in the UG Neophilology building. The performance will last about 1.5 hours. Admission is free.
Persons between 16 and 18 years of age may attend only with a legal guardian or with their written consent. Younger spectators (under 16) will not be admitted.
For more information
in an interview by editor Iwona Borawska in Radio Gdańsk on: https://radiogdansk.pl/audycje/salon-artystyczny/2022/05/01/otello-rozmowa-o-pracy-nad-premierowym-spektaklem-standby-studio/