BWW Interviews: White Orchard Theater's Irina Sundukova, A Life in the Theatre

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Irina Sundukova's White Orchard Theater will finally make its Nashville debut this week with its upcoming production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, which examines the dynamics of modern Western Civilization and which is, the director explains, "is Pinter's landmark cultural masterpiece."

"In doing so, it provides an emotionally powerful look at the betrayal, national identity, and tolerance found in modern society," Sundukova explains. "The audience is taken into a journey of self-discovery, with stops at such uncompromisingly truthful destinations as sinister play, rage, selfishness and their ultimate consequences."

White Orchard Theater will stage performances of The Caretaker at the "O" Gallery at Marathon Village, 1305 Clinton Street, Suite 120, Nashville. Opening night is Thursday, November 1, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 (with a student discount price of $10). The show runs from November 1-10, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For tickets, call (305) 331-1233. Tickets are available online at http://www.instantseats.com.

Sundukova describes White Orchard Theater as "an upscale and creatively revolutionary theater company recently established in Florida as a response to the growing demand for high quality, focused on social issues-related entertainmenT. White Orchard Theater targets the most desirable, educated and discerning residential and business communities with performances of maximum excellence and fresh ideas incorporated from around the world. Working from the firm belief that the great artistic styles throughout the course of history have been products of a mixture of ideas, WOT operates in the collective tradition, taking an excitingly stimulating collaborationist, repertory-like perspective to innovative material."

The company's mission statement says: "Exploring the world of classical masterpieces, WOT seeks to present intimate stories of human psychological drama and grace, as well as of genuine comedy. WOT is implementing a theater about people, for people, filled with substance and meaning. Its ultimate goal is to establish in Nashville and the rest of Tennessee as having much to offer on a cultural and creative level."

A relative newcomer to Nashville's theater scene, Sundukova recently found time from her rehearsal schedule to sit down and offer some insight into what motivates her to pursue her artistic ambitions in Tennessee, via our Life in the Theatre series…

What was your first taste of theatre? It was a State Circus in Moscow that contained all the magic of red carpeted floors, old wooden chairs, golden shiny trumpets, tubas, and cornets in the first row of the jumping up and down orchestra; slowly moving huge elephants, and funny highly professional clowns who were delivering their sharp sense of humor generously stuffed with clever undertones of social satire. The most important part in the whole event was the special circus ice cream distributed only during the evening performances: a vanilla scoop with a raspberry filling right in the middle. I was six and the circus was the enlightenment in my world. It was when I defined who I wanted to be when I grow up, a horse rider. I loved horses since I rode my first one when I was five at grandma's country house. Horses were the animals I definitely could trust in my professional career. 

BWW Interviews: White Orchard Theater's Irina Sundukova, A Life in the Theatre

What was your first real job (or responsibility) in the theatre? In the seventh grade, there was much to keep me occupied such as: arts, music, sports, hiking, history, geography. The Soviet Union kept us so busy that we could hardly breathe. I was not much into the sciences or music (even though I am from a family of musicians); I was very inclined toward all kinds of performance. When there was an event, everybody could count on me. One day, we saw a poster ad from a teacher who was putting on auditions for a mythological play. I thought, "Wow! Who on earth would ask seventh graders to learn lines from such a complex play?" I also noticed a statement under the title of the ad: "Any creative interpretations are accepted." BINGO! So I submerged myself into the local library and typed on an old typewriter with transparent copy paper underneath (just in case the dog decides to eat the original copy). The next morning-voila!-I produced a one act play about the sad story of Prometheus in a poetry writhed verse. The performance involved all points: two dancers would be played by two girls who are currently enrolled into classical Russian ballet classes; two guys from a martial arts team who looked huge on the stage; therefore they were given main roles of mean Gods; the daughter of the music teacher became Aphrodite, then Prometheus was played by the most popular guy in the school; the rest were wrapped into white bed sheets and automatically have been demoted into supportive crowd of some less significant gods. We had lighting effects, real fire, water spraying at the audience. It was nice mix of suspense and charm inside of school facility. We got first place. And by the way, I was directing it as well.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in theatre? When I learned enough about life and arts to form my own source of material and content. My formal education in theater was just a piece of paper until I gained experience of real life. 

Why do you pursue your art in Nashville? Its calmness and lack of the metropolitan rush creates respect to the artist's mind, allowing it to think in peace, create ideas and focus on priorities. It is an opportunity to devote free time to intensive creation. Calmness is contagious provoking you to shoot down your vibrant mind and just rest-Idon't know-I am still here.

What are the best parts of working here? I liked my experience of working in education and psychology fields. It opened me up to many doors and many local lives and their households. I think Nashville Arts are happening among its people; the artists are just hunters of their experiences reflecting it in created form. Bottom line, I can work anywhere where I have access to the vibrant material of real life. 

If you could play any role, direct any work, design any production, mount any production...what would it be and why? Cherry Orchard, Hamlet, Tartuffe-because those plays are timeless reflecting modern life reality.

What's your favorite play/musical? I guess that would be A Streetcar Named Desire. I was born on January 2, 1972 because of this play. My mom was nine months pregnant, due in two weeks, when she went to the theater on that date with my dad to see Williams' masterpiece. By the end of the last scene, her water broke and my mom ended up spending her evening in the hospital and having me because I could not hold it anymore. I had to get out and see it with my own eyes!

If you could have dinner with any three figures (living or dead, real or fictional) who are a part of the theater, who would you choose and why? Stella Adler, Jerzy Grotowski and Konstantin Stanislavsky.

Imagine a young person seeing you onstage or seeing a production in which you played a major role coming up to you and asking you for advice in pursuing their own theatrical dream...what would you say? I would ask him how his school was today. 

pictured: Pat Reilly stars in White Orchard Theater's The Caretaker

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.







 
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