Impressed with his debut as a director for Synetic’s touching Cyrano de Bergerac, I took the opportunity to interview Synetic Theater’s Vato Tsikurishvili. It was a chance to delve deeper into the creative mind behind the Cyrano production that is receiving critical and audience praise (read Amy Kotkin’s DCMTA review here). The production has been adapted from the original classic literature in which the character of Cyrano puts aside his own contentment so that another human being can find her own happiness.
After seeing Synetic’s Cyrano, I wondered how does a director go from page to stage leading an audience to want to stand and authentically applaud at the final blackout? And how does a director create fresh dramatic elements to a live theater production taken from classic literature?
Vato Tsikurishvili is an award-winning actor, choreographer, and educator with more than a decade of experience imparting Synetic Theater’s unique style to audiences and students. And yes, his parents are the co-founders of Synetic, Paata Tsikurishvili and Irina Tsikurishvili.
Vato Tsikurishvili is a 9-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in Much Ado About Nothing, and two Outstanding Choreography nominations for The Adventures of Peter Pan and The Man in the Iron Mask. He has also been part of six Outstanding Ensemble Award-nominated casts, winning the award five times.
David Siegel: What inspired you to invent “Time” as a visual, physical entity in Synetic’s adaptation of Cyrano?
Vato Tsikurishvili: I wanted to add a certain color, a specific mood to the show. I had a hard time figuring out what exactly she represented. At first, I went with death. A Grim Reaper type of character that eventually manifested into Time. In retrospect it feels like the obvious choice, considering my concept was centered on the value of time and missed opportunities. To me, time is a very neutral force. It is neither positive nor negative on its own. It can be ominous and it can be beautiful, it can pass by all too quick or every second can feel like an eternity. It is constant and present at all times in all our lives. I wanted its presence in the show as well.
Another inspiration was Ana Tsikurishvili (who portrays Time) and her skillsets. She has the range to be comedic, tragic or dramatic. So I wanted to find the right opportunity to use her as effectively as I could.
The “Time” character in Cyrano is depicted in several ways; both rigidly angular and also as an impatient presence pushing actions for some of the human characters. Why did you decide to do that?
Time is something personal to each of us. It’s different for everyone. It’s something we all have a lot of at first and then not enough later in life. At some point, we first gain awareness of time and begin to try to spend it more wisely. However, by the time we truly comprehend the value of time, it may be a little late! This may be, I admit, a rather morbid outlook. Regardless, I wanted to mirror that maturation process in the show because, honestly it’s just so tragic. It’s more than a character in a story, time is something that transcends all the differences among humanity.
There were no devilish aspects for the “Time” character. Why did you decide to have “Time” appear in that manner?
Time isn’t devilish; if anything time is a gift. I believe that by nature time is bittersweet. Time gives us life and joy and also heartbreak and death. It shows no bias, it is an all-consuming force that only goes in one direction: forward. I wanted to stay true to the text, therefore I wanted the audience to feel time but I didn’t want time to influence the story or the characters. It’s just such a powerful metaphor, especially at the end, it’s poetic.
Are there life lessons you would like audience members to take away after seeing Synetic’s Cyrano?
Appreciate time. Value time. Call your loved ones and tell them you love them one more time. Don’t give your silly insecurities another moment of your precious time. Nothing is more valuable than the little time we have with each other. The littlest things in life can be the most meaningful. Put the phone down and allow yourself to appreciate the smallest and most hidden treasures. It’s all around, you just have to let yourself see it.
What is next for you in 3-5 years?
I would love to continue directing. As an actor, I’ve done over 50 shows and all sorts of characters, my love for the stage certainly remains. However, I’ve only directed one show. As much as I’ve grown as a performer, I would also like to grow as a director. I love to entertain, and I would like to be more confident in my abilities overall. Also, I haven’t spoken too publicly about this, but I underwent surgery on my left knee. By the time I did Hunchback I was down to one of four ligaments in that knee. Sleepy Hollow was a show for my soul, I had spent the year before recovering and I still had about a year left to go. With Sleepy Hollow my body was begging me to go back to recovery mode. So after Cyrano closes, it’s back on that grind; I need to get my strength, body, and acrobatics back. That’s top priority.
And I would love to continue my education and get my college degree. I devoted my whole self to this craft, it’s about time I give college that same commitment.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, with no intermission.