Tarlan Rasulov

‘A fruitful ground for new theatre projects’ – interview with Tarlan Rasulov

Tarlan Rasulov is an Azerbaijan theatre director and founder of the dOM independent theatre company. He is also a translator, a writer and a teacher. Rasulov truley enjoyed the programme of the Theatre Olympics and his first visit to Budapest. We have talked about his visions of the future theater, his favourite performances, and the next festival with him.

– How did you feel in Hungary? What were the first impressions of the 10th Theatre Olympics?

– Budapest is a theatre city in itself, in which many things are intertwined and harmoniously neighboring, and the Theatre Olympics was very much to its liking. When I was preparing for the trip and studying the programme of the Theatre Olympics, I was impressed by the immensity of the concept. It is a unique case where a theatre event involves literally the entire country, and I especially liked the idea of the Hungarian theatres hosting not only touring productions from other countries but also from local and transborder Hungarian theatres. It promotes horizontal connections, the exchange of experience, and the very breath of life of the theatre. Hungarian theatre is, as far as I can tell, absorbed a lot of heterogeneity. We know, or think we know, what Japanese, Greek or Russian theatre is, and it was interesting for me to catch the tone of Hungarian one, about which there is as little to known in the world as about Azerbaijani theatre. The way Hungarian theatre art strives to overcome its own hermeticity and how it was able to achieve such an event as the Theatre Olympics during such a short time and on such an impressive scale is the experience that I wanted to bring to my country. By all criteria, Azerbaijan could and deserves to become the next country to host the Theatre Olympics. I am so inspired by what I have seen and convinced that a world theatre festival has a place in my homeland that I am ready to take on the task myself.   

– In general, what do you think about the jubilee of the Theatre Olympics? Have the main aspects, the focus been changed since the beginning in Delphoi in 1995? Why should we organize this kind of event in 2023?

– I think that the 10th anniversary of the Theatre Olympics is 1:0 in favor of Theatre, in favor of Life, in favor of Humanity, no matter how pathetic it may sound. The pandemic period, which turned into a period of intense military conflicts, made us think about survival, not life. And it seemed to many that theatre was not the first necessity and could be done without it. A dangerous delusion. We all got tired of wearing protective masks at some point, but we longed for theatre masks (not literally, but symbolically). In this regard, the Theatre Olympics’ video project about the journey of the theatre mask is very symbolic and well-timed. 

Without a theatre that hears and understands people, that helps them to live, not to despair, to overcome, without actors with a developed empathy, without performances that try not to let a person forget that he is a human being – without this we will remain on the wave not of life, but of survival. Only a living theatre can transform and transfigure. Only a living theatre can give birth to the new. Only a living theatre… And the performances of Theatre Olympics from the moment of its foundation echo these principles or strive to conform to them. 

– How many performances could you attend at the Olympics? 

– I saw four productions as part of MITEM. Each is interesting in its own way, and it’s obvious that this festival within the festival was designed to showcase the productions most in tune with today’s day. I would call it a festival of exploration, in which discovery is an audience privilege. Even though it is called the Olympics, no pedestal is possible here, however, I especially remember the performance “Young Barbarians” by Attila Vidnyánszky Jr. which allowed me to make an excursion into the search for the identity of Hungarian music art in a dynamic, catchy and humorous form. There is a lot of energy, the element of playing, improvisation, and a lack of pretentiousness. 

Tarlan Rasulov

I am grateful to the organizers for the “windows” and time to think about what I have seen and talk informally with my colleagues and even had time to rehearse with the actors online, my upcoming premiere. The only thing I personally lacked was an official festival club, a headquarters for guests and experts in the festival to network. However, the Theatre Olympics is not only a kind of report but also a fruitful ground for new theatre projects and ideas.

– To the audience, what else do you recommend from the remaining programs?

– I heartily advise everyone not to hesitate to come to Hungary during the Theatre Olympics and trust the theatre forces that have settled there: just go to the theatre for any performance, regardless of the director, style, and genre. Go, and you won’t feel sorry for the time and money spent. The Theatre Olympics has tastefully chosen plays to suit all tastes. So simply, go to the theatre! This, by the way, is a universal recipe for any life situation. There are no contraindications.

– What can be the essential mission of theater nowadays? What is the responsibility of the theater creators?

– Theatre is a universal cultural phenomenon that helps people understand what it means to be human. Some of the templates are raised to a degree and given the status of dogmas and irrefutable truths. Theatre is a temple; a holy place… Theatre is a school, a source of enlightenment, whose mission is to teach people to think… Theatre is a mirror of life, of society, of an era… Theatre is a tribune from which public and political ideas can be conveyed to the masses… Theatre is an elitist art, not a mass art… Each of these theses has made its way from a progressive idea to a doctrine. These patterns, although contradictory, do not replace each other, but accumulate, continuing to exist simultaneously to this day, thus forming an internally contradictory space of theatre. Neither together nor separately can these approaches fully express the essence of theatre. The mission of the theatre is not to think and fit oneself to follow this mission nor is it messianism, but not to lose the gift of hearing people and loving people. It sounds simple, but it is hard to achieve. The main and final function and destiny of theatre is the transformation of man. And the main thing also in theatre, as in life, is not to lie (to yourself as well) and to do what you really believe in.

Tarlan Rasulov

Tarlan Rasulov is a theatre director, founder of the dOM independent theatre company (Azerbaijan), translator, manager, producer, writer, and performance scholar. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Theater Studies at the University of Culture and Arts of Azerbaijan. Head of the laboratory of the Experimental Theater and Consultant of Azerbaijan Theater Union. Tutor in Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Arts. Member of EURODRAM-European network for drama in translation, East European Performing Arts Platform, Guild of Professional Filmmakers of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan Theater Union. Participated in many theatrical conferences and festivals. His immersive performance “Limbo” (dedicated to World Refugee Day) won a special prize “For the development of a new stage space and ways of communication with the audience” at the VII International Festival of Turkic-speaking theaters “Tuganlyk” in 2019. Selected projects: Youth Arts Festival (2001); “Say NO now” TV action for performing youth activity against AIDS with UNICEF and SPACE TV (2004); Anti-terror action with “NEW WAVE” Writers’ Union (2007); Theatre in Young Offenders’ Center with Open Society Institute Foundation (2007); “Against Human Traffic” with OSCE and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan (2007); AT THE BORDER performance with Adam Mickiewicz Institute (2013); THE DOLL’S HOUSE performance with ALOFF Theatre (UK) (2016); DO IT BETTER THAN ME – Community Theatre project for disabled people (2016); “ERROR” (2016–2017); “IN THE SUN” (Forum theatre)(2017-2018); Breaking Bad News (UK) (2019); “Blast from Past” for YARAT theatre club (2021); “A Fellow Traveler on The Road to Hell” at ARTIM PROJECT SPACE (2022), etc.

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