The following is an interview with State Honored Artist and General Producer of the Academic Drama Theater N.Naranbaatar about the new development and direction of Mongolian performing arts. State prizes and awards seem to have encouraged him, much as his talk was full of new ideas for the future.
-The Year of the Horse has come. Horses are said to be fortunate animals. What does fortunate mean to you?
-It’s the great belief in one’s own abilities.
-On the threshold of the Year of the Horse, you were given the highest state prize in the cultural field. Words don’t really come out when one is overwhelmed. How did you feel upon receiving the highest state prize?
-To be born a human and be recognised by the state is a great gratification. I used to think of state prizes as something for only the “big guys” and when I received it, I realized that receiving this meant many huge responsibilities for me.
I’m thinking hard about how to carry the honor of the award in the future, and other aspects such as whether I’m the right “soldier” to receive this, what I have to do from now on to truly become the owner of the award and what sort of abilities I need to put into myself.
I guess minds are presumptuous. After receiving the state prize, thoughts of wanting to flourish Mongolian arts and culture throughout the world started swirling in my brain. I’ve been constantly pressured by the thought of making Mongolian arts, a world art, through theater and film productions. I’m planning to make a historical film and I’m also writing a project. I will use films to take it up on the world platform as it was said that film productions are the best out of all creations, which is absolutely true.
Through my own field, seven plays will be staged. The plays are being adjusted so that each one will be performed by three to four performers or in a monologue format. It’s very complicated to participate in international festivals with big, long plays. Since a huge amount of expense and stage work is needed for big plays, for starters, we will participate with smaller plays or plays for camera. At least the cost of participating in international competitions will be less with these sorts of plays. For instance, Mongolia has many opera singers. If they participate in International Tchaikovsky or Klein competitions with their concertmaster and personal trainer, the cost will be much less. Producers and plays will be determined by spring.
-Awarding you with the state prize seems like an symbol for supporting the Mongolian theater arts?
-Absolutely. Although the prize was awarded to me, behind the curtains, it is a grace given to the drama and theater sector by the government.
-You are the youngest state honored person of the theater arts which has an 80 years of history. How did other artists congratulate your success?
-It’s a wonderful thing to receive an elders’ golden praises and love. It might be connected to me being raised by my grandparents but I really like the smell of old people. It’s a nice scent. It’s nice to be recognised and appreciated by the public and approved by them.
-Even before receiving this award, seniors members of the theater arts seem to place their trust in you?
-Yes. The trust given to me, gives so much encouragement to me. Especially, when they say, “This boy will do great things.” However, the thought of carrying their trust without disappointing them is always on my mind. The ultimate goal is to take Mongolian arts and culture to the world stage. Even if it’s not by me, it will be the start of another talented person to take up the legacy. I will be proud of myself and boast about being the stepping stone of future accomplishments.
-It must not have been an easy task to direct and produce Tengeriing Khuu (Son of the Sky) and Hamlet, which hasn’t been performed for many years. After entering to the backstage, has any of your presumptions about producing plays changed?
-I had plans when I first entered the theater. I didn’t want to start directing classic novels as soon as I got into the industry. I had only one thought, which was to support national playwrights and gradually advance. Therefore, I staged and directed most of our national plays and later, planned to work from Russian to European productions – of France, England, Spain and America.
They say that you need to think of success as a snowy mountain whose peak is as high as your imagination. It felt as if I had been mindlessly running towards its peak after receiving the prize and took a break recently. (Laughs)
-What sort of break is it?
-The break is a speculation. While I stopped running in the mountain, the state kissed me. Now, I began thinking about the rhythm for the next run that will take me further. There are two types of runners, 100 meter sprinter and marathon runner. Marathon runners need to reserve his energy for the 42 km long track; whereas, 100 meter sprinters run extremely fast in a short amount of time. I think that artists need to reserve their energy for the long run.
Producing a wonderful piece of work is one problem for the production. However, from the moment that I became the general producer of the Academic Drama Theater, I started speculating future managements of Mongolian theater arts. This means that I’m putting myself aside. I need to think in a wider range and make theaters more notable by developing other artistic people and supporting them. Hence, when working, I place myself second and put others first.
An objective needs to be defined, and the first example of trying to work in different styles from my previous method are the above seven performances. I would also prefer to decide which production to prioritize for this age and concentrate on reviving national arts and cultures.
We must never forget that we cannot lag from the world or disregard the interests and needs of seven billion people. In theatrical terms, this is the world standard. An example of this is Hamlet. Seven billion people approves of Hamlet.
The fact that we are not performing this play indicates that we’re falling behind from the world. National arts and cultures are our prized possession. Historical and domestic productions need to be revealed to the public and supported, for instance, Tengeriin Khuu (Son of the Sky), Anu Khatan and Orolmaa Ekh.
I have just discussed with the head of Policy Department of the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Tourism about our nation’s amazing traditional heritage foundation. My home, for instance, has three to four books on Mongolian folk song. There’s a huge folk song heritage there.
Today, musical has become the top theatrical art in the world. Musical is a combination of dancing, singing and acting. This indicates that the people of the twenty first century want something that includes everything.
Musicals by world-renown producers have been staged for over 20 years. European culture is in these works. Our country can create its own unique work by producing musicals based on national folk songs too. If it’s performed in all 21 provinces and later on world stages, a new unique Mongolian culture can be created. If we can create this in accordance with world standards, it will become another great achievement.
What’s the point of performing Romeo and Juliet that was already performed in France? It’s completely European, and European styles are listened by Europeans themselves. It’s very different from Mongolia. The sweet sound of a Mongolian female singer will touch the hearts of Mongolia.
-Lifestyles of Mongolians have been influenced by South Korean dramas in recent years and with the globalization, many young people are heading towards foreign countries. Many criticisms are floating around such as that Mongolian traditions and Mongolian knowledge will be forgotten when they return. What do you think that we should do to pass the national way of thinking the future generation?
-I’m not sure whether to pass or not to pass it down. That should be organized by policies. However, we know how to pass on through arts and culture. Performing arts should be the guide to social life.
Wearing Mongolian deel and owning Mongolian huurug (snuff-box) is a wonderful tradition. However, being Mongolian through our way of thinking is even more important than that. There is a saying by Chinggis khan, “How far can the body go when the mind is set?” It wouldn’t matter even if you dress one in a deel or put him on a horse with a snuff-box, if one has no national mentality. If you dress one in jeans and t-shirts, as long as they have Mongolian mentality, Mongolia will always be in his heart regardless of his outer appearance.
After watching too much South Korean dramas, even their genders have become hard to distinguish. If their mind was clear, they wouldn’t be dressing or eating like Koreans. The scariest thing about Korean series is memory loss. One factor that is affecting us negatively is that they show too many severed relations. If you keep showing jealousy, revenge, materialistic ways, and so on, people will follow this mentality.
People will think that we have to sabotage those who are better or successful than us. Films are a dangerous weapon. They give other foreign mentality to us.
Truthfully, Korea doesn’t really have a chivalrous history but they show it so much in films. Even when we know the truth that they didn’t have such kings, we will start to think otherwise. They have great producers but not enough fund; they receive majority of their fund from China. From 2002 to 2004, it was said that Korean producers were forced to show the supremacy of China in films.
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